NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary named James Merritt its 2005 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the school’s annual luncheon June 22 at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area Cross Pointe, The Church at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., who served as president of the SBC from 2000-2002, called the award one of the choice honors of his many years in ministry. More than 750 alumni and friends attended the luncheon.
“This is one of the greatest awards I have ever received in my life and I pray that I will always be worthy of its honor,” Merritt said. “I am proud today to call myself a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
Merritt is a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, completing a master of divinity degree in 1978 and a Ph.D. in 1982. A longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., Merritt is also host of the “Touching Lives” television program.
“I know that James Merritt prays for me and for Southern Seminary and he has, in the most incredible way, demonstrated his love and his friendship to this institution,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. “He continues to be one of the closest friends this institution has.”
Merritt said his relationship with Mohler makes the award even more gratifying. Mohler’s and Merritt’s friendship dates to Mohler’s days as editor of the “Christian Index,” the Baptist newspaper of Georgia, Merritt’s home state.
“The reason today why I very humbly accept this award is because of the incredible leadership of the best friend I have on this earth outside of my wife and my children in Dr. Albert Mohler,” Merritt said. “I never cease to be amazed, not only by his intellect, but by his leadership and his integrity.
“He has done in a microcosmic way, what this convention has done in returning this seminary back to her biblical roots. I take pride in saying that under his leadership, Southern Seminary has rightly taken its place again as the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am very humbled to receive this award.”
Mohler also announced the appointment of noted theologian Mary Kassian as Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Seminary. Kassian is a well-known author, teacher and scholar on issues of biblical womanhood, family, and gender.
She is the author of numerous books including the recently-released “Feminine Mistake” and “In My Father’s House” (Broadman & Holman), along with “The Feminist Gospel” and “Women, Creation, and the Fall.” Kassian is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
“Mary Kassian is one of the most outstanding scholars in the entire Christian world [in] defending, defining and teaching biblical womanhood,” Mohler said. “We are looking forward to her joining us … It is another sign of God’s favor and blessings to us.”