The Henry R. Luce Foundation, Inc., has awarded Wake Forest University’s new School of Divinity $150,000 to develop a series of multidisciplinary courses designed to provide students with the broad skills required to meet the needs of America’s changing congregations.
Bill J. Leonard, the school’s dean, said that the grant is part of the school’s vision to bring all the university’s academic resources to bear on training the next generation of ministers – a model of theological education Harvard and other leading universities first introduced in the 1700s. The Luce grant is the divinity school’s first gift for curriculum development.
To date, Wake Forest has raised more than $10 million in contributions or pledges toward a $15 million goal and completed the first phase of renovations in Wingate Hall for the new seminary, which will open in fall 1999.
“The development of these multi-disciplinary courses is our effort to relate the divinity school to the broader university and draw on the superb faculties of the undergraduate college and the professional schools,” Leonard said. “It is a return to Baptist-based theological education in a university context.”
“We’re pleased to support Wake Forest in this important new initiative,” said John Cook, Luce’s president. Henry R. Luce, the late TIME Inc. founder and editor, created the foundation in 1936 to support programs in American art, Asia, higher education, public affairs, theology and women in science.
Leonard said that the divinity school is expected to open at Wake Forest in 1999 with four to six faculty and about 30 to 40 students, building to 150 within three years.
Designed to be “Christian by tradition, ecumenical in outlook and Baptist by heritage,” the school’s curriculum will feature the standard courses in biblical languages, preaching and Old and New Testament along with new multidisciplinary courses.
Michael Perry, Wake Forest University Distinguished Chair in Law, will be one of the adjunct faculty members teaching at the divinity school.
Perry, the author of several books on the relation of religion to law and politics, said that his course will explore the moral side of such constitutional questions as prayer in the schools, abortion, and laws preventing discrimination based on sexual preference. Other courses will teach divinity, law, medical and other graduate students budgeting, business management, communications and other skills.
Students will also study Quaker spirituality and gets hands-on experience in Appalachia church and community life at the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC) in Berea, Kentucky.
“The idea is for me to pursue these interests of mine by teaching courses that are open to students beyond the law school,” Perry said. “Once you start thinking about the proper relation of morality to politics in a society like ours, you have to start thinking about the proper relationship of religious morality to politics because, for so many, morality is religious morality.”
Perry said that he hoped the courses will allow Wake Forest to produce a workable model for other colleges and universities of how religious ideas can deepen knowledge and understanding.
“There has to be an effort to somehow make sure that we all take religion seriously – take the religious voice seriously, the intellectual projects people pursue out of their religious beliefs seriously, to create a place where religion is central to the intellectual life of the university as it is to life in American society more broadly,” he said.
“There are many who see religion as the end of inquiry, but religion at its best is, if anything, a stimulus to ever-deeper inquiry.”
Editor’s Note: Black and white photographs of Michael Perry, Bill Leonard, Wait Chapel and the Wake Forest University campus are available for transmission via e-mail as .jpeg files. Request them by e-mail from Wayne Thompson or by phone at (336) 758-4393.
Sign up for weekly news highlights.Subscribe