A Divinity School, Vienna,
Anticipation, and Controversy
In recent moral history, no event stands out like the Holocaust. The lessons of this
tragedy-too-great-for-speaking repudiate moral relativism. The relativist says that
good and right are culturally determined. But, it did not matter morally that the Nazi
Government was legitimate or whether this terror was the result of generally accepted
anti-Semitic social norms. Observations of social mores are irrelevant to the moral as-
sessment of what happened. The Holocaust taught us, vividly, and I would have thought
forever, that human beings possess rights not bestowed by governments or dependent
upon social mores.
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 15, 2000;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
major event of the 1999–2000 academic year was the opening of the School
of Divinity in August. The inaugural class comprised twenty-four students,
nineteen women and five men. The idea had been discussed since the mid-
1940s, but long-range planning began in earnest in April 1989, three years after Wake
Forest ended its relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Although a $15 million endowment was needed for the school to be self-sustaining,
by 1999 University officials realized that building an endowment was a slow process,
and skepticism about the project was growing. Rather than lose the good will of those
who had already contributed and pledged around $10 million, they pushed ahead.
The dedication ceremony was held on October 12–13, and the theme for the opening
convocation was “Theology at the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century.”
Wake Forest defined the new school as “Christian by tradition, ecumenical in
outlook, and Baptist in heritage” (Bill Leonard, personal interview, July 27, 2012).
Feeling that the University’s Baptist heritage would inform but not insulate the