GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary named Alabama pastor Buddy Gray its 2006 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the school’s annual luncheon June 14 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Gray, pastor of the 4,300-member Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, served two terms as a Southern Seminary trustee beginning in 1995, including two years as trustee chairman. He received a doctor of ministry degree from Southern in 2002.
“I am indeed humbled to be given this honor,” Gray said. “Of course all the glory goes to God…. I’m especially thankful for Southern Seminary. Of all the things that I’ve been able to be a part of, other than my local church, Hunter Street, Southern has had the greatest impact on my life.”
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. cited Gray’s service in the local church, his state convention and the SBC as indicators of his extraordinary giftedness and ability.
“We have so many distinguished alumni, but this year it was clear there was one man that rose to the top as one who represents Southern Seminary,” Mohler said of Gray.
When Gray became pastor at Hunter Street in 1986, church attendance hovered around 120. But through a relocation project and an emphasis on biblical doctrine, the numbers have swelled. Currently — in addition to the thousands who attend worship services — the church has 480 people who participate in weekly theological reading groups that study through Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”
“It has been the most wonderful thing to see laypeople — men and women — fall in love with God’s Word, fall in love with theology,” Gray said. “It’s changed who we are, and I attribute a lot of that to the cause of Southern and being around Al Mohler.”
Mohler said a recent trip to Gray’s church served as a reminder of how powerfully God has used his ministry.
“He has one of the great churches in America,” Mohler said. “I had the honor just a few weeks ago of preaching there. I was just reminded again, seeing all those thousands of people coming, how the Lord has used Buddy’s ministry.”
A native of Alabama, Gray is a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as Southern Seminary. He has also served as president of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
“The 11 years that I have been associated with Southern, it has emphasized the idea that I am not ashamed of the Gospel, the power of God in salvation, that there is absolute truth, that everything really does focus on the glory of God,” he said. “Southern has reminded me that how we do what we do is as important as what we do. And the idea that all we do is truly to glorify God — I know that sounds simple, but that has been one of the most freeing concepts for me.”
The luncheon also featured a presentation by Mohler on special events, facility changes and faculty accomplishments at Southern during the past year. Mohler called the luncheon an opportunity for friends of the seminary to reunite around the school’s purpose of training ministers for God’s glory.
“This is a reunion of friends who are drawn together not just because we happen to have connections to this wonderful institution that means so much to us,” he said. “But we are drawn to this institution because of the commitments it has to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Gospel of Christ and God’s truth.”