Dean Corey D. B. Walker and President Susan R. Wente after the Installation Ceremony at Wait Chapel on Friday, April 26, 2024.

At the installation service of Corey D. B. Walker as Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, President Susan R. Wente announced she has committed funding to support a new initiative on “Religion, Pluralism, and American Public Life” that will be based at the School of Divinity.  

“This initiative will provide the University and the broader public with essential resources to deepen civil discourse and civic engagement in a time when both are critical to our future,” said President Wente. “I applaud the School of Divinity for boldly engaging in this important work.” 

As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the founding of Wake Forest University School of Divinity, the initiative will launch in the fall of 2024. The initiative builds on the School of Divinity’s ecumenical and interfaith commitments and its signature 2023 Elizabeth and Robert Strickland Symposium, “Religion, Pluralism, and the Fate of Democracy,” which brought scholars together to assess the current state and future prospects of American democracy. 

With the leadership of Dean Walker, the School of Divinity is uniquely positioned to be a national leader for research, public scholarship, and civic engagement at the intersection of religion, pluralism, and American public life.

“Dean Walker is not only a distinguished scholar, but he is also a committed public servant. His scholarship is complemented by his extensive community and civic engagement, including his bipartisan and interfaith work on religious freedom in 

the United States and internationally,” said Wente.

Dean Walker’s extensive scholarship, complemented by his community and civic engagement, brings a wealth of perspective and experience to the initiative. As a distinguished scholar on religion and democracy, Walker has provided expertise and leadership on matters of religion, public policy, and democracy as Freedom Forum Institute Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at the Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, DC, as a member of the working group on international religious freedom for the United States Institute of Peace, as a member of the Committee on Religious Liberty, and as a member of the advisory council for the BJC’s Center for Faith, Justice, and Reconciliation. 

“This initiative comes at a crucial time,” said Corey D. B. Walker, Dean and Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities. “The very foundation and future of American democracy is intensely contested and religion functions both as a panacea and as a problem. In a moment when our nation is embroiled in an intense struggle over the very substance of democracy in America, an understanding of how religion fuels our highest aspirations and animates our deepest fears is needed now more than ever.”

The 2024-2025 theme, “Across the Borders of Tradition: Conversations in Jewish and Christian Thought and Theology,” reflects the initiative’s dedication to fostering critical interdisciplinary and interfaith dialogue. Over the course of the year, lectures and seminars will feature some of the nation’s leading theologians and scholars of religion; and opportunities for public conversations with prominent scholars and thought leaders who are pioneering new directions in religious thought, theology, and religion and American public life. 

The “Initiative on Religion, Pluralism, and American Public Life” advances Wake Forest University’s commitment to producing new knowledge that fosters inclusive communities. 

The School of Divinity is extending its distinctive legacy as a scholarly hub for intellectual engagement around matters of faith and public life. Current White House executive director of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers previously served as the director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. The rich legacy of late professor of Christianity and public policy James M. Dunn, who provided legendary leadership for the Baptist Joint Committee, lives on at the school.

For more information about the initiative, visit

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