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Foy Valentine, dead at 82, led SBC moral concerns arm 27 years

DALLAS (BP)–Foy Valentine, former executive director of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), died Jan. 7 at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Valentine, 82, was taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack at home.

Valentine was born July 3, 1923, in Edgewood, Texas. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary Louise, and three daughters, Jean, Carol and Susan. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Cindy.

During his first official report to the SBC during the 1960 annual meeting, Valentine told messengers the entity “interprets its grave responsibility to this convention to speak to the conscience of Southern Baptists on the application of Christian principles in everyday life.”

Richard Land, current ERLC president, expressed his sympathy to Valentine’s family and friends, noting that Valentine gave 27 years of “faithful service to Southern Baptists as head of the CLC,” particularly in what Land said was Valentine’s “eloquent witness to the biblical truth that racism is a sinful rebellion against the biblical teaching of the equality of all men before the cross.”

“While Dr. Valentine and I had significant differences of opinion on many issues, all Southern Baptists will be forever in his debt for his courageous and prophetic stance on racial reconciliation and racial equality in the turbulent middle third of the 20th century,” Land said, noting that it had been important for him as teenager in the 1960s to know that Valentine and the CLC were “on the right side of the race issue, when there were too many institutions and individuals in American life and Southern Baptist life who were on the wrong side.”

In his doctoral dissertation, “A Historical Study of Southern Baptists and Race Relations, 1917-1947,” Valentine wrote that he held out hope that “Southern Baptists will help to bring about the Christian way in race relations not by sponsoring legislative action or by fostering ecclesiastical fiats but by adopting, as individuals and as churches, the spirit and the mind of Christ in every phase of race relations.”

Valentine is listed as one of a handful of Southern Baptists who were “pioneers in race relations” by Jesse Fletcher in his book, “The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History.”

“The Christian Life Commission took a very aggressive approach in trying to make inroads to entrenched Southern views [on race] that had existed since the days of the Civil War,” Fletcher wrote, adding that “Valentine kept his staff and a small but enthusiastic cadre of followers on the leading edge of national social change.”

Valentine’s drive to bring Southern Baptists’ to a biblical understanding of the race issue “earned him a significant place in the history of our denomination,” Land affirmed.

Valentine made a profession of faith at age 11 at Pleasant Union Missionary Baptist Church near Edgewood. He was ordained to the Gospel ministry in 1942 at Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.

He received a bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University in Waco in 1944, a master of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1947 and, under the tutelage of noted ethicist T.B. Maston, a doctor of theology degree from SWBTS in 1949.

He received the distinguished alumnus award from Southwestern Seminary in 1970 and honorary doctoral degrees from Baylor, William Jewell College and Louisiana College. He was listed in Who’s Who in America and was recognized by Christian Century magazine in 1975 as one of 20 innovative leaders in the religious world. Last year, he was honored with the George W. Truett Religious Freedom Award by Texas Baptist Heritage Center of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

While a student at Southwestern, Valentine served as a special representative in race relations for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In 1949 and 1950 he directed Baptist student activities at colleges in the Houston area.

He was called as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gonzales, Texas, in 1950 and served as a member of the executive board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and a member of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission -– which selected him as the commission’s director in 1953.

He became executive secretary (a title later changed to executive director) of the SBC’s Christian Life Commission in June 1960 and retired from the CLC in 1987.

Valentine’s departure from the CLC came during a contentious time in the Southern Baptist Convention. While he is praised roundly for his stance on race relations, during his tenure at the CLC his views on the separation of church and state, the sanctity of human life and other topics, including race, were divisive in the convention.

Valentine was a trustee and chairman of the executive committee of Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, now Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, in 50-plus years of involvement with the organization. He was appointed by President Carter to the President’s Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties.

He also served on the Baptist World Alliance’s Commission on Religious Liberty and Human Rights and was a trustee and board president of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (now the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty). And he served on the executive committee of the National Temperance League’s board of directors.

Valentine was the founding editor of Christian Ethics Today, continuing to write a column for the journal during the last year of his life. The Center for Christian Ethics, which advocates the strict separation of church and state, was founded in 1989 by Valentine.

He is the author of several books, including “Believe and Behave” (Broadman Press, 1964); “Citizenship for Christians” (Broadman, 1965); “The Cross in the Marketplace” (Word Books, 1966); “Where the Action Is: Studies in James” (Word, 1969); and “What Do You Do after You Say Amen” (Word, 1980).

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 11, at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, followed by burial at Small Cemetery in Edgewood. The family has said donations in memory of Valentine may be made to The Fuller Center for Housing in Americus, Ga., or a personal charity.

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings