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New Orleans prof receives Lilly Grant to study early Baptist documents

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The Association of Theological Schools and the Lilly Endowment recently announced that R. Stan Norman, associate professor of theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has been awarded a Lilly Theological Research Grant.

Norman was one of only 11 recipients in the Research Expense Grant category for the 2003-04 school year. There were 29 applicants. The grant will support his efforts to study and preserve historical Baptist documents recently discovered in the seminary library.

“This research project is part of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s passionate commitment to preserve and pass on our Baptist identity to future generations,” seminary president Chuck Kelley said.

The goal of Norman’s research involves the digitization and evaluation of rare Baptist documents housed in the John T. Christian Library to ensure their preservation for future generations. To make the project a collaborative effort, Norman has enlisted the help of Lloyd Harsch, assistant professor of church history at New Orleans Seminary.

After the digitization and evaluation, Norman plans to publish the documents along with a critical commentary to be called “New Perspectives on Ancient Ideas: A Critical Analysis of Rare Theological Writings on Baptist Life and Thought.”

Norman said he is excited about the evaluation process and the insights the documents could yield.

“Nineteen of the documents can only be found in our library,” he said. “These (documents) have the potential of enriching, expanding and possibly modifying our understanding of Baptist life and origins.”

New Orleans Seminary Provost Steve Lemke agreed.

“The rare books that we have recently rediscovered in our library, many of which go back to the infancy of Baptist life, will provide a treasure trove for scholars around the world,” Lemke said. “We are honored that Dr. Norman and Dr. Harsch have received this Lilly Research Expense Grant to assist them in both making these rare documents available to the scholarly world and providing an interpretive commentary on their significance for Christian history.”

The digitization process involves photographing the historical books and pamphlets at a high resolution and saving them in an electronic format. This process will not only preserve the documents, but also will make the materials accessible to a larger number of scholars. Norman said he expects this accessibility to such rare Baptist documents to stimulate new interest in the research and study of Baptist origins.