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Religion expert to speak on African American Methodism for fall Biever Guest Lecture Series

Loyola press release - October 24, 2007

(New Orleans)—The Biever Guest Lecture Committee and the Department of Religious Studies presents J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., expert on religions in America, who will speak on “Antebellum African American Religion: The Case of the Methodists.” Melton is the director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara California and a research specialist with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara. The lecture will take place Wednesday, November 7, 7 p.m., in Nunemaker Auditorium of Monroe Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Methodism has played an important role in African American Christianity since its founding in the eighteenth century. In Melton’s lecture, the contributions of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion, and the African American membership of the United Methodist Church, will be examined in the context of the antebellum South, with particular attention to their influence on the struggle for liberation and ecclesial autonomy in New Orleans.

Melton has spent his career specializing in new religious movements, religions in America, and African American religions. During his seminary days, he developed an interest in African American religion and among his first publications was the Bibliography of Black Methodism. That interest led to his becoming the co-editor and major contributing author of the Encyclopedia of African American Religion and to his most recent publication, A Will to Choose: The Origins of African American Methodism. He has published more than 25 reference and scholarly books. His most famous work, The Encyclopedia of American Religions, originally appeared in 1979 and is now in its 7th edition (2002). Recently he co-edited Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, which received the editor's choice award from the American Library Association and Booklist, the ALA journal. Melton holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

The mission of the Loyola Biever Guest Lecture Series is to enrich the intellectual and cultural life of students, faculty and the community at large by bringing distinguished individuals to campus for presentations in their respective fields.