History of the Symposium

By John Marson Dunaway

"Do You Have a Dream for Tomorrow?" During the summer of 2003 I went on a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I was invited to speak at the Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs in Goma on this topic, drawing upon the biblical stories of Joseph and the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few months later I saw an article in the Telegraph by a local African-American pastor (Rev. Dr. Lonzy Edwards) encouraging local religious leaders to come together to talk about overcoming the racial segregation of our churches.

Not long afterward I had a vivid dream myself, in which I saw myself at Mercer with a group of scholars (both African-American & white) whom I had gathered to address the same topic and with the theme, "Building the Beloved Community." I was profoundly moved, and from that day I set to work organizing an annual "Building the Beloved Community" Symposium on the Mercer campus.

The planning committee of local clergy and lay leaders organizes the event, and Mercer sponsors it annually, with the kind help of our ministry partners at Centenary United Methodist Church.

I believe that the Holy Spirit has birthed this vision, not just in me, but in a number of leaders in this community. Dr. King said the most segregated hour of the week in our communities was 11:00 a.m. on Sundays. Unfortunately, that has not changed very much over the years. We believe the church should demonstrate unity as we collaborate across denominational and racial boundaries, and we promote such activities as:

  • sister church relationships
  • pulpit exchanges
  • community-wide unity services
  • partnerships in community development and service
  • formation of small action groups on specific appropriate issues

Symposium speakers have included:

2020 Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Associate Professor, Program Director of Reconciliation Studies, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington
2019 Dr. Claudia May, Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies, Program Director of Reconciliation Studies, Bethel University in St. Paul Minnesota

The Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth
and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago
The Rev. Antonie Walker, Pastor, Grace Corner Church, Macon


The Rev. Jim Wallis, Editor of Sojourners Magazine, Noted Author and Activist
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, McAfee School of Theology


The Rev. C.T. Vivian, Legendary Civil Rights Organizer
Sheriff David Davis, Macon-Bibb County

2015 Dr. Michael O. Emerson, Cline Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the
Institute for Urban Research, Rice University
2014 Mr. Sam Oni (CLA 1967), Mercer's First Black Student

The Hon. William C. Randall, Civil Court Judge and Chief Magistrate

2013 Rev. Gail E. Bowman, J. D., Director, The Willis J. Weatherford, Jr. Campus
Christian Center, and College Chaplain, Berea College (KY)
Mr. Michael J. Dunaway, Independent Filmmaker and Film Editor for PasteMagazine.com

Professor Bill J. Leonard, James & Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies, Former Dean,
Wake Forest University School of Divinity

Professor Chester J. Fontenot, Jr., Baptist Professor of English, Director, Africana Studies,
Mercer University

2011 Rev. Leroy Barber, President, Mission Year

Mr. Calvin Cole, Speakers Bureau, Macon Coalition to End Homelessness


Rev. Dr. Samuel Wells, Dean of Chapel, Duke University

Professor Anthony Harris, Tift College of Education at Mercer University


Rev. Dr. Emmanuel L. McCall, Fellowship Baptist Church, East Point, GA

Dr. Robert L. Lupton, FCS Urban Ministries


Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Former Pastor, Riverside Church, NYC

Rev. Mo Leverett, Rebirth International Urban Ministries

2007 Professor Richard L. Gray, Asbury Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. John M. Perkins, J.M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development

Rev. Gail E. Bowman, J.D., Dillard University


Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Legendary Civil Rights Leader

Professor Andrew M. Manis, Macon State College

Professor Catherine Meeks, Wesleyan College

Organizing Committee

  • Mrs. Alice M. Bailey (Principal Consultant, January Group, Inc.)
  • Mrs. Trish Dunaway (Retired Bibb County Reach Teacher)
  • Dr. Matt Harper (Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Rev. Clifford Little (Pastor, Greens Tabernacle Baptist)
  • Dr. Craig McMahan (University Minister at Mercer)
  • Ms. Betty Slater (Willis-Slater Productions)
  • Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes (Assistant Professor, McAfee School of Theology)
  • Dr. Sundra Woodford (Macon Area Habitat for Humanity)
  • Ms. Ashanti Griggs (Senior, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Ms. Sarah Harris (Senior, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)