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SEBTS’ Strickland to be 1st VP nominee

PHOENIX (BP) — Walter Strickland, a leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, will be nominated for first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, former SBC President James Merritt announced May 9.

Strickland, an African American, has been special adviser to the president for diversity at Southeastern since 2013. He also teaches theology at Southeastern and since 2015 has operated a consulting service to assist churches and other organizations with diversity-related issues.

Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative seeks in increase the seminary’s ethnic minority and female enrollment and equip students for multicultural ministry.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the Kingdom of God and Heaven itself,” Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., said according to a news release. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually and personally.

“Walter Strickland meets both of these needs perfectly and I am excited about nominating him for the position of first vice president at our upcoming annual meeting in Phoenix.”

During Strickland’s tenure as a diversity adviser at Southeastern, non-Anglo students have increased from 10 percent of the student body to 16 percent, according to Merritt’s release. During that time, the number of African American students has doubled and the number of Hispanic students has tripled, Merritt said.

Southeastern’s 2017 report to the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) indicates 96 black students were enrolled in the fall of 2016 along with 109 Hispanic students and dozens from other non-Anglo ethnic groups. Total fall enrollment was 2,146, according to the ATS report.

Merritt said Strickland also has worked to “strengthen partnerships with diverse churches and ministries,” facilitate campus conversations on racial and cultural issues and launch a program to offer financial assistance to minority students for mission trips.

Strickland is a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., which told Baptist Press it gave $88,234 in Great Commission Giving for 2016. That total amounts to 9.8 percent of Imago Dei’s undesignated receipts, according to the church.

For 2016, the church reported $33,204 which it deemed “Cooperative Program” giving. That figure includes some $30,000 given directly to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP Allocation Budget distribution formula and approximately $3,000 given through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Data provided by the EC and North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newsjournal confirmed the church’s report.

Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.

Merritt said Strickland “desires to see unity in Christ proliferate throughout the SBC and be a driving focus of our cooperative work together. He sincerely believes that we are better together and wants to see younger generations honor older generations of Southern Baptists who have given us so much. He believes that biblical diversity comes as we all celebrate our unity together in Christ by loving, honoring, blessing and encouraging one another in our unique roles and contributions.”

Strickland holds master of theology and master of divinity degrees from Southeastern and a bachelor of arts from Cedarville University in Ohio. He is scheduled to graduate this spring with his doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Author of the forthcoming book “The Story of Black Christianity” from Lexham Press, Strickland has coauthored, edited and contributed to numerous other volumes. He has served on staff at two North Carolina churches.

He and his wife Stephanie have two children and a third who was stillborn.

Strickland is the first announced candidate for first vice president. Recording Secretary John Yeats will be re-nominated.