Panel to discuss Baylor history

By Grace Gaddy

The Baylor community will have a chance to travel back in time and learn Thursday about the spiritual sparks that ignited the founding of Baylor.

The Historical Studies of Religion, part of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor, will present an all-day event: “Symposium on the Revival that Founded Baylor: Baptist Faith in Frontier Texas.”

The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Cox Lecture Hall of Armstrong Browning Library with a panel discussion featuring various scholars on topics of 19th century religious history.

Keynote speaker Dr. David Bebbington will relate the unique story of Baylor’s religious revival roots in a lecture at 4 p.m. in the Kayser Auditorium at the Hankamer School of Business.

Bebbington is based at the University of Stirling in Scotland but is teaching this semester as a visiting distinguished professor at Baylor.

Dr. Thomas Kidd, associate professor of history at Baylor and a friend and colleague of Bebbington’s, organized the symposium after learning of the story from Bebbington’s research.

Bebbington is “one of the world’s top experts” on 19th century religious history in the English-speaking world, Kidd said, adding that his research of revivals spans the globe, from England to Australia.

One of those revivals took place in Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the original capital of Texas was located.

“This was a major revival in 1841, and it helped to inspire Judge Baylor and some of the other leading founders of Baylor University to start the school,” Kidd said.

The founders’ vision for an establishment of higher education ignited during the heart of the Second Great Awakening, a movement of religious revivals that blazed across the American frontier in the early 19th century.

Since Texas was a state that experienced sweeping numbers of conversions, Judge Baylor came together with others seeking to start an institution that would train them for the ministry, Kidd said.

However, Baylor’s revival story is not well known.

“We just thought that this has to be presented publicly,” Kidd said. “This is such a great story about Baylor’s origins.”

The morning panel will provide background for Bebbington’s lecture, featuring presentations on 19th century religious history, such as missions and patterns of religious publishing, Kidd said. Speakers include professors Beth Barton Schweiger of the University of Arkansas, Kelly Elliott of Abilene Christian University and Joseph Stubenrauch of Baylor, a Baylor press release said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the Baylor community, students and faculty to reflect more on the Christian origins of the university and to understand where we came from in a sense, that the school was born out of revival,” Kidd said.

Frances Malone, assistant to the director in the Institute for Studies in Religion, said she is looking forward to the events.

Malone helped with planning and organizational efforts.

“It’s just a good event to highlight the Historical Studies of Religion — the program,” she said, adding that this will also highlight the larger Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor.

The institute “exists to initiate, support, and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum,”according to a mission statement on its website.