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Southwestern honors 4 graduates who have excelled in ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored a Southern Baptist Convention entity head, a pastor, a musician and a popular author during its alumni luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 22.

Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board since 1993; Gary Chapman, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and author of “The Five Love Languages;” John D. Morgan, pastor of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; and Dick Baker, hymn writer, music evangelist, and former minister of music for Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, all received awards for their respective roles in missions, pastoral ministry and music ministry.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and Jack Terry, the seminary’s vice president of institutional advancement, presented the awards. The seminary’s distinguished alumni awards are given each year to individuals who have excelled in ministry and who have remained supportive of the mission of the seminary.

Rankin was a career missionary in locations such as Indonesia, East Java and Surabaya, Thailand, India and Singapore before assuming his current position with the IMB. He said that he recalls going to Southwestern Seminary after “a distinct sense of God’s calling” upon his life. He also said that his experiences at the seminary were “the building blocks for the future.”

Patterson said that Rankin’s service with the IMB was far more important than even the service of the president of the United States. “You are president over the greatest missionary sending agency in all of the world,” Patterson said. “I do not know of anyone with a sweeter spirit.” Rankin graduated from Southwestern Seminary in 1969.

Morgan founded Sagemont Baptist Church with 16 original members in 1968 as a mission of the First Baptist Church of Pasadena, Texas. Today, the church has more than 15,500 members, an average Sunday school attendance of 5,200 and budget and offering receipts totaling more than $12 million a year.

Patterson described Morgan, a 1966 graduate of Southwestern, as an avid African hunter, but one more interested in searching for lost souls on the Dark Continent. He said Morgan and his church have such a passion for souls that they spend no money on billboards or advertising. Instead, the church invests the money in the community, especially in times of disaster. “Thank you for showing us how it ought to be done in the local church,” Patterson said.

Morgan said that his church really deserved the recognition at the luncheon. He described the church as one that has a “unity and oneness of purpose” unlike many others. “I accept this award on their behalf,” Morgan said.

Chapman, best known for his book, “The Five Love Languages,” was honored as an author and as a churchman. He has served at his church since 1972.

First published in 1992, “The Five Love Languages” has since expanded to find application in raising young children, teenagers, in living life as a single adult, and in specific applications to men and women. It has been translated into more than 34 languages, and more than three million copies have been sold.

James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, called Chapman “one of the most gifted authors we have in our convention and indeed in our nation.

“‘The Five Love Languages’… is the finest piece of material I’ve seen to give to couples as they contemplate marriage. No one has done a better job at strengthening marriages through his ministry than Gary Chapman,” Draper said.

Chapman received a master of arts in religious education from Southwestern in 1963 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1994.

Unlike other award recipients, Baker made no acceptance speech. Instead, he chose to do what comes naturally — to sing for the audience. He sang a song that he wrote on the seminary’s Fort Worth campus two years ago.

Baker has contributed to Christian hymnody hundreds of songs such as the classics “All to Thee,” “Longing for Jesus,” “His Way Mine,” and “Have You Been to Calvary.” In all, more than 300 of his works have been published and believers around the world have translated many of the songs into their own languages.

Early in his ministry, Baker traveled around the world leading concerts and crusades. Often he would team with his brother, B.O. Baker, who would preach the message. One highlight came when Baker was asked by Billy Graham to be a team member with the crusade in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Baker served as minister of music at Prestonwood Baptist from 1979-1992, and for the past 13 years has traveled the world as Prestonwood’s “Music Minister at Large.” He received a bachelor’s degree in sacred music from Southwestern Seminary in 1953.

In his report to the alumni, Patterson said that plans for a new chapel are moving forward. He said the seminary is still searching for donors to supply the funds necessary for building the structure — some $20 million.

“Folks, we have waited long enough. We have to build a chapel,” Patterson said. He said he would like to see the chapel completed by the time the seminary celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2008.

Patterson also stressed a need for a missions scholarship fund, calling on the alumni to provide the funds for each seminary student to take at least one international mission trip during their course of study at the seminary.

“We prefer that they go to war zones and places where they are not welcome,” he said. “We want them to be men and women of courage.”

Alumni responded to Patterson’s request for greater giving on the part of alumni by providing $30,172 in cash and pledges.

In other business, alumni elected North American Mission Board President Bob Reccord as the vice president of the Southwestern Seminary alumni association. He will serve as president of the association in 2007.

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  • Gregory Tomlin