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Baptist Historian to Deliver 20th Annual Smith Lectures at Mercer

February 2, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or

MACON — Dr. Walter B. Shurden, an emeritus professor of Christianity at Mercer and one of the country’s best-known Baptist historians, will return to Mercer this month as the 2011 Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity. Dr. Shurden will deliver the 20th anniversary edition of this distinguished series, giving three lectures this month. Each lecture is free and open to the public.

From 1983 until 2007, Dr. Shurden was the Callaway Professor of Christianity in the College of Liberal Arts. For 18 of those years, he was chair of The Roberts Department of Christianity. He founded the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer and was involved in nearly all of the progressive Baptist movements in the South over the last 30 years.

Dr. Shurden will speak in Newton Chapel on Mercer’s Macon campus. Each lecture will build upon the theme, “Thin-Slicing the Life of Faith.” The times and subjects of each lecture are:

“The Flight of the Dove: Giving in to Being Loved”
Tuesday, Feb. 8, at 10:50 a.m.

“The Ascent of the Mountain: Giving Up to the Demands of Love”
Tuesday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m.

“The Descent into the Valley: Giving Back Because of Love”
Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m.

“Dr. Shurden is a distinguished Baptist historian, a sought-after preacher, a pastor and, in all of the above, a teacher of the highest order,” said Dr. Richard F. Wilson, chair of Mercer’s Columbus Roberts Department of Christianity. “His publications are broad, deep and enduring. Dr. Shurden’s perspective as a historian has been invaluable to the debates that have shaped Baptist life over the past 30 years, and he will offer that unique perspective when he delivers these lectures.”

Before the “Baptist Wars” of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Shurden documented Baptist life, especially in the South, as none other had done, Dr. Wilson said. In response to the “Baptist Wars,” he helped establish a perspective and an agenda for the preservation of Baptist core values. His book, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms (1993), was an immediate Baptist classic that has been translated into multiple languages and is used world-wide in Baptist schools and seminaries.

Dr. Shurden’s professional career includes positions on the faculties of McMaster Divinity School in Hamilton, Ont., Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he served as professor of church history and dean of the School of Theology, and at Mercer.

A native of Greenville, Miss., Dr. Shurden holds degrees from Mississippi College (B. A.) and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and Th.D.).

About the Harry Vaughan Smith Professorship:
The Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Christianity was established at Mercer University in 1990 through a generous a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan Smith.  A 1924 graduate of Mercer, the late Harry Vaughan Smith served as pastor of several prominent churches in Georgia before becoming alumni secretary and assistant to the president at Mercer in 1946, a post he held until 1955. From 1955 to 1970, he served as the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Foundation. Smith is remembered for his faithful work on behalf of all Georgia Baptist causes and his support of Christian education.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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