ATLANTA (ABP) — Baptist ethicist David Gushee will head up a new effort by Mercer University to foster what the school calls “theologically based discussions on current issues and controversies.”
The Mercer Center for Theology and Public Life, according to a school press release, will sponsor events at both Mercer’s Atlanta graduate campus — where Gushee teaches and home to Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology — and the main campus in Macon, Ga.
“This will help enhance something that is very distinctive about Mercer, and that is the exploration of all perspectives in the context of freedom of inquiry,” Gushee, who writes a regular column for Associated Baptist Press, said.
“We don’t have the constraints of either a strictly secular environment or rigidly conservative environment, and in that sense, we’re an ideal host for this,” he continued. “There is so much about the issues of the day that is missed by those environments. In a strictly secular environment, the idea is that religion doesn’t matter and, in the rigidly conservative environment, there is the idea that only our view matters. But, in fact, we know that religion matters, and that there are many significant perspectives from many different viewpoints.”
The center will sponsor two large annual public events — one in Macon and one in Atlanta — as well as many smaller, student-focused events. They will be similar to events on faith and public policy that Mercer has sponsored in the past including conferences on faith and the environment and faith and torture.
“The center fits in with one of the primary purposes of the university: to engage the community in exploration, from diverse perspectives, of the most important, often most contentious, issues of our times,” said Wallace Daniel, Mercer’s provost. “Hopefully, Mercer can play an important — and much needed — role in elevating the level of conversation and reflection on such matters.”