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Institute for Faith and Culture

Cultivating Fertile Ground

The ground where faith and culture intersects is rich with opportunity. Seeds planted here bear fruit for generations.

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Feeding the Soul

In today’s polarized environment, issues of faith and popular culture often appear to be at cross purposes. Attempts at conversation between those of diverse origins, beliefs and backgrounds only seem to widen the distance.

The space where these powerful forces intersect, though, offers rich ground where mutual understanding, healing, and personal growth can take root.

Cultivating this ground is the work of the King University Institute for Faith & Culture. Since 2007, the Institute has welcomed widely recognized thinkers, authors, musicians, scholars, and philosophers to interact with students and a regional audience in a welcoming environment that catalyzes growth and understanding. The Institute serves as the standard bearer of the University’s long-time exploration of the liberal arts — in conjunction with King’s mission of equipping students to answer the call of excellence inherent in the Christian faith.

Far from pushing others away or apart, the conversations that arise here are artful, substantial, and inspiring, bearing fruit that feeds all those hungry for connection, beauty and healing.

Deep Roots

King’s distinguished alumni include scholars, scientists, ministers, artists, caregivers, and entrepreneurs who each day draw on the University’s well-rounded academic programming to serve regional and national organizations.

The Institute for Faith & Culture provides an additional source of inspiration, a vision of what can be for students who are considering vocations in medicine, social work, engineering, music, education, political science, technology, and more. It also provides a framework in which those on campus and others in community can effortlessly blend as we seek to gain a deeper understanding of our world’s changing needs.

The Institute is distinctively positioned to offer this annual speaker series, which is unique to the region and a rarity in the nation. Our deep roots in the Christian faith, combined with our long-term practice of being comfortable and present in challenging conversations, give rise to events where guests of many different backgrounds feel welcome, heard, and can freely contribute to the growth of understanding and community.

Our goal is simple:

  • To present and maintain the finest Christian speaker series not only in our region, but across our nation.
  • To provide a steady foundation for the future to ensure that the Institute of Faith & Culture continues to offer opportunities to students, faculty, alumni, and the community at large for many years to come.
  • For thoughtful dialogue that enriches the academic experience of students, helping to cultivate lives that are fully inhabited and bear rich fruit.
  • To help prepare students to excel as thoughtful, resourceful, and responsible citizens with a passion for serving God, the church, and the world.
"We have too many channels these days, of course. So many distractions dull our sense of inquisitiveness, our capacity for hope, our faith in positive change. The Institute’s programs aim at keeping the virtues of wonder and
contemplation alive."
Dale Brown, Ph.D.

Those Who Till the Ground

The idea of the Institute for Faith & Culture first took root at King with the arrival of Dale Brown, Ph.D. A longtime leader of Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Writing, Dr. Brown wanted to develop a program that would provide King University students, as well as the surrounding community, with regular access to foundational thinkers. His vision was to create an opportunity to cultivate conversation on issues of Christian faith and culture, stepping out into larger spaces via the compassion, courage, and wisdom found in the work of writer and theologian Frederick Buechner.

Inspired by Buechner’s work, Dr. Brown began compiling a list of experts in art, medicine, ministry, writing, politics, history, music, science, theology, and other vocations who could spark meaningful conversation and generate an exchange of ideas. In 2008, The Buechner Institute at King University was born, and was inaugurated with an address from Buechner himself.

Each month, Dr. Brown carefully selected speakers whose life experiences, academic grounding, and incomparable wisdom could intentionally generate discussion in a temperate zone, a place between what he called “abject secularism and shrill sectarianism.” Topics focused on the central issues of our time, with speakers generating open, accessible discourse and sharing the opportunity for audience interaction.

Following Dr. Brown’s passing in 2014, the Institute’s name was changed to the King Institute for Faith & Culture. His greatness of mind and heart still guides the organization’s path, however, particularly in the Institute’s ongoing commitment to welcome distinguished speakers who interact with the university community and the community at large. Buechner’s legacy at King remains strong as well, most visibly via the Institute’s annual Frederick Buechner Lecture, sponsored by the Frederick Buechner Center.

Today, the Institute is led by Martin Dotterweich, Ph.D., associate professor of history at King University, who continues Dr. Brown’s dedication to addressing questions about where culture and faith connect and collide, with a vision to expand the Institute further with additional speakers and opportunities to engage the community through shared, thoughtful conversation that may lead to lives more fully inhabited.

With annual topics that have ranged from fear, uncertainty, and brokenness to faith, redemption, hope, and wisdom, the conversations that take place at King University’s Institute for Faith & Culture lead us into spaces of wonder — and remind us how God plants different gifts in each of us, in order to benefit all of us.

Help us Grow

As part of a non-profit organization, the work — and the growth — of the Institute relies on the support of those who seek to preserve and enrich diverse conversations, gatherings, and the discovery of common ground. We are seeking fellow explorers who are willing to journey with us into the vast and challenging territories created wherever faith and culture meet, explorers who are interested in staking out areas of conversation and influence for deep and fruitful cultivation.

The Institute has had long-term success in welcoming speakers who are not theologically, politically, or culturally uniform to join us on campus and throughout our community. This has benefited both students and guests — in the past year alone, the Institute has partnered with other organizations to host events with multiple denominations of area churches, in Bristol’s main hospital, and at the city’s public library. We are very grateful for, and proud of, our area partners who help erase the boundary lines between campus and community.

Even in our small region, there is a hunger for this kind of programming. We welcome between 125-250 people to our events, with many more joining in through our online and social platforms. We believe there is also a need for this kind of restorative outreach, as our society becomes increasingly fragmented and polarized.

Currently, the Institute’s funding is provided through the University’s budgeting process and charitable donations — which means it can fluctuate from year to year. Our goal for the immediate future is to endow the Institute, providing a stable, annual resource, continuing the work accomplished to date, and allowing for further development.

Contact the Director of the Institute for Faith and Culture