January 23, 2006
convenes forum on black church studies
justice & pete paulsen
Students and scholars of the black church will gather at Candler School of Theology Jan. 31-Feb. 2 for a first-ever National Black Church Studies Forum to examine the future of the field in seminaries, the church and society.
More than two dozen professors, researchers, scholars and students, including those most often associated with the growing discipline of black church studies, will come to Atlanta for presentations, discussions and public events like the Anna Julia Cooper Roundtable at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, in Cannon Chapel.
A day earlier, Gayraud Wilmore, retired from the faculty at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center and considered to be the “dean of black church studies,” will deliver the keynote address at a reservation-only dinner, Feb. 1.
The public roundtable is named for Cooper to honor her legacy of race and gender equality, impassioned scholarship and unrelenting faithfulness, said Alton Pollard, associate professor of religion and culture and director of the Candler’s Black Church Studies Program. Pollard organized the forum with Forrest Harris, director of the Kelly Smith Institute on the Black Church at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Pollard said he hopes the forum will begin a broad, collaborative process among schools and seminaries, and serve as a mentoring movement for the next generation of African-American religious scholars and church leaders.
“Through the National Black Church Studies Forum, the collaborations that have yielded it, the number of scholars committed to participate, and the conversations that will ensue, the academic field can move to a new and exciting level,” said Candler Dean Russell Richey. “In this development, Candler with its nine outstanding black faculty members and more than 100 African-American students is well positioned to exercise leadership. Clearly the church and theological education will benefit greatly from this event.”
“Black church studies is the custodian of many of America’s most holistic values,” Pollard said. “At its best, the black church has practiced the presence of God, drawing on the rich tradition and broad spectrum of black faithfulness within the African-American community, throughout Africa and the diaspora, and including the interracial community of hope.”
Pollard said black church studies, “as a discipline and program, is of indispensable importance to theological education at the very time that instruction and preparation for liberating scholarship and contemporary social practice is most needed.”
“This is a moment pregnant with the possibilities of real advancement toward ‘beloved community,’” he said. “Black church studies matters to all who bear witness to the vision of a more just and progressive nation and world.”
For more information, visit www.candler.emory.edu. Reservations for the keynote dinner can be made by calling