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‘Baptists in America’ conference set for Oct. 16

Gregory A. Wills, left, and Bill J. Leonard, right, will speak at the
Gregory A. Wills, left, and Bill J. Leonard, right, will speak at the "Baptists in America" symposium Oct. 16.

JACKSON, Tenn.Oct. 6, 2006 – The nature of the Baptist tradition will be the topic for the “Baptists in America: Baptist Way or Baptist Ways?” symposium at Union University Oct. 16.

The event will feature Gregory A. Wills, professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Bill J. Leonard, dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

Greg Thornbury, dean of Union’s School of Christian Studies, said the event will be an engaging conversation between two distinct Baptist voices.

“Bill Leonard wrote a book called ‘Baptist Ways,’ which is his assessment of Baptist history,” Thornbury said. “His argument is that at the end of the day, there really is no center to what it means to be a Baptist, that in Baptist history there has been a diverse collection of traditions and emphases. He celebrates that diversity.”

Wills, in his published works, takes a different opinion, Thornbury said.

“His argument is that in the majority of the Baptist tradition, especially among Southern Baptists, there was a meaningful theological center of conviction, with confessional boundaries,” Thornbury said of Wills.

Thornbury said this debate was the key component to the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1970s and 1980s.

“What does it mean to be a Baptist? What do you have to believe to be a part of SBC life? Is there that concrete, theological center of conviction?” Thornbury asked. “We want to show that the debate is still very much with us, and will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future.”

The symposium will begin at 10 a.m. in the Coburn Dining Room in the Barefoot Student Union Building on Union’s campus. Each speaker will talk for 45 minutes, with a lunch to follow.

During lunch, speakers will respond to questions from the audience in an interactive time of discussion.

Cost for lunch is $5. For more information, or to register, call the office of the dean of the School of Christian Studies at (731) 661-5117.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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