Magazine article Church & State

New Book Celebrates Baptist Religious Liberty Advocate James Dunn

Magazine article Church & State

New Book Celebrates Baptist Religious Liberty Advocate James Dunn

Article excerpt

A just-published book celebrates the life and work of James M. Dunn, an influential Baptist leader who has dedicated much of his career to defending church-state separation.

Dunn, a former vice president of the Americans United Board of Trustees, is the focus of James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom by Aaron Douglas Weaver. Weaver, a doctoral candidate in religion, politics and society at Baylor University, writes for the moderate Baptist publication Baptists Today and blogs at a site called thebigdaddyweave.com.

Weaver provides a brief overview of Dunn's upbringing but focuses mostly on his work in Southern Baptist circles to defend religious liberty. The Southern Baptist Convention fell under the control of a fundamentalist faction in the 1980s, but Dunn remained true to the denomination's historic stand in favor of church-state separation,.

From 1981-99, Dunn served as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC). In that position, he rallied Baptists of many denominational stripes to resist the fundamentalist onslaught and promote church-state separation. He currently oversees the BJC's endowment fund and also serves as a professor of Christianity and public policy at Wake Forest Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C.

On the day he took over the leadership of the BJC, Dunn vowed to put forth an "aggressive, broad-based" approach to church-state issues. Never reluctant to take on the Religious Right, Dunn blasted efforts to mix religion and politics. …

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