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Jerry Rankin among 4 named as SWBTS distinguished alumni

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has named four recipients of its 2005 distinguished alumni awards.

Missions, pastoral ministry and church music are represented in the four honorees: Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention; Gary Chapman, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and author of “The Five Love Languages”; John D. Morgan, pastor of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston; and Dick Baker, hymn writer, music evangelist and former minister of music for Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

The awards are given each year at the seminary’s national alumni luncheon, held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention. This year’s national alumni luncheon will be June 22 at 12:30 p.m. in the Renaissance Nashville Hotel’s Center/West Ballroom in Nashville, Tenn.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson, commenting on Rankin’s work as president of the IMB, said, “Can you imagine giving direction to the world’s largest mission endeavor in all of the 2,000-year history of the church? Southwesterner Jerry Rankin carries the heaviest of all human responsibilities.”

Rankin has served as IMB president since 1993 and previously served in numerous capacities as a missionary with the IMB in Indonesia and other southern Asia countries. He said he remembers hearing a distinct call to international missions as a boy in middle school learning about the people of Asia and the vast population there.

“I realized they were living a lifetime and then dying and going to hell not because they had rejected Jesus Christ, but because they had never heard of Him nor had an opportunity to be saved,” Rankin said.

Rankin graduated from Southwestern in 1969 with a master of divinity degree.

Chapman, who has served at his church since 1972, is widely known as the author of best-selling books on marriage. The Five Love Languages, first published in 1992, has expanded to applications involving raising young children and teenagers, living as a single adult and in specific applications to men and women. It has been translated into more than 34 languages, with more than 3 million copies sold.

James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, called Chapman “one of the most gifted authors we have in our convention and indeed in our nation.

“The Five Love Languages … is the finest piece of material I’ve seen to give to couples as they contemplate marriage,” Draper said. “No one has done a better job at strengthening marriages through his ministry than Gary Chapman.”

Patterson said Chapman’s book “has made him one of the most widely read Southwestern graduates in history.”

Chapman received a master of arts in religious education from Southwestern in 1963 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1994.

Commenting on Morgan, Patterson said the Houston pastor “is a pastor who did it right. Upon completing his work at Southwestern he went to Sagemont Baptist Church, stayed there all these years and built what very well may be the most genuinely New Testament church in America today.”

Morgan founded the church with 16 members in 1968 as a mission of First Baptist Church of Pasadena, Texas. Today, the church has more than 15,500 members, an average Sunday School attendance of 5,200 and budget and offering receipts totaling more than $12 million a year.

“I feel that everything the Lord has allowed me to experience has been a result of never forgetting the first truth that I learned from the greatest commandment: to love God and to love people,” Morgan said. “I have tried to make that a priority in my life so that everything in my life could be judged on the basis of my love for God and love for people. It goes back to my theological training and my ministry experience afterwards.”

Morgan graduated from Southwestern in 1966 with a master of divinity degree.

Baker has contributed to Christian hymnody such classics as “All to Thee,” “Longing for Jesus,” “His Way Mine” and “Have You Been to Calvary.” In all, more than 300 of his works have been published and believers around the world have translated many of the songs into their own languages.

Early in his ministry, Baker traveled around the world leading concerts and crusades. Often he would team with his brother, B.O. Baker, who would preach the message. One highlight came when Baker was asked by Billy Graham to be a team member with the crusade in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“Dick Baker is the man who sang his way into the hearts of untold thousands during the great revival movements of the 1950s and 1960s,” Patterson said. “I still find his songs running through my mind after all these years.”

Baker served as minister of music at Prestonwood Baptist from 1979-92 and for the past 13 years has traveled the world as Prestonwood’s “Music Minister at Large.” He received a bachelor’s degree in sacred music from Southwestern Seminary in 1956.

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  • Lauri Arnold