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Mercer Commons’ Beloved Symposium Features Leonard,
Focuses on Community Dilemmas and Possibilities

January 26, 2012

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

MACON — The Mercer Commons Eighth Annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium will be held Feb. 9 and 10 and is based on the theme “Conscience and Community: Current Dilemmas—Future Possibilities.” The Rev. Dr. Bill J. Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies and former dean of Wake Forest University School of Divinity, will deliver two keynote lectures at the symposium.

“Dean Leonard is scholarly but personable, warm and witty,” said Dr. John Dunaway, founder of the symposium and professor of French and interdisciplinary studies. “He is also a man who is deeply committed to racial harmony and justice, so he walks the walk as well as talking the talk.”

Dr. Leonard is the author or editor of 17 books, including Baptist Questions, Baptist Answers: Exploring Christian Faith and Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism and served as co-editor of The Baptist Bible. He is a frequent commentator on religion for The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today and The Boston Globe. He has also been active in various efforts to achieve interracial unity in the community.

The symposium begins in Penfield Hall on Mercer University’s Macon campus at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, with the first of two keynote addresses by Dr. Leonard, titled “Losing Privilege, Regaining Voice: Southern Religion in a New Community.” On Friday, Feb. 10, the symposium will move to Centenary United Methodist Church on College Street, beginning with the pastors’ breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in Fellowship Hall. The Rev. Dr. Chester J. Fontenot Jr., Baptist Professor of English and director of Africana studies at Mercer, will address the attendees. That event will be followed at 10 a.m. by Dr. Leonard’s second address, titled “Naming and Unnaming: On the Edge of Eden,” held in Centenary’s sanctuary. At 11 a.m., participants will break into small groups to discuss issues in Macon and ways to advance the theme. At noon, the symposium will conclude with a lunch with a response to the keynote addresses by Dr. David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life.

Dr. Dunaway founded the symposium in 2004 to find a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on Dr. King’s concept of the “beloved community.” The symposium also works to foster follow-up activities between black and white churches, through such activities as sister-church relationships, pulpit exchanges, partnerships in community development and service and the formation of action groups for specific issues.

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 8,300 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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