11th Annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium to be Held Feb. 10-11


MACON ­– Mercer University's 11th annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium will focus on the theme “A Mutual Obligations Approach to Reconciliation” and will feature leading scholar on race and religion Dr. Michael O. Emerson. Events will be held Feb. 10-11 on Mercer's Macon campus.

The symposium will open with a banquet on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Penfield Hall, followed by Dr. Emerson's first keynote address, titled “No One-Way Streets to Unity.”

Breakfast and an open discussion with Dr. Emerson will take place on Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., in the fellowship hall of Centenary United Methodist Church at 1290 College St.

Dr. Emerson will offer his second keynote address, titled “Race and the Church: Christians Joining God for Change,” at 10 a.m. in Penfield Hall.

A panel discussion on the multi-ethnic church will follow at 11 a.m. in Penfield Hall. The discussion will be moderated by 2013-2014 Mercer Student Government Association (SGA) President Raymond Partolan, and will include the Rev. Gail T. Smith of Universal Light Christian Center, the Rev. Eddie D. Smith Sr. of Macedonia Baptist Church, the Rev. Clint Jett of Stone Edge Church and the Rev. Steve Sawyer of Harvest Cathedral.

The symposium will conclude with a luncheon at noon in Penfield Hall.

Admission to all sessions is free. Reservations are required for meals and can be made by contacting Trish Dunaway at (478) 475-9506 or trishdunaway3@gmail.com by Feb. 6.

“With the growing polarization of opinions on race that has been occasioned by incidents like the ones in Ferguson, Missouri, what better time to pause and seek a mutual obligations approach to reconciliation? Our symposium will offer people an opportunity to listen to one another and seek constructive ways to build bridges of healing in our community,” said Dr. John Marson Dunaway, founder of the symposium and professor emeritus of French and interdisciplinary studies at Mercer.

Dr. Emerson is Cline Professor of Sociology and co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he teaches courses in urban sociology, race and ethnic relations, religion, and statistics. His research has focused most closely on the role of race in shaping social action in the United States and beyond.

Dr. Emerson's work on race and religion began with Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford University Press, 2000), which was named the 2001 Distinguished Book of the Year by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He has since authored several other award-winning books, including United by Faith, Against All Odds, People of the Dream and Blacks and Whites in Christian America. He is co-editing a new volume called The (Un)Making of Race and Ethnicity: A Reader.

Dr. Emerson currently directs the Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE), funded by the Lilly Endowment, which follows 1,300 people over the course of their lives in an effort to understand religious life within racial and ethnic communities. He is also co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice, where he heads up the international, comparative study of cities.

Dr. Dunaway founded the Building the Beloved Community Symposium in 2005 as a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s concept of the “beloved community.”

A paired clergy network that grew out of the symposium works to foster follow-up activities between black and white churches, through such activities as sister-church relationships, pulpit exchanges, partnerships in community development and service, and the formation of action groups for specific issues.

For more information, visit community.mercer.edu/beloved/.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.