Conference about the Past,

Present and Future of the Black Church

September 14-15, 1998


Sponsored by Vanderbilt University Office of Media Relations and CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education)

Program: The Black Church is one of the most important social and political institutions in contemporary America.

How did it get to this position? What are its strengths and weaknesses? And how will the black church deal with criticalissues like gender equity, affirmative action, and economic development? The purpose of the conference is to inform and enhance understanding of the issues and history that have helped shape the Black Church in the United States as well as the issues that influence the church today and that are likely to determine its future. Vanderbilt is uniquely equipped to do this because its Divinity School, recognized as one of the leading centers of American religious scholarship, is the home of the Kelly Miller Smith Institutefor African American Church Studies. The conference will be conducted by some of the "stars" and rising stars of the Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Vanderbilt Department of Religion and the Vanderbilt Sociology Department.


Sept. 13 (Sunday)

Participants arrive. Media relations takes participants to evening meal at the Sunset Grill.

Sept. 14

9 a.m.-Welcome to the Conference from Dean Joseph Hough, who will emphasize Vanderbilt's support for the Kelly Miller Smith Institute and its unique role at the divinity school of a historically white, Southern university.

9:15-10:15 a.m.-Forrest Harris, director of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute, "The Nature of Worship in the African American Church." Will talk about the communal nature of worship, music in the African American Church and social involvement by the Church. Will also talk about Kelly Miller Smith Institute and some of its initiatives.

10:15-10:30 a.m.--Break

10:30 -11:30 a.m.-Renita Weems, "The Difference Between Black Religion and Black Spirituality and the Changing Face of Black Religiousity"

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.-Lunch, University Club (possible music)

1:15-2:15 p.m.-Victor Anderson, "The Politics of Difference-Abortion, Homosexuality and Gender Equity Issues in the Black Church"

2:15-2:30 p.m.-Break

2:30-3:30 p.m.-Sherman Tribble, Minister of First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, talking about the importance of music in the African American Church

2:30-3:45 p.m.-Break

4-5 p.m.-Panel session: "Where has the Black Church Been and Where is it now?" Moderated by Forrest Harris. Local ministers Sherman Tribble, First Baptist Church Capitol Hill; Paula McGee, chaplain of Fisk University; Edwin Sanders, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church; Dr. Lucius Fitzgerald, Ebeneezer Primitive Baptist Church; and James Thomas, Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church.

5:15-6 p.m.-Reception for guests and participants.


September 15


9-10 a.m.-Lewis Baldwin, "Race and Politics in the Black Church." Will discuss pervasive racism and the Black Church's response to it.

10-11 a.m.-Darren Sherkat, "Trends in Black Religious Affiliation and Participation"

11:11:45 a.m.-Panel session: "Where is the Black Church Going?" Moderated by Renita Weems. Faculty members Forrest Harris, Lewis Baldwin, Victor Anderson and Darran Sherkat.

11:45-12:50 Lunch-University Club

1-3 p.m.-Attend Forrest Harris' class, "Black Religious Leadership"

3 p.m.-Conference concludes. (Opportunity for CASE fellows to do one-on-one interviews with Vanderbilt faculty or tour campus.)


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at

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Document updated July 24, 1998.