The Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis has awarded Wake Forest University $25,000 to hold one of six national conferences on religion in higher education as part of the university’s 1997-98 Year of Religion in American Life.
Bill J. Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School, said Wake Forest will host presidents, trustees and other representatives from 15 Baptist-related or governed colleges and universities during the Oct. 23-25 conference.
“We are honored that the Lilly Endowment would fund this gathering of educators from 15 Baptist schools in the Southeastern region,” said Leonard, chair of the committee of faculty, students and staff organizing the year’s seminars, special classes, film series and other events. “This conference on religion and higher education on Baptist campuses involves a most crucial question for us these days.
“Resource persons from the Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran traditions will also enhance the dialogue,” he said. “We anticipate important conversations about this significant issue.”
Colleges and universities scheduled to take part in the Oct. 23-25 conference: Wake Forest, Chowan College, Mars Hill College, Meredith College, Gardner-Webb University, Wingate College and Campbell University in North Carolina; Samford University in Alabama; Mercer University and Shorter College in Georgia; Carson-Newman College in Tennessee; Averett College and the University of Richmond in Virginia; and Furman University and Anderson College in South Carolina.
Jeanne Knoerle, director of Lilly’s religion and higher education program, said the Wake Forest conference will continue issues raised by Pepperdine University professor Richard Hughes in the Lilly-funded study and book, “Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success in the 21st Century.”
Since 1989, through Hughes’ grant and other studies and programs, Knoerle said Lilly has focused attention on the shifting and often troubled relationship between the world of faith and the world of higher education in the nation’s colleges and universities. In addition to the conference at Wake Forest, Hughes said that Mennonite, Lutheran and other denominationally specific meetings will also be held. All participants are required to read the book Hughes co-authored with former Pepperdine provost William Adrian and continue discussions back on their campuses.
“The goal of these conferences is to explore ways schools can live out their faith traditions,” Hughes said. “The clear trend has been the marginalization of religion so the key question is, ‘How could it be possible to continue to grow as a fine institution and still claim that heritage?’ and whether that still is possible.”
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