Shurden Lectures

The annual Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State travel to campuses across the country, bringing a speaker to engage with the community and inspire students to stand up for religious freedom for all people.

Designed to enhance the ministry and programs of BJC, the Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures are held at Mercer University in Georgia every three years and at another seminary, college or university in the intermediate years.

Our 2024 event was in Los Angeles, California, focusing on race, religion and citizenship. A recap and additional details will be coming soon.


Whose country is it anyway?
On race, religion and citizenship

Tuesday, April 2
4 – 6 p.m. in Los Angeles, California
Fishbowl Chapel, University Park Campus of USC
Livestream also available via RSVP form

In partnership with the Berkeley School of Theology and the University of Southern California, the 2024 Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Symposium on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State featured the Rev. Dr. Joseph Evans and the Rev. Dr. Christopher The. The two public scholars brought their unique experiences and expertise to a conversation on religious and racial identity, moderated by the Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard.

Return to this page in the future for a recap of the event. You can watch the archived livestream at this link.

Meet our speakers

Rev. Dr. Joseph Evans

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Evans is the tenured J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Professor and Chair of Theology in the Public Square and Director of the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice Center at the Berkeley School of Theology. His research interests include Classical and Contemporary Rhetoric and how each informs social movements and liberation theologies and sermon preparation and delivery. An accomplished author of books and scholarly articles, the Rev. Dr. Evans was described as one of the “brilliant preachers of his generation” by the Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor.

Rev. Dr. Christopher The

The Rev. Dr. Christopher The serves as the director of student research and initiative management for the Association of Theological Schools. A former English Ministry Pastor, the Rev. Dr. The was raised in a Chinese-Indonesian immigrant congregation in the Reformed tradition and later ordained to ministry by a Chinese/Taiwanese church in the Pentecostal tradition. His public scholarship includes works on resourcing immigrant churches for civic engagement, leveraging evaluative principles for character formation in theological education, understanding the unique mentorship needs of doctoral students of color, and surveying the placement of diasporic Indonesian communities among world Christianities. A member of the 2016 class of BJC Fellows, the Rev. Dr. The serves as the secretary of the BJC Board of Directors. 

Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard

As Assistant Director of Community and Public Engagement with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard combines her experience as a pastor and expertise as a community leader to help faith leaders become full partners in the work of social change. She leads programming for the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, which is housed at CRCC.

She also is a pastor, motivational speaker, author, life coach, radio personality and community activist.

A frequent speaker at churches and church conferences, the Rev. Dr. Smith-Pollard has served in pastoral positions in several churches in California and launched Word of Encouragement Community Church (WOECC.ORG) in Los Angeles in 2014. She has founded other organizations, and she serves as the executive director for the Southern California School of Ministry.

Lecture Archives

Shurden Lecture speaker Eboo Patel

2023, May 31

Lecturer: Dr. Catherine Brekus, the Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard Divinity School

Location: Old North Church in Boston

The myth of American ‘chosenness’ (Article in BJC magazine)
Watch the presentation on YouTube
Listen to the lecture as a podcast
Listen to the panel discussion as a podcast

Shurden Lecture speaker Eboo Patel

2022, March 19-20

Lecturer: Rev. Dr. Jonathan C. “Jay” Augustine, a multidisciplinary professional who serves in both ordained ministry and academia. In addition to serving as the senior pastor of St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, North Carolina, and as a missional strategist with the Duke Center for Reconciliation, he is also a law professor at North Carolina Central University. 

Location: Mercer University in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia

Recap in our summer 2022 magazine: Breaking down the boundaries created by Christian nationalism

And Who Is My Neighbor? (March 29, 2022)
Religious Liberty and Christian Nationalism: A Political History and Problematic Present (March 30, 2022)
Making America Great Again?: Christian Nationalism and Recent Attempts to Undermine Democracy (March 30, 2022)

Shurden Lecture speaker Eboo Patel

2021, April 14

Title: Religious Liberty Has Been White Too Long: Voices of Black Scholars

Lecturers: Dr. Nicole Myers Turner, Yale University; Dr. Teresa L. Smallwood, Vanderbilt Divinity School; Dr. Anthony Pinn, Rice University; Dr. David Goatley, Duke Divinity School

Location: Online

Watch the full presentation here.
Two discussion guides are available:

Article in BJC magazine: Black scholars share ways religious liberty has been white too long