On Jan. 28, a "Faith and Freedom in the Public Square" forum will feature Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., nationally syndicated radio show host Dennis Prager and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.
Hashtag Productions and WORLD magazine, the nation's largest Christian news magazine, are presenting the event. Warren Cole Smith, vice president of WORLD, will serve as emcee.
"The goal of this event is to allow three prominent voices in the public square -- one Jewish (Prager), one evangelical Christian (Mohler) and one Catholic (Douthat) -- to engage in an open, honest and entertaining dialogue" about the challenges of secularism and changing morality, said R.J. Moeller, organizer of the event and president of Hashtag Productions. "This is about asking and answering tough questions in a God-honoring and purposeful way."
Moeller said the value of the event is "three of the most trusted voices on religion and culture in the nation are gathered together on one stage. It's the convergence of great minds, each hailing from a different theological worldview, but finding common ground on the pressing issues of our day for all people of faith: religious liberty, decline of culture, the breakdown of the family and economic 'justice.'"
In addition to being informative, the event promises to be entertaining, Moeller said.
"We hope, first and foremost, that people will leave our event having been entertained," he said. "This seems to be almost an afterthought -- if even a thought at all -- in the minds of event/conference planners around the country these days."
The forum with three commentators from diverse religious backgrounds can also model "what it looks like when those from different theological backgrounds come together for meaningful conversation and do it in such a way that is respectful without being weak or compromising," Moeller said.
Moeller, an evangelical, added, "We should not minimize the differences we have with our Catholic and Jewish neighbors, but we should not let those differences blind us to the fact that we need each other. The world has seen first-hand in the last century what happens when good men and women remain silent. Rome is burning and the time for meaningful discourse among people of faith has arrived."
In the last year, Moeller's company has held more than 10 similar events across the nation, averaging about 1,000 people in attendance. Prominent thought leaders like Eric Metaxas, Ravi Zacharias, Wayne Grudem and Michael Medved have participated in the events.
On Feb. 24, Metaxas and renowned medical doctor Ben Carson will share a stage to talk about "Life, God and other small topics" at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.
Particularly concerned with millennials, Moeller said, "All we're trying to do is bridge the gap between the great minds/voices in the public square that we personally appreciate -- and have learned so much from -- with our generation of Americans who need to hear it, and begin to contribute something of their own to the on-going cultural conversations."
The Louisville event will take place in Southern Seminary's Alumni Memorial Chapel beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students with ID. A limited number of $100 VIP reserved seating tickets are available, which includes admittance to a 6 p.m. catered, pre-show reception with the speakers.
To purchase tickets and for more information, visit: www.hashtagpros.com.
University of Mobile founder dies
MOBILE, Ala. (BP) -- University of Mobile founding president and chancellor William K. Weaver Jr., who was named Mobilian of the Year in 1983, died Jan. 13. He was 95.
A memorial service for the World War II veteran, civic leader and ordained pastor is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 16 at First Baptist Church in Mobile. A family graveside service will be held at Montrose Cemetery prior to the memorial service.
Remembered for his kindness, humor, faith and love of family, Weaver enjoyed telling the story of the university he was instrumental in founding, noting that he was named president of then-Mobile College in 1961 when the school had no land, no buildings, no faculty, no students and no problems.
The Alabama Baptist-affiliated college in north Mobile County enrolled its first class of freshmen in 1963 and today has an enrollment of more than 1,600 students. Weaver retired as president in 1984 and was named chancellor, a position he held until his death.
Mark Foley, president of the University of Mobile, said it took courage and determination for Weaver and other leaders such as J.L. Bedsole and T.T. Martin to start a college.
"To start a college from scratch -- I can't imagine a more daunting task, yet that is what Dr. Weaver did. To build a college from the early days when it was little more than a cut-off mound in the middle of a pine forest to a university with more than 1,600 students on 880 acres is amazing," Foley said. "I know Bill was proud of Mobile College and the University of Mobile and all that it has become. I will miss his humor, grace, smile and encouragement."
He was preceded in death by his wife "B," Annie Boyd Parker Weaver, a brother, Davis C. Weaver, and parents William Kiser Weaver Sr. and Roberta Cooper Weaver of Talladega, Ala.
He is survived by his daughter Anne Weaver Davis and son-in-law Thomas H. Davis Jr.; three grandsons, Thomas H. "Trey" Davis III (Brooke), Campbell G. Davis and Clayton C. Davis (Mary Ann); a great-granddaughter, Lucy Grey Davis; and siblings Ann Weaver Armstrong and Robert C. Weaver.
A 1936 graduate of Talladega High School, Weaver graduated in 1940 with a bachelor of arts degree from Howard College, now Samford University, and in 1943 with a master of theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was awarded the honorary doctor of divinity from Samford University and the honorary doctor of law from the University of Mobile.
