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Morris Chapman honored for 10 years in Southern Baptists’ ‘hardest job’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Morris H. Chapman took “the hardest job in our convention” in 1992 as president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.

James T. Draper Jr., describing the challenge Chapman accepted, said he has “a lot of responsibility and no authority” for leading the prime coordination entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Speaking during a Sept. 17 luncheon honoring Chapman for his decade of service in the position, Draper said Chapman has “the responsibility for guiding us, challenging us.” Yet, in dealing with 11 SBC entities and one auxiliary, Chapman must rely on persuasion rather than edict, said Draper, a former SBC president.

Tom Elliff, another former SBC president, said Chapman’s position entails “great, great responsibility, and yet it’s a responsibility to hold together entities which really are, in one sense, an authority unto themselves.”

Each entity, such as the two SBC mission boards and the six SBC seminaries, holds high its responsibility “and yet Dr. Chapman’s heart has to be big enough to encompass them all,” said Elliff, pastor of the Oklahoma City-area First Southern Baptist Church in Del City.

Both Draper and Elliff told a crowd of 250 at the luncheon that Chapman has met the challenge well.

“He handles his job with grace and with integrity,” Draper said. He has led “with passion and with conviction.”

Draper noted that the unfolding SBC-wide Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis “is really the passion of his heart” — for Christians “to seek first the King and His Kingdom,” as stated in the initiative’s vision statement.

“I see in Morris Chapman the qualities of a great man,” Elliff observed. Such qualities include a great heart, great habits, great hatred — “you have to hate the things God hates,” Elliff noted — great honesty, great hopes, great help and great humility.

“No man can sustain … the fulfilling of the requirements of this position who does not have a [spiritual] depth that is greater than the breadth of this ministry, Elliff said. Describing Chapman as “genuinely a praying man and a man of God’s Word,” Elliff said Chapman “has on his heart the desire to see other people come to know Jesus as their Savior.”

Elliff complimented Chapman’s wife, Jodi, saying that the couple exemplify “an incredible team, a wonderful marriage, a great home and a great example.”

In attendance at the luncheon were the Chapman’s two children, Chris and his wife, Renee, and Stephanie and her husband, Scott Evans, along with Jodi Chapman’s father, J.E. Francis.

Chapman, in his remarks, voiced gratitude to God and to Southern Baptists for placing confidence in him.

“It has literally been an enjoyable 10 years,” he said, joking that “a few days have been harder than others.”

Chapman also voiced appreciation for the presidents of the SBC entities who together make up the SBC Great Commission Council.

“We are people who love the Lord Jesus, who work together, who have admiration for each other, while having differences at times,” Chapman said of “the give and take of our lives together as we meet [to] pray through and talk about” decisions and initiatives that are in the best interests of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Chapman, who moved to the Executive Committee’s helm from the SBC presidency, was pastor of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, for 13 years and First Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M., from 1974-79.

Speaking of the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative, Chapman said, “My heart sincerely is to be more of who God wants me to be and less of what I’m inclined to be.” Christ’s followers, he said, are “imperfect people, serving a perfect God, being saved by his grace and kept saved by his grace, to do, as best we can understand, the will of God and his purpose through our lives.”

Chapman said the luncheon was “really not to honor one man, but we gather to honor our God and our Lord Jesus Christ, to be filled with his Spirit. Does that mean we never get angry? No. Does it mean we never get sad? No. Does it mean we never get hurt? No. But it does mean God has promised he will never leave us or forsake us.

“The greatest thing that could ever happen to any of us,” Chapman said, “is that, united together in the Spirit of the Lord, founded upon his holy Word, we pray, ‘God, help me be a part of shaking this nation and even the world for Jesus Christ.'”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TRIBUTE IN MUSIC and CLOSING PRAYER.