Former Young Scholars program expands to scholars at all career stages, transfers administrative home to the Baylor University Graduate School
WACO, Texas (Aug. 9, 2019) — From as far as Australia and as near as Scotland, scholars from all over the world recently gathered at Oxford University for the 2019 Baptist Scholars International Roundtable (BSIR) – co-directed by two Baylor University faculty members – which centered on the theme “Baptists and the Kingdom of God.”
Formerly known as Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy (YSBA), BSIR promotes scholarship from Baptist perspectives across the ages and around the globe by facilitating this annual scholarly forum. The community is international, inter-generational and interdisciplinary and invites a diversity of Baptist affiliations.
Last year, BSIR leadership transferred the program’s administrative home from Georgetown College in Kentucky to the Baylor Graduate School, where it is now co-directed by Baylor faculty members Laine Scales, Ph.D., professor and Master Teacher in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and Beth Allison Barr, Ph.D., associate dean for student and faculty development in the Graduate School and associate professor of history.
In addition to the name change to open the program to scholars at all stages of their careers, the group committed to involving more participants from outside the United States and establishing a Visiting Fellow role to increase the group’s interaction with Baptists globally.
“We were so pleased with the reimagined Baptist Scholars International Roundtable in its new iteration,” Scales said. “We are grateful for Dr. Roger Ward of Georgetown College and the scholars who faithfully nurtured this program for 15 years as YSBA and are excited to branch out into an even wider group of Global Baptists.”
“It was wonderful to see the global Baptist networks,” Barr said after the Roundtable. “We are going to work hard to encourage scholars from Latin America, Africa and Asia to join us in 2020.”
BSIR was organized 15 years ago under the leadership of Ward, a 1991 Baylor graduate and professor of philosophy at Georgetown College in Kentucky. Baylor has supported the program from its beginning through its Graduate School, Institute for Faith and Learning and Institute for Studies of Religion. Other financial contributors include International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities, Campbell University, Dallas Baptist University, Samford University and Union University.
At the heart of the Roundtable is formation for academic stewardship in which a newer generation is welcomed into an international Baptist Academy and “formed to preserve and sustain both academic and faith communities,” Scales said.
Regents Park College, a part of Oxford University, hosts the annual meeting where BSIR Fellows, who are senior scholars, and a Visiting Fellow engage with the developing ideas of doctoral students, early-career and mid-career faculty (BSIR Scholars) presenting papers selected through a competitive process.
At this year’s meeting, David Bebbington, Ph.D., the 2019 Visiting Distinguished Fellow and professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland, launched the conversation with a keynote address and concluded the conference with an integrative commentary. The scholarly paper topics reflected the breadth and depth of the global Baptist world, from Northern Baptist College doctoral student Meghan Bylerly’s presentation on “Collective Virtue and Baptist Ecclesiology” and response by Professor Paul Fiddes of Regent’s Park College, Oxford, to Baylor history graduate student Skylar Ray’s presentation on the 1960s Southern Baptist Convention and response from Campbell University President Brad Creed.
Scales also responded to a paper from a doctoral student at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, who is studying women missionaries to East Bengal in the early 20th century.
“Her work had such interesting intersections with my own study of the diaries of Southern Baptist women missionaries of the same time period,” Scales said. “Of course, our social work tradition in Baptist life grew out of missions, specifically home missions. I read the paper with such excitement as I saw opportunities to help shape this very good work of a doctoral student from Canberra while at the same time learning from her research. By reading the work of a next-generation scholar, a much more global perspective on my own research on Baptist women missionaries came into view. This is how we hope to build a Baptist academy connected around the world by our scholarly contributions and our faith.”
This year, Barr led participants on a tour of historical Baptist sites throughout London, including Spitalfields, believed to be the location of the first Baptist church established in England (1611), and to the burial place of John Bunyan in Bunhill Fields Cemetery, the celebrated English minister and preacher who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678).
“We wanted to help Baptists from outside England connect to our historic roots as a way of seeing ourselves in a long line of Baptists,” Barr said. “For some of us, that is an important perspective in light of recent conflicts among Baptists in the U.S.”
BSIR extends a call for papers for the 2020 annual meeting, from which seven will be selected through a competitive process. The call will go out in October, and leaders hope for another set of rich, diverse presentations from around the world, Scales said. BSIR leaders are preparing a published volume that will reflect papers from the 2019 and 2020 conferences.