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Southwestern bids Hemphills farewell,
bestows honors on Chapman & Smith

PHOENIX (BP)–More than 250 alumni, faculty and staff of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said goodbye to retiring seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill at the institution’s annual alumni luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 18.

Hemphill announced his retirement from the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary April 8 in order to assume the position of national strategist for the convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth in conjunction with LifeWay Christian Resources and the SBC Executive Committee.

Nine years ago, shortly after he assumed the presidency of Southwestern, Hemphill recounted that he traveled to Africa. While there, he met a group of missionaries and had his picture taken with them. When he asked to have his picture taken exclusively with Southwestern alumni, he was surprised to find that every missionary in the group was an alumnus of the seminary.

“Dr. Robert Naylor, longtime president of Southwestern, said that the sun never sets on Southwestern,” Hemphill said. “Southwestern is essential and critical to reaching people across this globe.” More than 62,000 students have enrolled at Southwestern and more than 38,000 have graduated from the seminary, he said.

Hemphill said he had been privileged to serve as seminary president but is looking forward to leading the EKG initiative.

“This is the fulfillment of so many gifts God has given to us,” he said. He also thanked the larger Southern Baptist community for their giving through the Cooperative Program. In the past two years, he said, Southwestern has received more than $10 million in CP gifts.

Bruce Perkins, national alumni president, said Southwestern has had a steady stream of strong leaders.

“In the long history of Southwestern, it has always enjoyed great and godly leadership,” Perkins said. “We appreciate your faithfulness to the task,” Perkins told Hemphill.

Hemphill presented the seminary’s distinguished alumni awards to Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, and evangelist Bailey Smith. Hemphill said Chapman is a man of integrity and vision who had a heart for getting “Southern Baptists on the same agenda as God has been on since He created the earth and called His children into the Kingdom.”

Chapman said there is “no greater honor than being honored by one’s alma mater. … This award began in 1964 when I began my pilgrimage at Southwestern. I came to the campus as a fresh-faced ministerial student, and I had no idea what God had in store for me.”

When Chapman was a student at Mississippi College, he had known for nearly 10 years that the Lord had called him into the ministry, but he had little inclination that he would eventually lead the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, he said.

Born in Kosciusko, Miss., in 1940, Chapman credits his successes in large part to the training he received in seminary.

“I looked at a number of seminaries, but God put on my heart Southwestern and that it was the place to be,” Chapman said. “Everything I know about preaching and theology I gleaned from Southwestern and the men who taught me. Southwestern is a seminary where the professors are genuine scholars, devoted to their calling, and with a deep commitment to teaching and trying to assist the student in every way to learn, and to be prepared in every way for the ministry to come.”

Chapman graduated with a master of divinity degree from Southwestern in 1968, but when the opportunity for further study presented itself, he said he didn’t feel called to go further at the time.

Instead, he became pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers, Texas. He later pastored First Baptist Woodway in Waco, Texas. While he was serving the Waco-area church in 1971, Southwestern began its doctor of ministry program. He enrolled and received the degree four years later.

With the doctor of ministry degree in hand, Chapman said he went on to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church in Albuquerque, including two terms as president of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, 1976-78, and pastor First Baptist Wichita Falls, Texas, from 1979-92. He was president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1990-92

Chapman said he never thought he would experience such God-given successes in ministry. When asked if he aspired to a denominational post as a young pastor, Chapman said: “I didn’t even know that there was an Executive Committee. The thing that God impressed on me at that age is that He would guide me, He would lead me if I didn’t try to take control of things myself.”

Smith said he was “impressed with love and acceptance” when he went to Southwestern. He said he is indebted to the seminary and, though he feels unworthy, is eternally grateful for the award.

Smith considers the establishment of the chair of evangelism in his honor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., the defining moment of his ministry, confirming the calling of the Lord upon his life. He had been called to leave a successful pastorate in 1985 and sow the seeds of the Gospel in football stadiums and school auditoriums.

Born in 1939 into the family of a Southern Baptist minister, Smith grew up in Dallas. “I had a mother that had a great love for Christ and my dad was, of course, a pastor. I was taught that the Bible is God’s Word and winning people to Jesus is the most important thing on the face of the earth. I was raised in a very strict home that held the standards high, and I think to this day that that background of a love for Scripture and a love for souls stayed with me,” Smith said.

Smith attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Warren, Ark., until his graduation in 1962. He received a bachelor of divinity degree from Southwestern in 1966. Seminary, he said, made him “a better Christian and certainly a better preacher.”

From seminary, Smith embarked upon a journey that led him on evangelistic ministry through some of the most well-known churches in the country. He became pastor of the then-second-largest church in the SBC, the Oklahoma City-area First Southern Baptist in Del City at age 34, after serving at First Baptist Hobbs, N.M. He served the Oklahoma church from 1973-85.

As pastor of the Oklahoma Church, Smith led more people to Christ than any other Southern Baptist pastor in an equal period of time in the history of the SBC, he said. He was the only man in convention history to baptize more than 2,000 people in a local church in one year. He was elected president of the SBC in 1980, serving two terms. He was the youngest man ever to serve as convention president. He also served as president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

In 1985, Smith left his church in Oklahoma to become a fulltime crusade evangelist. He had been receiving hundreds of invitations to speak at revivals and crusades, and he knew that the Lord had called him to get on the road.

“When God speaks, He doesn’t stutter,” Smith said. He was the first former SBC president to enter an evangelistic crusade ministry, and the only man of any denomination to leave a 20,000-member church to do so.

He currently serves as the head of Bailey Smith Ministries, an evangelistic organization committed to the uncompromising proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through area-wide crusades, revivals, Bible conferences, ladies’ retreats and overseas ministries.

After the recognition of the seminary’s distinguished alumni, Hemphill presented his final report to Southwestern alumni. He highlighted a healthy student count, financial giving that remains at high levels and a faculty that continues to be strengthened with new acquisitions.

“Since our last convention report we have elected four new faculty members. All of them continue the great Southwestern tradition of combining scholarly excellence with a pastor’s heart,” Hemphill said.

Elias Moitinho, Greg Welty, Malcolm Yarnell and John Moldovan were elected to the faculty during the seminary’s semiannual trustee meeting in April.

Moitinho, the seminary’s first Brazilian-born faculty member, will teach psychology and counseling. Welty, who will teach philosophy, will soon receive his doctor of philosophy degree from Oxford University in England. Yarnell will serve as associate dean of the theological studies division and will teach systematic theology. He also will oversee the seminary’s newly established Center for Theological Research. Moldovan was elected professor of evangelism and intercultural studies. A native of Romania, he was once persecuted for his faith.

Hemphill said a total of 829 new students enrolled at Southwestern Seminary this past year, 644 of them at the Fort Worth campus. The number of black and international students also has increased, he said. Nearly 100 persons are currently enrolled in the seminary’s Korean-language doctor of ministry program.

With the donation of Park Place Baptist Church’s facilities in Houston to the seminary, its southeast Texas program continues to grow, Hemphill said. Renovations to the new facility should be completed in time for the fall semester. The campus will soon have its first two fulltime faculty members, Hemphill noted.

Southwestern continues to function as the global seminary of the SBC, Hemphill said. Ninety-six seminary students gave up their spring breaks to conduct evangelistic revivals in the heavily unchurched areas of the country. Other students were involved in urban evangelism practicums, and the seminary continues to send students overseas.

The seminary’s national alumni association elected the following new officers: Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, president; Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, vice president. Jack Terry, vice president of institutional advancement at Southwestern, was re-elected secretary.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: HONORED BY THEIR ALMA MATER.

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  • Gregory Tomlin