Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on
Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State

Designed to enhance the ministry and programs of the Baptist Joint Committee, the lectures are held at Mercer University every three years and at another seminary, college or university the other years.

2018 Shurden Lectures

Dr. Charles Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., will deliver this year’s Shurden Lectures on March 20-21 at the campuses of Mercer University in Macon and Atlanta, Georgia. The three lectures are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 20: Atlanta
11 a.m. “Liberty of conscience and the future of American democracy”
Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology 
Cecil B. Day Hall Auditorium

Wednesday, March 21: Macon, Georgia
10 a.m. “Standing up for justice and freedom in an age of conflict and division” (**First 125 students receive free BJC T-shirts**)
Mercer Medical School Auditorium

3:30 p.m. “From battleground to common ground: A First Amendment vision for religious liberty in public life”
Mercer Law Building’s First Floor Courtroom

Planning to attend? Send an email to, and we’ll make sure you have the details in your inbox. Or, reserve free tickets via Eventbrite for Macon and/or Atlanta.

About the 2018 lecturer

Charles C. Haynes is founding director of the Religious Freedom Center. Haynes is best known for his work on First Amendment issues in American public life. Over the past two decades, he has been the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in schools, endorsed by a broad range of religious, civil liberties, and educational organizations. He is author or co-author of six books, including First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America and Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Schools.  

Widely quoted in news magazines and major newspapers, Haynes is also a frequent guest on television and radio. Haynes holds a B.A. from Emory University, a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from Emory University.  


History of the Shurden Lectures:

Shurdens endow lectures

In 2004, Dr. Walter B. Shurden and Dr. Kay W. Shurden of Macon, Georgia, made a gift to the BJC to establish an annual lectureship on the issues of religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

The lecturers, selected by the executive director of the BJC, may be academics, politicians, ministers, church historians, ethicists or activists. Above all, the Shurden Lecturer is someone who can inspire and call others to an ardent commitment to religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Click here to read more about the genesis of the lectures or scroll down for more information about previous lectures.

Who are the Shurdens?

A nationally noted church historian, Dr. Walter B. Shurden is the founding executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies and a minister at large for Mercer University. Shurden served at Mercer for almost 25 years as Callaway Professor of Christianity in the Roberts Department of Christianity in the College of Liberal Arts. During 18 of those years, he served as Chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity.  Dr. Kay W. Shurden, a retired professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Mercer University School of Medicine, is a noted author and maintains a practice in counseling and supervision.

The origins of the Shurden Lectures with Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden

Read an interview with Walter B. Shurden from the January/February 2017 issue of Report from the Capital

Listen to a podcast preview

BJC Podcast: Amanda Tyler talks to Charles Haynes about the upcoming lectures and why he has dedicated his career to the intersection of religion and public life.

Previous Shurden Lectures 

March 27-28, 2017
Lecturer: Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee 
Location: Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina
Story     Recap video    Lecture #1    Lecture #2

April 4-5, 2016
Lecturer: Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Location: Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota
Story     Recap video    Lecture #1    Lecture #2

brownstein closeup at medical school for webApril 7-8, 2015
Lecturer: Alan Brownstein, professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, School of Law
Location: Mercer University in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia
Recap     Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

April 1-2, 2014
Lecturer: Michael I. Meyerson, professor of law at the University of Baltimore and author of Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America
Location: Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Recap    Video #1    Video #2

FB Flickr 4 BWApril 9-10, 2013
Lecturer: Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Brent Walker, ordained minister and member of the Supreme Court bar
Location: Stetson University, DeLand, Fla.
Recap    Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

Lambert 1 boxApril 17-18, 2012 
Lecturer: Dr. Franklin T. Lambert, professor of history at Purdue University specializing in colonial America and author of several books
Location: Mercer University, Macon, Ga.

Recap    Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

melissa day 1 for mobile siteApril 4-5, 2011
Lecturer: Melissa Rogers, the director of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs
Location: Georgetown College, Georgetown, Ky.

Recap    Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

Marty podium 1April 27-28, 2010
Lecturer: Dr. Martin E. Marty, former professor of religious history at the University of Chicago and author of more than 50 books
Location: Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.

Recap    Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

2009 Randall BalmerApril 14-15, 2009
Lecturer: Dr. Randall Balmer, professor of religious history at Barnard College and author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
Location: Mercer University, Macon, Ga.

Recap    Video #1    Video #2    Video #3

2008 Pastor-Charles-G-AdamsApril 14-15, 2008 
Lecturer: Dr. Charles G. Adamspastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich., and one of the nation’s most prominent ministers
Location: Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, N.C.


DSC_0054February 26-27, 2007
Lecturer: Dr. James M. DunnProfessor of Christianity and Public Policy at Wake Forest Divinity School and former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee
Location: Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn.


ShurdenApril 4-5, 2006
Lecturer: Rabbi David Sapersteindirector of the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism
Location: Mercer University, Macon, Ga.