Candler Forum to examine future of Black Church Studies

Students and scholars of the black church will gather at Emory University's Candler School of Theology Jan. 31-Feb. 2 for a first-ever National Black Church Studies Forum to examine the future of the field at 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, such as the Anna Julia Cooper Roundtable at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 in Emory's Cannon Chapel.

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, 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 on the Emory campus.

Additional information is available at, and reservations for the dinner may be made by calling 404-727-4180.

The public roundtable is named for Cooper to honor her legacy of race and gender equality, impassioned scholarship and unrelenting faithfulness, says Alton B. Pollard III, associate professor of religion and culture at Candler 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 hopes that the forum will be the beginning of a broader collaborative process between programs at various schools and seminaries, and will serve as a mentoring movement for the next generation of African American religious scholars and church leaders.

"Black church studies is the custodian of many of America's most holistic values," says Pollard. "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 says that "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.' Black church studies matters to all who bear witness to the vision of a more just and progressive nation and world."

"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," says Russell E. Richey, dean of Candler. "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."