Mercer will launch a new center this fall that will provide a venue for theologically based discussions on current issues and controversies. The Center for Theology and Public Life, led by Dr. David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, will hold events on the Macon and Atlanta campuses each year focused on discussing current controversies from a sound theological and ethical perspective.
The center will hold two major public events each year – one in Macon and one in Atlanta – along with other smaller, student-focused events throughout the year, with the goal of holding frank, and theologically informed, discussions on major issues facing society. The events will be similar to those that Dr. Gushee has already led in recent years – including a conference on torture and the Atlanta Caring for Creation conference, which was part of a campus-wide ethics initiative. That event sparked a similar conference in Macon the following fall.
“This will help enhance something that is very distinctive about Mercer, and that is the exploration of all perspectives in the context of freedom of inquiry,” Dr. Gushee said. “We don’t have the constraints of either a strictly secular environment or rigidly conservative environment, and in that sense, we’re an ideal host for this. There is so much about the issues of the day that is missed by those environments. In a strictly secular environment, the idea is that religion doesn’t matter and, in the rigidly conservative environment, there is the idea that only our view matters. But, in fact, we know that religion matters, and that there are many significant perspectives from many different viewpoints.”
As part of its mission, the center will promote public dialogue, research and constructive solutions related to important public issues in which theology and ethical reflection can make a significant contribution. Though Christian thought will be central to the work of the center, Dr. Gushee said, its programs will also feature perspectives from other faith traditions as well.
“The center fits in with one of the primary purposes of the University: to engage the community in exploration, from diverse perspectives, of the most important, often most contentious, issues of our times,’ said Dr. Wallace Daniel, the University’s provost. “Hopefully, Mercer can play an important—and much needed—role in elevating the level of conversation and reflection on such matters.”
Among those who will be invited to participate in the events will be theologians, ethicists, social scientists, policymakers, religious leaders and activists. All invitees will be known for their intellectual credibility, fair-mindedness and capacity to engage in constructive, solution-oriented public dialogue, Dr. Gushee said.
“David Gushee is one of the leading ethicists in the world today,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “His access to the prominent thinkers of our age and his prophetic writing and speaking will give this center a significant platform from which to engage students, faculty and others in substantive dialogue about tough issues that confront humanity."