The Rev. Dr. Randall Balmer, a noted historian, author and scholar, will present the annual Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State on April 14-15 on Mercer’s Macon campus. The lectures are sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Mercer through a gift by retired Mercer professors Walter and Kay Shurden and are free and open to the public.
Dr. Balmer is a professor of American religious history at Columbia University’s Barnard College and rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, Conn. He has published and edited numerous books and articles – both in scholarly journals and the popular press. Dr. Balmer’s most recent book is a history of religion and the presidency, titled God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.
“Randall Balmer is a keen observer of the intersections of principles of government and matters of faith in recent American history,” said Dr. Richard F. Wilson, Mercer’s Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and chair of The Roberts Department of Christianity. “He is among the best informed and most articulate interpreters of the tensions that exist between public and private expressions of faith in our day. Mercer is proud to have Dr. Balmer with us for the Shurden lectures.”
Dr. Balmer will give three lectures on the subject “Pilgrims in an Alien Land?” He will give two lectures in the Medical School Auditorium on April 14, the first at 10:50 a.m., titled “So Help Me God: Religion and the Presidency since John F. Kennedy,” and the second at 5 p.m., titled “Where Have All the Baptists Gone: The Betrayal of an American Institution.” He will give his final lecture at 10 a.m. on April 15 in Newton Chapel, titled “Keep the Faith: Reclaiming Christianity from the Religious Right.”
In 2004, the Shurdens made a gift to the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C., to establish the annual lectureship. Designed to enhance the ministry and programs of the Baptist Joint Committee, the lectures are held at Mercer every three years and at another Baptist seminary, college or university the other years.
A nationally noted church historian, Dr. Walter B. Shurden is former executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies and the Callaway Professor of Christianity at Mercer. Dr. Kay W. Shurden, a retired professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Mercer School of Medicine, is a noted author and maintains a practice in counseling and supervision.
The Baptist Joint Committee is a 73-year-old religious liberty organization dedicated to defending and extending religious liberty for all. It serves 15 Baptist bodies and works with a wide range of religious groups, yet it is the only religious agency in the country solely devoted to religious liberty and the separation of church and state.