Pastors and Presidents Symposium scheduled for April 4-5

Exploring such issues as “The Faith of America’s Presidents” and “Preachers, Presidents and the Perils of Power,” Ouachita Baptist University will host a two-day Pastors and Presidents Symposium April 4-5 on the university’s Arkadelphia campus.

The symposium, coordinated by Dr. Ray Granade, director of library services and professor of history, is being held in conjunction with Ouachita’s 125th anniversary observance. Symposium lectures are free and open to the public.

The symposium “will bring to campus renowned scholars to address questions often ignored in the various disciplines concerned:  history, religion and political science,” Dr. Granade said. He noted that the event “will examine the spiritual aspects of presidential governance by looking at the constitutional framework in both theory and practice over time.  While the constitutional framework will provide background, the symposium will focus on the pastor-parishioner relationship.”

Guest scholars include Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Columbia University; David L. Holmes, historian and professor of religious studies at the College of William and Mary; Steven P. Miller, historian from Washington and Webster Universities; and Gary Scott Smith, chair of the history department at Grove City College.

“Discussion will include individual pastors and presidents but also examine the role of ‘national pastor’ figure Billy Graham’s ministry to successive presidents over the course of a half-century,” Dr. Granade explained. He said Ouachita President Rex Horne “will interact with those speaking from a theoretical and historical framework in discussing the practicalities of the relationship drawing on his own experience with President Bill Clinton.”

According to Dr. Horne, “As a pastor to one of our United States presidents, I am greatly anticipating the symposium. Dr. Granade has secured gifted scholars to join us on campus. The presentations and dialogue will be of interest to our campus community as well as area pastors and residents. I look forward to seeing students, faculty, staff and guests join in this significant event of our 125th year.”

The Pastors and Presidents Symposium will feature two sessions each on Monday, April 4, and Tuesday, April 5. The opening session on Monday will feature a lecture by David Holmes, the author of books and articles on religion and politics, including “The Faiths of the Founding Fathers.” It will be held at 2 p.m. in Young Auditorium in Hickingbotham Hall.

A Monday evening session will be held in Berry Chapel at 7:30 p.m. It will feature a presentation by Steven Miller on “Pastor to Power: Billy Graham from Truman to Obama.” Miller is the author of “Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South.” The session also will include a response panel with Rex Horne, Randall Balmer, David Holmes and Gary Smith.

The symposium’s third session will feature Gary Smith, author of “Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush.” Smith will address “The Faith of America’s Presidents” during chapel at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Jones Performing Arts Center.

The symposium will conclude with a Tuesday afternoon session at 12:30 p.m. in the Alumni Room of the Commons. It will feature Randall Balmer addressing “Compromises Right and Left: Preachers, Presidents and the Perils of Power.” He is the author of a dozen books, including “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America” and “God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.” The closing session will be preceded by an invitation-only luncheon at 11:30 a.m.

For more information about the Pastors and Presidents Symposium, contact Ray Granade at 870-245-5120 or

By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications

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