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10/10/97 Land delivers check, address at New Orleans’ Founders Day

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A check for $15,689.81 established an African American student endowment at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 7.
Presented by Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the check was New Orleans Seminary’s share after the SBC Executive Committee decided to use remaining money from the 1996 Arson Fund for African American churches by distributing the money equally among the six SBC Seminaries.
The check created an endowment fund that will ensure some scholarship funds will always be available for African American students, who comprise more than 10 percent of current NOBTS students at the main campus. Of the seminary’s 13 extension center campuses, several, especially those in Florida, have a much higher percentage of African American students.
Land, who as an NOBTS alumnus was invited to present the annual Founders Day address, told of the day he met the woman who would become his wife. He was a first-year master of divinity degree student and upon entering the cafeteria on his birthday, Nov. 6, 1969, he noticed fellow student Rebecca Van Hooser, who had grown up on both the original and current New Orleans Seminary campuses.
Land said Rebecca was first mentioned in an NOBTS publication in 1949 as the 3-year-old daughter of the new cafeteria manager, Thelma Van Hooser, whose husband, Roland, was a new student at the seminary. When the seminary moved from its New Orleans Garden District location to the larger property in eastern New Orleans, Rebecca’s mother drew the plans for the new cafeteria.
Land noted he was born the same year the school’s name was changed from Baptist Bible Institute to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1946. A magna cum laude baccalaureate graduate of Princeton University, he went to New Orleans Seminary to earn the master of theology degree. During his senior year he was elected student body president and received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the outstanding graduating student. He then was accepted at Oxford University in England, where he completed the doctor of philosophy degree.
“It’s easy to see why Southern Baptists chose to establish a seminary in New Orleans 80 years ago,” Land said. Just as the ancient cities of Corinth, Athens and Ephesus were not founded with the gospel at their heart or with evangelical Christianity in their genetic codes, and just as the first founding fathers of Christianity, the apostles, went to those cities with Christ’s Great Commission in their heart, the seminary’s founding fathers established a missionary training school in New Orleans in 1917, he said.
“A seminary (in New Orleans) would plant the Baptist cause in this city in a way that would immediately command the attention and the respect of all,” Land quoted from a 1914 editorial by P.I. Lipsey, editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record.
“It would be planting the siege guns at the enemies’ gates. It would rally the Baptists and put heart into them and equip them for their work as nothing else could,” Lipsey wrote in his famous impassioned editorial that finally rallied Baptists to do something with the idea that had been talked about since 1817. Three years later Southern Baptists, meeting in New Orleans for their annual convention, voted to establish the first theological institution to be created by direct action of the SBC.
While a seminary student, Land was pastor of Vieux Carre Baptist Church, “surely the most unique church in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Land said, and the only Southern Baptist church in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter.
“Ministering at that church in the French Quarter permanently expanded my comprehension of the gospel and the problems people face,” he said. Concerns at Vieux Carre were never as mundane as how or when to pave a parking lot (they did not even have a parking lot), but how to help people struggling with homosexuality, drug addiction and prostitution.
“New Orleans is a microcosm of not only our unreached nation but also our unreached world,” he said.
New Orleans Seminary is unique among the six Southern Baptist seminaries, he said, in that it “has at its doorstep a laboratory on how to reach the world for Christ.”
Land challenged Southern Baptists to “summon the boldness and vision of New Orleans Seminary’s founding fathers as they launched an offensive on the city of New Orleans,” just as the founding fathers of Christianity, who by their boldness were described as a people who turned their world upside down for Christ.
“We live in a time that is revolutionary,” Land said, as the nation is in a downward spiral, worshiping themselves rather than the creator.
“We face an appalling crisis,” he said, and “people from all walks of life understand we cannot continue in the same way we have been going.”
The idea that religion is to be an isolated part of life “has become dominant in our society,” he said. “Religion has become relegated to the realm of a hobby.”
Christians must be taught, however, “Christianity has intrinsic claims on all of my life,” he said, and it is not an oxymoron to be “an informed Baptist.”
“We have a gospel that is whole, for the whole man and woman, and it will involve the mind,” he said.
“We must have agape love” as the gospel is shared, he said.
“It will not be sufficient merely to believe the right thing. It will not be sufficient merely to say the right thing. It will not be sufficient merely to do the right thing.
“In order to comply completely with our command to be the light of the world, we must do the right thing and do it for the right reason with the right motive.
“We must live the gospel,” Land said, and, quoting St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel all the time. If necessary, use words.”
In order to have true and lasting renewal in America, “Christians must begin by reforming themselves and their churches,” Land said. “Only then can we be salt and light.”
Christians must stop looking around at their world and asking, “Why?” Land said. Instead, just as the founding fathers of New Orleans Seminary did, “we must look and dream and say, ‘Why not?'”
Anyone interested in contributing to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s endowment scholarship fund for African American students may contact the NOBTS office of development at 3939 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70126, or call 1-800- NOBTS-01, ext. 3252.

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  • Debbie Moore