Religion literacy lecture series to honor professor

The department of religion is honoring a former professor by bringing prominent speakers to discuss the issues of religious literacy, a professor said.

Darren Middleton , associate professor of religion, said the department started the Daryl D. Schmidt Lecture Series to promote religious literacy, which Middleton said is a fuller understanding of religion’s nature and function in the world. Middleton said religious literacy was important to Schmidt, former chair of the religion department.

Mark Dennis, assistant professor of religion , said the series started about three years ago but the first speaker is planned for October.

Schmidt was chair of the department about 10 years ago and his tenure began during the early 1980s, Middleton said.

Middleton said he and Schmidt were part of the Jesus Seminar, which has a commitment to raising religious literacy about the New Testament.

Middleton said after Schmidt died of colon cancer in 2006, Provost Nowell Donovan gave the department money to start a biennial series of lectures to honor Schmidt.

“Many of us feel we have a task to help people develop a deeper, richer, fuller understanding of religious nature and its function in the world,” Middleton said.

Joey Chamberlin , a junior religion major, said he feels these kinds of lecture series are chances for students to learn from the best in the topics of religion.

“It also gives students who aren’t religion majors exposure to religious topics that they might not have access to otherwise,” Chamberlin said.

Dennis said the first speaker to start the series will be Karen Armstrong, an internationally renowned scholar of religion who has written on topics related to religion and public life.

Middleton said Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun and is now a freelance scholar.

“She now writes books and lectures on the circuit to help the public understanding of religion,” Middleton said.

Middleton said that Armstrong’s books sell well because she has an easy, accessible writing style. She writes on a variety of topics including the history of the city of Jerusalem and biographies on Buddha , Middleton said.

“We’ve got a very influential figure in Armstrong ,” Middleton said. “She’s an enormously charismatic, fabulous human being.”

The department hopes to have her meet with students and visit local radio stations after her lecture in October, Middleton said.

Middleton said that no speakers after Armstrong are confirmed, but the committee will continue meeting about once a month to discuss finances and planning for the future.

“I hope that if someone sees a list of the names of our speakers in the future, they will see how prestigious the lecture series was and it will raise TCU’s prominence both nationally and globally,” Middleton said.