WFU to co-host symposium on ‘Priestly Prophet’ Carlyle Marney

Carlyle MarneyIn an effort to revisit and examine the work of renowned pastor and theologian Carlyle Marney, the Wake Forest University Divinity School, in partnership with Myers Park Baptist Church of Charlotte, will co-host “A Carlyle Marney Symposium” Feb. 7-8.

The event brings together pastors and lecturers from across the country who either knew Marney personally or who benefited from his legacy as a preacher who was ahead of his time in confronting issues of race and Christian ethics. The participants will discuss his life and work and explore its relevance to the church in the 21st century. The two-day symposium takes place on the Wake Forest campus from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7 and at Myers Park Baptist Church from 9:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Feb. 8.

“Carlyle Marney was truly a legend among American preachers in the latter 20th century,” said Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest Divinity School. “He had a national reputation as a preacher, pastor and prophet. The purpose of this symposium is to revisit Marney’s legacy as a priest/pastor in the church and as a prophet in the larger society.”

Marney, who was born in Harriman, Tenn., in 1916 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carson Newman College in 1938, was ordained a Baptist minister in 1941. He earned a Master of Theology degree in 1943 and a Th.D. in 1946, both from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He received several honorary degrees during his life, including the Litt.D. degree from Wake Forest in 1963.

He was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., from 1946 to 1948 and pastor of First Baptist Church of Austin, Texas, from 1948 to 1958. While in Austin, Marney was Professor of Christian Ethics and Westervelt Lecturer at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. His reputation grew with the publication of a collection of his sermons in 1953 titled “These Things Remain” and in 1957 with the publication of his book “Faith in Conflict.”

In 1958, Marney became senior pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, serving there until 1967. During that year, he started Interpreter’s House, an ecumenical study center for clergy and laity at Lambuth Inn in Lake Junaluska.

On Christmas Eve 1965, CBS broadcast a service led by Marney in which he criticized Southern Baptists for failing to keep up with the changing times. The service drew more than 500 letters of praise and criticism. During his life, Marney wrote several books, including “Structures of Prejudice,” “The Recovery of the Person: A Christian Humanism” and “Priests to Each Other.” He was a member of the World Council of Churches, the Baptist World Alliance and the National Council of Churches, which he served as vice president at-large from 1963 to 1966. Marney died in 1978.

The symposium begins Feb. 7 in Wake Forest’s Wingate Hall with registration at 8:30 a.m. All events at Wake Forest will be held in Wingate Hall and Wait Chapel. James Fowler, director of the Center for Ethics and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, will lead a lecture and discussion from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Feb 7 at Wake Forest and from 9:45 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. Feb. 8 at Myers Park Baptist Church.

Fowler, a Marney protégé, is a well-known author and lecturer whose books include “Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning” and “Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life.”

James Forbes, senior pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, will lead worship service from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 7 at Wake Forest, and he will lead the 11 a.m. to noon worship service Feb. 8 at Myers Park. Forbes, a long-time friend of Marney’s, was the first African-American to serve as senior minister of one of the largest multicultural congregations in the nation. His ministry is known throughout the world.

Nancy Hastings-Sehested, chaplain at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution and co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, will give a lecture from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at Wake Forest. Hastings-Sehested was among the first group of women to be ordained in Southern Baptist churches. She will discuss her work as pastor, teacher and chaplain. She will also participate in a lecture schedule for 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Feb. 8 at Myers Park.

All symposium participants will participate in a panel discussion from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Feb. 8 at Myers Park Baptist Church. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta contributed additional funding for this symposium.

The cost for the symposium is $30 for one day or $50 for both days. The cost is $10 for students and Myers Park Baptist Church members. Reservations can be made by calling the Wake Forest Divinity School at 336-758-3957 or by calling Myers Park Baptist Church at 704-334-7232, extension 19. Registration is also available online at

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