Austin College will host the annual Allen-Head Lectures Feb. 20 on campus, with two presentations by Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University. Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Austin College will host the annual Allen-Head Lectures Feb. 20 on campus, with two presentations by Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University. Both lectures are free and open to the public.


The first lecture, "Rewriting History for a ‘Christian America:’ The Texas Social Studies Controversy," will begin at 11 a.m. in Sherman Hall’s Hoxie Thompson Auditorium. That evening at 7 p.m. in Wright Campus Center’s Mabee Hall, Chancey will present "Teaching about the Bible in the Shadow of Court Decisions: Bible Courses, Public Education, and the Changing Terrain of Church-State Relations in Texas."


"Public education is a matter of both local and national concern," said Todd Penner, Austin College Gould and Marie Cloud professor in religion and coordinator of the lecture series. "It is a key component of a larger debate within the broader social and cultural wars that we see played out front and center on the American scene day in and day out. How should we think about and engage public school curriculum in light of a divided nation?"


Penner said a critical juncture faces the U.S. as it forges ahead to become a more educationally robust nation. "Dr. Chancey brings to the forefront some of the major issues that have divided the public in Texas with respect to general school curriculum," he said. "What we think and teach about history says as much about us as it does about the past. And wherever one lands in terms of the political divide, we can all rest assured that the future of this country lies in thinking with each other over public curricula and engaging what is at stake in the controversies that seem to separate us. We might find, in the end, that we have much more in common than we might think."


A member of the religion faculty in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences since 2000, Chancey has been named an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and has received the Golden Mustang Teaching Award, the Rotunda Outstanding Professor Award and the Maguire Center Public Scholar Award.


In recent years he has devoted considerable attention to the constitutional, political and academic issues raised by religion courses in public schools.


Chancey is the author of two books, "The Myth of a Gentile Galilee" (2002) and "Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus" (2005), and the co-author of "Archaeology of the Land of the Bible from Alexander to Constantine" (2012).


He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in religion and a master’s degree in religion at the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in New Testament and early Judaism at Duke University. Chancey’s research interests range from the historical Jesus, archaeology and the Bible, and the political and social history of Roman-period Palestine to church-state issues and religion and contemporary public education.


Before joining the SMU faculty, he held visiting and adjunct faculty positions in religion at Duke University and Meredith College.


The Allen-Head Lecture Series was established by an endowment gift to Austin College in 1985 in memory and celebration of E.T. Allen, Sr., and Mary Bell Anderson Allen; Mr. &Mrs. E.T. Allen, Jr.; and Mr. &Mrs. R.B. Head, Jr., of Whitesboro. The lectures feature nationally prominent speakers in the areas of religion, philosophy, psychology, history and literature.