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Union University celebrates Founders' Day with dedication of history book and a look into the past

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 5, 2001 – Union University celebrated the university's third annual Founders' Day, Monday, Feb. 5 with a special service for students, faculty, staff and guests in G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel.

The service featured a time of dedication for Union's recently published history book, So Great a Cloud of Witnesses, written by James A. Baggett, Dean Emeritus of Union's College of Arts and Sciences. Baggett, a widely recognized historian, has produced the first complete story of Union's rich 175-year history. President David S. Dockery and the rest of the university honored Baggett for his work on the book.

Dr. James Baggett signs "So Great a Cloud of Witnesses" at the Lifeway Bookstore on Union's campus during Founders' Day.

"James A. Baggett is an outstanding historian and wonderful friend of the institution," said Dockery. "His many tireless hours of research and writing are a labor of love in behalf of Union University for which we will all be grateful."

The speaker for Founders' Day was Timothy George, founding dean and professor of divinity at the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. George traced the towering influence of R.B.C. Howell and J.R. Graves across the Southern Baptist Convention. Howell was involved in the founding of Union University in Murfreesboro while Graves served for forty years as a trustee of Union University in Murfreesboro as well as in Jackson (when it was called Southwest Baptist University from 1875-1907, when the name was again changed to Union University.) Along with Graves, former Union professors and presidents J.M. Pendelton and T.T. Eaton, helped shape the Baptist idea of Landmarkism, a belief that traces Baptist churches back to the apostolic days through historical succession and thus maintains Southern Baptist Churches as the only true church.

Dr. Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, presented the Founders' Day Lecture.

George claimed that Landmarkism was virtually born, promoted, and nurtured at Union, with consequences that still reverberate among Southern Baptists to this very day.

While acknowledging certain strengths in Landmarkism, George warned that on historical, ecclesiological and ecumenical grounds, Landmarkism should not be perpetuated.

"Today we know that differences within denominations can be greater than those among denominations," said George. "While ever grateful for our Baptist heritage, we can rejoice in what God is doing in and among other denominations and traditions as well."

A prolific author of more than 20 books and a regular contributor to scholarly journals, George currently serves as senior editor for Christianity Today and on the editorial advisory boards of The Harvard Theological Review, Christian History, and Books and Culture.

The service also provided the university opportunity to recognize and thank Hal Poe for his years of service as vice president for academic resources and information services. Poe has recently been named Professor of Faith and Culture at the university.

An annual university event that was established in 1999, Founders' Day provides the Union community the opportunity to celebrate its long and rich history of providing a Christian liberal arts-based education. Union is the oldest institution of high education associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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