Wake Forest Professor Dr. Bill J. Leonard to Deliver 2017 William L. Self Preaching Lectures at McAfee School of Theology


ATLANTA – Dr. Bill J. Leonard, founding dean and professor of church history at the Wake Forest School of Divinity, will deliver the 2017 William L. Self Preaching Lectures Feb. 6-7 at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology.

Dr. Leonard will present a series of three lectures on the theme “Proclaiming the Word and (Metaphorically) Handling Serpents: A Dangerous Wonder.”

“Professor Leonard has been our teacher for many years, and he remains a leading light among Baptists and for Baptists,” said Dr. Jeff Willetts, dean of McAfee School of Theology.

Dr. Leonard's opening lecture, titled “A Hart Cheareing and Affecting Surmond: Appalachian Preaching and the Wonder of the Word,” will take place Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. His second lecture, titled “As One Unknown: Preaching and the Illusive Jesus,” will follow at 7 p.m., and his final lecture, titled “A Shelter for Conscience: Preaching and the Voice of Dissent,” will take place Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. All lectures will be held in Cecil B. Day Hall on the Atlanta campus.

Dr. Leonard joined the faculty at Wake Forest in 1996 with joint appointments in the School of Divinity and the Department of Religion. He was founding dean of the School of Divinity, which opened in 1999, and retired from that role in the spring of 2010.

His research focuses on church history, with particular attention to American religion, Baptist studies and Appalachian religion. He is author or editor of 24 books, including Christianity in Appalachia (1999), Baptist Ways: A History (2003), The Challenge of Being Baptist (2010), Can I Get a Witness? Essays, Sermons and Reflections (2013) and A Sense of the Heart: Christian Religious Experience in the U.S. (2014).

Prior to his tenure at Wake Forest, Dr. Leonard served as professor of church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1975-1992. While there, he was for a time associate dean, president of the faculty association, editor of the Review and Expositor, and W.W. Brooks Professor of American Religion. From 1992-1996 he was chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Texas Wesleyan College, Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from Boston University, and served as pastor of First Community Church in Southboro, Massachusetts, from 1971-1975.

The William L. Self Lectureship was established in order to promote the practice of faithful and effective preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lectures seek to instill in students and pastors a passion for better preaching by providing worthy models and by offering seasoned instruction and encouragement.

The lecture series is named in honor of the late Dr. William L. Self, a former Mercer trustee who distinguished himself with a national reputation as a gifted preacher, pastor, author, lecturer, motivational speaker and innovator in church growth. Dr. Self achieved considerable acclaim by leading Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta to a place of prominence in Georgia and the nation. Then, as pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, his leadership and influence brought that church to the vanguard of fast-growing churches.

There is a $40 fee to attend the lectures. A dinner will take place in the Trustees Dining Room between the first two lectures. Dinner reservations are required at an additional cost of $25 per person.

For more information, or to register, contact Diane Frazier at (678) 547-6470 or frazier_d@mercer.edu prior to the registration deadline of Feb. 2.

About the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology

The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology was established in 1996. Located in Atlanta, on Mercer University's Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus, the School of Theology offers degree programs leading to a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. The School of Theology also offers several joint programs: an M.Div.-Master of Business Administration, M.Div.-Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and M.Div.-Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a Concentration in Non-Profit. For more information, visit theology.mercer.edu.