Renowned religion author to speak

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Catawba News Service

Pre-eminent American church historian and the author of more than 50 books on religion, faith and culture today, Dr. Martin Marty, will speak at Catawba College’s 2007 Lilly Center Colloquium on Feb. 27. He will speak two different times during his visit to campus – at 11 a.m. in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel and at 7:30 p.m. in Hedrick Little Theatre and both sessions are free and open to both the public and the college community.

Dr. Marty’s morning address at Catawba is titled “Making Your Christian Way in a Culture of Many Faiths and No Faith,” while his evening address is titled “Facing Strangers in Matters of Faith.” Following the evening session, a book signing and reception is scheduled.

Born in West Point, Neb., Marty was ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1952. He served parishes in the west and northwest suburbs of Chicago for a decade before joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1963. There, he taught chiefly in the Divinity School for 35 years. Today, he is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago; in the divinity school there, the Martin Marty Center was founded as both a tribute to him and to promote public religion endeavors.

A prolific writer, Marty generates around 400,000 words each year. Since 1956, he has been a columnist for the “Christian Century” and has served since 1969 as editor of the semi-monthly Context, a newsletter on religion and culture. He is a regular contributor to Sightings, a bi-weekly electronic editorial published by the Marty Center.

Among the books Dr. Marty has written are “Righteous Empire,” for which he won the National Book Award; the three-volume “Modern American Religion;” “The One and The Many: America’s Search for the Common Good;” and with photographer Micah Marty, “Places Along the Way”. His other titles include “When Faiths Collide,” “Our Hope for Years to Come,” “The Promise of Winter,” and “When True Simplicity Is Gained.” He also has authored more than 5,000 articles including numerous essays, articles, papers, chapters, and forewords.

He sits on a dozen boards and has received 75 honorary degrees as well as the National Humanities Medal and the Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is past president and director of several associations, institutions and projects, including past president of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History, and American Catholic Historical Association.

Time magazine calls Marty “the most influential interpreter of religion in the country today.” In 1978, the editors of 26 religious magazines voted Marty and the Rev. Billy Graham as the two people having the most influence on religion in the United States.

In the 1960s, he made national and world causes his own. Marty marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., and was one of the rare Protestants participating at Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church’s historic summit meeting in the mid-1960s.

Marty is completing a three-year project (2003-2006) at Emory University in Atlanta titled, “The Child in Religion, Law, and Society,” which brought together two dozen senior faculty to focus on children. Researchers examined the rites and rights attached to birthing and naming, baptism and circumcision, education and discipline.

Scholars also studied the stages in a child’s physical, emotional, sexual, moral and spiritual formation and the rituals and ordeals and the rights and responsibilities attached to each. His book, “The Mystery of the Child,” will be penned at this project’s conclusion.

For more details on Marty and his work, visit his website at For more details on Dr. Marty’s Feb. 27 visit to Catawba College, call the Catawba College Lilly Center for Vocation and Values at 704-637-4446.

Marty’s visit to Catawba College for the 2007 Lilly Center Colloquium is made possible in part through funding provided by grants from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. Funding from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., allowed Catawba to establish its Lilly Center for Vocation and Values on campus in 2003 and to offer programs through that Center for students, faculty, staff and the larger college community. The focus of these programs has been to help participants, especially students, discover and use their gifts in ways that serve others.

Catawba is one of 88 colleges and universities in the country participating in the Lilly Endowment’s Programs for Theological Exploration of Vocation.

Founded in 1937, that endowment is a private foundation that supports its founders’ wishes by supporting the causes of religion, community development and education.