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Rev. Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1980

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Ordained in the Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin has preached and spoken in numerous churches in a variety of denominations, yet he always has seen his primary role as one of teaching. He feels strongly that teaching is a vital element of preaching, that all good preaching includes a teaching dimension, but he sees this missing in churches today: “we preach to appeal to emotion and spirituality, but we don’t preach enough to enlighten.” For Dr. Baldwin, proclamation is not enough: “teaching allows for discussion and debate, and the preaching moment does not allow for that.”

In his teaching ministry, he seeks to address problems such as religious intolerance and bigotry, devoting attention to the rise of Islamophobia. His concern is educating people about religions, and he is working with Muslim leaders to “move beyond conversation to engage in cooperative, concrete action to not only address Islamophobia but also to deal with issues of human and civil rights.”

Service, altruism, and sacrifice also are key concepts in Dr. Baldwin’s understanding of ministry—the will and determination to serve, an unselfish concern for the welfare of others, and a willingness to sacrifice for the common good. At the same time, he balances this outward focus with an inward attention to self-love—the awareness that we all are human beings created in the image of God. He sees this as a particular concern of the Black experience and believes that a daily celebration of Black history and culture is one way to build self-love, self-affirmation, and self-acceptance. For Dr. Baldwin, this balance between self-love and love for others is key to reconciliation: “You have to begin with self-love in order to fulfill what Martin Luther King, Jr. was about in terms of the beloved community.”

Dr. Baldwin’s ministry is motivated by the need he sees in the world around him: “a society hungering for justice, peace, freedom, and human dignity.” What he finds inspiring are those who instilled in him the importance of taking ministry seriously—including colleagues, pastors, scholars, and professors. These mentors helped him understand that ministry must address both material and spiritual needs: “they were all paradigms of a balanced spirituality, and they never reduced it to the personal—it was always public and/or political as well.”

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