Weaver was ordained to the ministry at First Baptist Church in Talladega in 1942 and served as an associate in the Baptist Training Union Department of Kentucky, the first director of religious activities at Howard College/Samford University, the director of Baptist Student Work in Alabama, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga from 1950-61 before being named president of Mobile College.
He served in World War II as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps and was stationed on a blimp base in South Weymouth, Mass.; on the U.S. Kadashan Bay CVE 76, a small aircraft carrier, in the Pacific; and at the Naval Separation Center in Norman, Okla.
Weaver was extensively involved in community service and was named Mobilian of the Year, an honor awarded annually since 1948 by the Civitan Club to some of the most influential leaders in the Mobile community.
Among numerous awards, he received the Mobile Register's "M.O. Beale Scroll of Merit" seven times and the Distinguished Award from the Alabama Easter Seal Society in 1990.
Weaver served on several denominational, educational and community boards including the Alabama Baptist State Executive Board and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's board of trustees.
Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Mobile, designated for the William K. Weaver Jr. Endowed Scholarship (www.umobile.edu), or First Baptist Church in Mobile (www.fbcmmobile.com).
Bryant Hicks, retired missions professor, dies
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Wade Bryant Hicks, retired professor of missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Jan. 12. He was 88.
"Bryant Hicks was a man of deep passion and great energy, who shared that passion and energy with his students," said R. Albert Mohler Jr., the seminary's president. "He helped to shape a generation of Southern Baptist missionaries. He was also a man of great kindness and collegiality. Our hearts go out to his wife Peggy and the entire Hicks family."
Hicks, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of Louisville's Lyndon Baptist Church, taught at Southern Seminary for more than 40 years, as a full-time faculty member from 1965-93, and then as a senior professor from 1994-2006. In 1983, he assumed an endowed professorship as the M. Theron Rankin Professor of Foreign Missions.
"For more than four decades, Dr. Bryant Hicks faithfully served Southern Seminary by teaching missions in the classroom and transmitting a passion for seeing the nations reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Adam W. Greenway, dean of the seminary's Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.
"As a member of the founding faculty of the Billy Graham School, he had an impact on countless students who are today serving cross-culturally as well as many future pastors who have led their churches toward greater missions commitment."
Before joining the seminary's faculty, Hicks was a missionary to the Philippines for 10 years with the International Mission Board. Before that, from 1950-55, he pastored Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky.
The current pastor of Buck Run, Hershael York, also teaches at Southern Seminary, which gave York and Hicks a unique relationship.
"When I first came to Southern Seminary, Bryant Hicks' office was right across the hall from mine, and he was incredibly kind, warm and welcoming," York said. "When I became pastor of Buck Run in 2003, I learned that he, too, had served there and was one of the most beloved pastors that Buck Run had ever had. Though his tenure had ended nearly 50 years earlier, he and Peggy still held a special place in the hearts of Buck Run members.
"Dr. Hicks had, in large measure, instilled in Buck Run the missionary passion that it still holds today. I remain in his debt; I mourn his departure; I rejoice in his homecoming," York said.
Hicks earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina and the master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southern Seminary.
Survivors include his wife Peggy G. Hicks; son Wade B. Hicks Jr. (Marian); daughter Bonnie Hicks Ginter (Brownie); son Lee Greene Hicks (Debbie); brother Robin Hicks (Julia); eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The Hicks family will hold a funeral at 11 a.m. Jan. 18 at Lyndon Baptist Church, 8025 New Lagrange Road in Louisville. A visitation will precede the service beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Clella Lee named WMU leadership consultant
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Clella Lee joined the national WMU staff as leadership consultant on the adult resource team Jan. 6.
In this new role, she will create strategic plans for developing women in the area of leadership including an online leadership training program to further expand WMU's Christian Women's Leadership Center (CWLC).
The Christian Women's Leadership Center is a partnership between WMU and Samford University for the purpose of assisting women of all walks of life in furthering their leadership capabilities. Lee will help guide and grow the CWLC by implementing plans for experiential learning opportunities, more internships for students at WMU, monthly leadership luncheons and more.
"Clella brings a great depth of knowledge and practical experience to WMU," said Carol Causey, director of national WMU's missions resource center. "Her role in leading the CWLC will give her and WMU an ideal platform to assist women in all spheres of life to be servant leaders. We are thrilled Clella is joining us."
Most recently, Lee served on the staff of Lafayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., leading in the areas of evangelism and equipping from 2000-08, and music and worship from 2008 until April of this year. Prior work experience includes serving at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C., as an adjunct professor in 2010 and 2011 and as director of admissions and student affairs from 1997-2000. She also has 14 years of experience teaching in elementary schools, which will help give context and insight as she helps develop leadership content for all WMU age-level missions organizations.
Lee obtained a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Belmont University in Nashville and earned a master of divinity with a concentration in Christian education as well as a doctor of ministry from Campbell University.
She and her husband Brian, pastor of Shades Crest Baptist Church, reside in Birmingham.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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