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SBC DIGEST: Criswell search leads back to Jerry Johnson; Land at SWBTS

DALLAS (BP)–Criswell College trustees will meet Nov. 5 to consider the recommendation of Jerry Johnson to return as president of the Dallas-based college.

“He is eminently qualified, specifically prepared and joyfully welcomed to the presidency of Criswell College,” board chairman Jimmy Pritchard of Forney, Texas, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Johnson, who led the college from 2004-08, currently is at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., serving as vice president for academic development, dean of the faculty and professor of ethics and theology.

Criswell College’s presidential search committee chaired by Steve Washburn of Pflugerville, Texas, announced the unanimous recommendation of Johnson Oct. 21 after two years of interim leadership at the school.

Pritchard expressed confidence that the board would affirm the recommendation.

“Having previously served as president, Dr. Johnson is aware of the special challenges facing the college,” Pritchard stated. “He will have an immediate and positive impact on the short term, and his vision for the college will reap great benefits for the long term.”

Washburn explained that the dynamics of Criswell College’s governance had changed dramatically since Johnson resigned his presidency in 2008. “The college labored under external authority then but is now independent. Since he provided excellent leadership for the college before, we are confident the improved circumstances will more than enable him to do so again.”

A native of Malakoff, Texas, Johnson holds a B.A. degree from Criswell College, an M.A. from Denver Seminary and Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., majoring in Christian ethics.

After serving as a trustee at Southern Seminary from 1989-98, with the last two years as chairman, Johnson joined the staff, serving as assistant director of development from 1999-2001; instructor in Christian ethics at Boyce College from 2001-02; and dean of the college and assistant professor of Christian ethics from 2002-04 prior to his tenure as Criswell College’s president. Within six months of his resignation from Criswell, he was selected to join Midwestern’s administration and faculty. Earlier in his ministry, Johnson pastored two Colorado churches and one in Texas.

The college was founded 40 years ago by W.A. Criswell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.

LAND CALLS FOR PRAYER & PARTICIPATION — With the approach of the 2010 midterm elections, Richard Land reminded students and faculty members at Southwestern Seminary that the United States faces problems that transcend economics or politics.

“Would to God that an American president could stand before the American people today and say, ‘Our problems are merely economic, and they can be solved,'” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, during chapel at Southwestern Oct. 12. “Our problems are problems of the soul. They’re problems of the heart. They’re problems of the spirit.”

As a boy, Land said, he never imagined that “the womb” one day would be “the most dangerous place that an American has ever been.” Yet such has become the case: “Over the past 37 years, we have killed over 55 million babies.”

Land said the looming threat to babies in the womb astonishingly exists “in the midst of an unprecedented evangelical revival,” in which nearly 45 percent of American citizens now claim to be born-again Christians who confess the God-man Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Although Christ called His disciples to be “salt and light” to preserve and impact society with the Gospel, Land said it seems that society has instead shaped American Christianity.

“Our only hope is a revival that starts with conversion, continues with conviction of our own sin and our need to repent of our sin, individually and collectively, for not speaking up and not defending the children who are being led to destruction,” Land said. “And we need to consecrate ourselves to turning this around. … I’m talking about one person, one family, one church, one community at a time. We have to let God change us, let God talk to us and our families.”

Not only must Southern Baptists deal with the issue of abortion, they must also confront other problems concerning the family in the United States such as the high divorce rate, the absence of fathers from the home and the debate over “same-sex marriage.”

Land said some people may describe his emphasis on abortion and family ethics as too narrow. Should not the voter concern himself with other moral and ethical issues? In an interview following chapel, Land said the ERLC addresses numerous moral and ethical issues. At the same time, he affirmed the significance of the abortion and “same-sex marriage” debates.

“The abortion issue,” Land said, “is basically a question of what and who is a human being, when does a human being become a human being, and what responsibility does society have to protect human beings. I can’t think of bigger ethical issues that this society can grapple with than those.”

As for marriage, it is the “basic building block of human society,” Land said. “Marriage is anything but a personal, private relationship.”

Preachers have the right and responsibility to encourage church members “to vote their values, their beliefs and their convictions,” Land said, “and to make it clear what the Bible’s convictions are on these various issues.”

Land encouraged Baptists to devote themselves to prayer in preparation for the election, to be informed through sources such as www.erlc.com and to inform others.

“I would argue that most people’s circles of influence are bigger than they think they are,” Land said. “And they should use that circle of influence for good. That means seeking to convince people of the rightness of your political view and biblical view, and taking into account … their moral, ethical and religious decisions.”
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reporting by By Tammi Reed Ledbetter of the Southern Baptist TEXAN and Benjamin Hawkins of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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