MACON — Dr. Bill J. Leonard, the Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity, will give a series of three lectures on the topic "Signs of the Times: Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective" on Mercer University's Macon Campus.
His first lecture, "Spirituality in America: Catholics, Evangelicals, Buddhists and Serpent Handlers," will be at 10:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21. He will speak on "The Church: Joel Osteen, Mega-Churches, and the Non-Denominationalizing of America" at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21. He will give his final presentation, entitled "Drinking the Golden Calf and Other Strange Bible Stories: Revisiting the Ancient Text," at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22. All lectures will be held in Newton Chapel and are free and open to the public.
"Bill Leonard is an insightful interpreter of American religion," said Dr. Richard F. Wilson, the Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity at Mercer. "His coming to Mercer as the Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity will add to the already rich reputation of the Smith lectures. Since 1990 the Harry Vaughan Smith Professors have enriched the Mercer and Macon communities through excellent scholarship and excellent speakers."
Leonard has written or edited 15 books, including A Dictionary of Baptists in America, Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism, and Baptist Ways: A History, a survey of Baptist history from 1600 to 2000 (Judson Press 2003).
His most recent book is Baptists in America, published by Columbia University Press (2005).
Leonard is dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C. He has held teaching posts at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Samford University, and Seinan Gakuin University (Fukuoka, Japan). He holds a B.A. from Texas Wesleyan College, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Boston University.
The Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity was established at Mercer University in 1990 through a generous a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan Smith. A 1924 graduate of Mercer, the late Harry Vaughan 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 to 1970, he served as the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Foundation. Smith is remembered for his faithful work on behalf of all Georgia Baptist causes and his support of Christian education.
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as regional academic centers in Macon, Henry County, Douglas County and Eastman. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South. The Princeton Review has ranked it among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation.
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