Mercer to hold Black History Month virtual symposium on ‘Challenges to the Black Church’

Black History Month symposium flyer

MACON – Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Africana Studies Program will co-host a Black History Month virtual symposium on “Challenges to the Black Church” Feb. 24, 7-8:30 p.m. via Zoom.

The event is free and open to the public. Online preregistration is required to join the Zoom meeting.

“We hope that the symposium is something that will be very informative but also very useful,” said Dr. Chester Fontenot, Baptist Professor of English and director of the Africana Studies Program. “Black churches have been instrumental not only in the African American community but also in American life. They have been the primary instrument for pushing the envelope toward full equality and raising issues that wouldn’t be raised otherwise.”

The symposium will consist of a keynote address by the Rev. Dr. Edward Wheeler, former president of Christian Theological Seminary, followed by a panel discussion with the Rev. Dr. David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer; the Rev. Denise Bell, Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and the Rev. Dr. James Bumpus, Senior Pastor at New Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Macon.

These panelists will address the topic of “Challenges to the Black Church” through a number of lenses, including white evangelicals, women, the LGBT community and youth. A question-and-answer session will follow.

“We have seen in the past 30 or 40 years that there has been a decline in the participation of many in the African American church for a number of different reasons, some of which we will be able to bring out in this symposium,” said Dr. Fontenot. “The question is now – in the times that we’re living in here in 2022 – what can Black churches do to make sure they’re addressing the needs of our society and to continue to be that kind of prophetic voice that African American churches have always been since slavery?”

Mercer’s Africana Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences equips students to engage with history, politics, current events and cultures from new and different perspective by exploring questions of race, civil rights, history and political engagement of Black Americans.

The Bachelor of Arts degree program provides for study of the intersection of African American history and culture with other disciplines, such as anthropology, education, government, literature, music, psychology, religion and science.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit