Newly approved research center focuses on Baptist studies

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

The Baylor Board of Regents has recently approved the Baptist Studies Center for Research, which will work to uphold the Baptist heritage by providing various types of resources and research opportunities.

The center, which was established through the religion department and approved last Friday, includes thousands of Baptist documents and materials, many of which will be digitized to create a virtual collection.

Dr. William Bellinger, chair of the religion department, believes the center will serve a great function both to Baylor and the greater Baptist community.

“I think its purpose is to make a difference to the future of the global community of Baptists,” Bellinger said. “And also to make a difference to the future of Baylor University by researching into the Baptist story and discovering its depth and riches and variety. I believe that will help the university in its mission.”

Bellinger said the center will focus on research while serving through other outlets. The Baptist Studies Center for Research will aid visiting scholars who lecture at Baylor, support faculty research projects, sponsor an essay contest for students, encourage students to travel and study various historical Baptist sites, as well as provide an emphasis in Baptist studies for the Ph.D. program in religion.

Bellinger explained that Baylor is the only university that offers a Ph.D. program in religion, and according to a press release from Baylor, the program has risen significantly in recent rankings by the National Research Council and has made major strides in faculty productivity.

Bellinger said the center will put an identifiable focus on researching a promising area.

“It has a real potential to be a very active research component that can do lots of things that can make a difference for Baptists and the university,” Bellinger said. “It will give us a way to explore some of the parts of the Christian story that we have not explored very well, including Latin America and African American Baptist life. It will be real live research that has to do not only with the past but with today as well, and in that way I think lots of students will be interested in finding ways to be involved.”

Dr. Doug Weaver, assistant professor of religion and director of undergraduate studies, said the center fits with Baylor’s commitment to research as well as its standing as a Christian university.

“I think it honors Baylor’s niche,” Weaver said. “Baylor is a Christian university in a Baptist tradition, and this center honors that in a way that hadn’t been done before and hadn’t needed to be done with Baylor’s focus on research. Now with the wonderful resources that are being given to students and professors, we might be able to do that in a way that has never been done.”

Bellinger said the center will provide opportunities to see the broader Baptist tradition and how rich and varied it is.

“It really will give students lots of opportunities to participate in research and seek Baptist tradition in ways that we really haven’t been doing,” Bellinger said.

Weaver is excited about the center and also the opportunity it brings for Christians to reflect on their identity.

“This is really a way for Baylor to say that the tradition from which we have come has made contributions and we would like to preserve and study those,” Weaver said.