The Whitley Lecture was first established in 1949 in honour of WT Whitley (1861–1947), the Baptist minister and historian. Following a pastorate in Bridlington, during which he also taught at Rawdon College in Yorkshire, Whitley became the first Principal of the Baptist College of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, in 1891. This institution was later renamed Whitley College in his honour.
Whitley was a key figure in the formation of the Baptist Historical Society in 1908. He edited its journal, which soon gained an international reputation for the quality of its contents – a reputation it still enjoys nearly a century later as the 'Baptist Quarterly'. His 'A History of British Baptists' (London: Charles Griffin, 1923) remains an important source of information and comment for contemporary historians. Altogether he made an important contribution to Baptist life and self-understanding in Britain and Australia, providing a model of how a pastor-scholar might enrich the life and faith of others.
The establishment of the annual lecture in his name is designed as an encouragement to research and writing by Baptist scholars, and to enable the results of this work to be published. The giving of grants, advice and other forms of support by the Lectureship Committee serves the same purpose. The committee consists of representatives of the British Baptist Colleges, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, BMS World Mission, the Baptist Ministers’ Fellowship, and the Baptist Historical Society. These organisations also provide financial support for its work.
The 2017 Whitley Lecture is entitled the The Pioneering Evangelicalism of Dan Taylor (1738-1816)
by Richard Pollard, Minister and Team Leader, Fishponds Baptist Church, Bristol. It is available from Regent's Park College.
The 2016 Whitley Lecture was Church Without Walls: Post-Soviet Baptists in the Ukranian Revolution 2013-14 by
Joshua Searle, Tutor in Theology and Public Thought and Assistant Director of Postgraduate Research at Spurgeon's College. The lecture can be purchased here.