Shurden Religious Liberty Lectures at Mercer To Focus on Religion in Early America, Claim of U.S. as Christian Nation

Jesse Mercer statue

MACON – Mercer University’s Macon campus will serve as host for the 2012 edition of the Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State on April 17-18. The lectures will feature Dr. Franklin T. Lambert, professor of history at Purdue University, and an expert on American colonial and revolutionary era history, particularly with regard to religion. All three lectures, endowed by a gift from former Mercer faculty members Walter and Kay Shurden to the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, are free and open to the public.
Dr. Lambert is the author of seven books, including: The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, Religion in America Politics: A Short History, Inventing the “Great Awakening,” “Pedlar in Divinity”: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, The Battle of Ole Miss: Civil Rights vs. States’ Rights, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World and James Habersham: Loyalty, Politics, and Commerce in Colonial Georgia. Dr. Lambert was previously interviewed for the PBS series “God in America.”

The lectures will begin on April 17 with the lecture titled “America Conceived as a Christian Nation?: The Separation of Good and Bad History” at 10:50 a.m. in Mercer’s Medical School Auditorium. This lecture will begin with a critique of the assertion that America was conceived as a Christian state and explore the historical context of failed attempts to establish Christian states in colonial New England. Following this lecture will be another, titled “A Secular/Sacred Alliance in the Fight for Religious Liberty,” at 5 p.m. in the Medical School Auditorium. This lecture will focus on George Marsden’s notion that the U.S. was profoundly sacred and secular from the beginning in addition to exploring the Great Awakening and Enlightenment.

April 18 will conclude the series with a lecture, titled “Constituting the Separation of Church and State,” at 10 a.m. in Newton Chapel. This lecture will center on the Federal Convention of 1787 and the state ratifying conventions that debated the draft Constitution.

The Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lecture series began in 2004 when Dr. Walter B. Shurden and Dr. Kay W. Shurden made a gift to the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty to establish an annual lectureship on the issues of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. The lecturer is selected by the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee and is someone who can inspire and call others to an ardent commitment to religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Past lecturers include Rabbi David Saperstein, Dr. James M. Dunn, Dr. Charles G. Adams and Dr. Randall Balmer. The lecture series is held at Mercer every three years and at another seminary, college or university the other years.

Dr. Walter B. Shurden is the founding executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer and a minister at large for Mercer. He served as Mercer’s Callaway Professor of Christianity for almost 25 years and also served as chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity. Dr. Kay W. Shurden is a retired professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Mercer School of Medicine and is a noted author.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus — and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program.
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