NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In appreciation for his service, Morris H. Chapman was named to the honorary position of president emeritus of the Executive Committee and was presented the M.E. Dodd Award for Cooperative Program support during a retirement dinner Sept. 20 in Nashville, Tenn.
“Dr. Chapman, no entity leader has been a greater ambassador for the Cooperative Program and its promotion convention-wide than you,” Roger Spradlin, chairman of the Executive Committee, told Chapman.
Throughout his tenure as pastor of four churches over a span of 25 years and as president of the Executive Committee for 18 years, Chapman led the way in his support of Southern Baptists’ method for funding missions, Spradlin said.
“During each of his 13 years at First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, the church’s Cooperative Program gifts were in the top 1 percent in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Spradlin said. “As president of the Executive Committee, he never let circumstances dampen his enthusiasm for what God is doing with Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.”
As an M.E. Dodd Award recipient, Chapman received a bronze sculpture of a farmer sowing the Word as he walks across the world, depicting international evangelism. While other recognitions honor annual accomplishments in CP support, the Dodd award is for sustained achievement.
Spradlin also reported that the Executive Committee, in addition to EC personnel policy retirement provisions, will make additional contributions to health insurance costs for Chapman and his wife Jodi; provide a life insurance policy; and pay travel expenses for the Chapmans to the SBC’s annual meetings.
Spradlin also presented Chapman with the title to the vehicle that has been furnished to him by the EC, and made a tribute to Jodi Chapman.
“Jodi, it was the desire of the Executive Committee that we also give you a special gift for all of your years of service to the Executive Committee,” Spradlin said.
“Many of us kind of subscribe to the axiom, though, that it may not be wise for any man to shop for any woman. So we thought it not wise to presume what you might want. So we want to present you a gift tonight for $5,000 for you to use how you see fit.”
Also at the dinner, Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., acknowledged Chapman’s role in the Conservative Resurgence.
“It was not difficult for some of us to take a stand for the inerrancy of Scripture and be willing to fight the battle for the Bible during the Conservative Resurgence because our churches were very, very conservative,” Vines said. “They were behind us all the way, 100 percent.
“Morris Chapman took a stand for the Bible at First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls when there was tremendous pressure upon him. He took that stand, and he took it with great, great courage,” Vines said, referring to a small but strong group of moderates at the church.
When Chapman was elected president of the convention in 1990 by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, Vines said, “his election basically resolved the issue.”
“From that point on, it was very, very clear that conservatives had won the battle and the Southern Baptist Convention was turning back to its conservative roots,” Vines said. “It is because of men like Morris Chapman and others that we now have a denomination where we are on record as believing the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word. You don’t have to worry about your students going to our schools and being taught there are errors in the Bible.”
Other tributes to Chapman were given by friends and family.
— Julian Motley, who was chairman of the Executive Committee’s presidential search committee at the time Chapman was elected president, said Chapman has represented Baptists well as an able statesman and strategic leader.
“I think of Dr. Chapman especially as a man with a passionate commitment to evangelism and missions,” Motley said. “Any attempt to characterize his leadership must take into account his passion to reach people for Christ. It is obvious that he is a man driven by what 2 Peter 3:9 describes as God’s unwillingness that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
— Roy Sparkman, a former member of First Baptist Wichita Falls and former Executive Committee member, thanked Chapman for providing a strong biblical foundation for Sparkman’s family and for always leading by faith and by the Scriptures.
— Stephen Davis, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, expressed gratitude for Chapman’s friendship and counsel, including advice for discerning God’s leading.
— Jay Lowder, a vocational evangelist who surrendered to the ministry through the influence of Chapman and his wife Jodi at First Baptist Wichita Falls, recalled Chapman telling him many times, “God always blesses faithfulness.”
— Chris and Renee Chapman, Chapman’s son and daughter-in-law, provided a musical tribute followed by an expression of love from Chapman’s young grandchildren in the form of an acrostic for Grampy.
— The evening also included a historical montage of photos from Chapman’s life, narrated by D. August Boto, executive vice president of the Executive Committee.
“It’s been a great privilege to serve the Lord Jesus through all these years among Southern Baptists,” Chapman said. “My mother was a Methodist and my dad was a Baptist. When they were married, my mother joined the Baptist church, so I was born into the Baptist faith. I began to go to church before I can remember.
“But I do remember at the age of 7 coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. … If I had started at that point and tried to imagine the steps I would take through life, I could have never imagined it,” Chapman said.
The Bible doesn’t mention retirement, Chapman said, so the occasion simply marks “the finishing of a page, and there’s another season coming.”
“The best of life is to know wherever you are, whether the world knows your name or not, whether the convention knows your name or not, whether only your family knows your name and loves you, that God has you exactly where He wants you,” Chapman said. “As a missionary said years ago, there’s no safer place than in the will of God.”
Among letters to Chapman from friends upon his retirement, a letter from evangelist Billy Graham was read at the dinner.
“I praise God for the 18 years of faithful service you have given in providing leadership,” Graham wrote. “You have carried a heavy load, and God has certainly used you and blessed your vision and efforts in amazing ways during that time…. Only when we get to heaven will we fully realize the number of lives that God used you to impact for the Kingdom.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.