Dr. Brad Braxton to Deliver 26th Annual Harry Vaughan Smith Lectures


MACON – Dr. Brad Braxton, founding senior pastor of The Open Church in Baltimore, Maryland, will deliver Mercer University's 26th annual Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity Lectures.

The lecture series, sponsored by the Roberts Department of Religion in Mercer's College of Liberal Arts, is titled “The Beloved Community in a Pluralistic World,” and will take place Feb. 14-15 in Newton Chapel.

Dr. Braxton will deliver his first lecture, “Lifting the Veil: The Apostle Paul and Racial Reconciliation,” Tuesday at 10:50 a.m., followed by “A Blueprint for the Beloved Community: Vocation, Values, and Voice,” at 7:30 p.m. He will conclude with “Street Corner Religion: Public Theology for a Pluralistic World” Wednesday at 10 a.m. All lectures are free and open to the public.

“Mercer is delighted to welcome Dr. Brad Braxton, especially during this period of tension and uncertainty in our culture. The long tradition and practices of pursuing justice and racial reconciliation fits well with Mercer's heritage and Macon's ambitions in recent years,” said Dr. Richard F. Wilson, Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and chair of the Roberts Department of Religion. “I anticipate that Dr. Braxton will challenge us all to renew our commitments to pursue liberty and justice for all.”

Dr. Braxton earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University, where he was a George W. Woodruff Fellow; a master's degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a B.A. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar.  

He is an ordained Baptist minister and founding senior pastor of The Open Church, a culturally inclusive congregation committed to social justice activism and interfaith collaboration. His lectures, sermons and writings have addressed topics such as racial reconciliation, social justice activism, interfaith dialogue and collaborative economic partnerships with developing countries.

Dr. Braxton has previously spoken at institutions such as Yale, Princeton, Duke, Emory and Morehouse College. Last spring, he taught a course on preaching, healing and social justice at Harvard Divinity School.

In March 2007, Dr. Braxton preached on justice and non-violence as part of the bicentennial commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire at Westminster Abbey in London, England. He has also preached in Canada, Ghana and South Africa.

Dr. Braxton previously served as program officer for religion in the public sphere at the Ford Foundation in New York City, as a faculty member at Southern Methodist University, McCormick Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University, and as pastor at the Riverside Church in New York City and Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

He, his wife, Lazetta, and daughter, Karis, live in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professorship was established in 1990 after Dr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan Smith made a major gift to Mercer to underwrite a visiting professorship and lecture series in the Department of Religion.

The gift bears witness to the lifelong commitment of the late Dr. Smith to the University, which began when he enrolled as a freshman in 1920. A 1924 graduate, Dr. Smith served as pastor of several prominent churches in Georgia before becoming alumni secretary and assistant to the president at Mercer in 1946, a post he held until 1955. From 1955 until 1970, he distinguished himself as executive director of the Georgia Baptist Foundation. In his many years of service, Dr. Smith was a faithful worker on behalf of all Georgia Baptist causes, but he always maintained a special interest in the University and the cause of Christian higher education.