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Texas leader, BF&M committee member Hernández dies

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (BP)–Rudy Hernández, a past Southern Baptist Convention second vice president and former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, died Jan. 28 at his Grand Prairie, Texas, home after battling cancer. He was 77.

Hernández was born in San Antonio, the youngest of seven children, and was well known in Texas for his work among Hispanic Baptists and in the SBC as a statesman and devoted Baptist leader. From 2001-2003, he served as special assistant to the SBTC executive director and strategist for Hispanic Ministries while founding what became the SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative.

Hernández served on the Baptist Faith & Message Study Committee that drafted changes to the confessional statement SBC messengers approved in 2000 and on the Implementation Task Force during the SBC’s restructuring in the mid-1990s.

He served as president of four different Texas Baptist organizations during his long ministry. He was saved at age 10 at Rosillo Street Baptist Mission in San Antonio, began preaching at age 13 and was licensed to preach at age 15. He was ordained at 19 and served as a pastor in San Antonio, Menard, Eden, Galveston, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi.

He held doctor of divinity degrees from Howard Payne University, where he earned his undergraduate degree, and from Criswell College. He also was a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus and a former Texas alumni president.

Since 1973, he was president of Rudy Hernández Evangelism International. He served the Baptist General Convention of Texas (1955-69) as the first Hispanic evangelism director and was a past BGCT second vice president.

The following Southern Baptist leaders eulogized Hernández, describing him as a “statesman” who loved souls and led with gentleness and humility.

— SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards: “Rudy Hernández was a giant among Texas Southern Baptists. His service to God’s kingdom touched Texas and the world. His support for the SBTC was wholehearted and sacrificial. His leadership as the second president of our convention was crucial during a time of explosive growth. Our convention’s Hispanic Initiative was born in his heart and will bear fruit for generations if the Lord tarries.

“On a personal note, Bro. Rudy was a dear friend and consummate Christian gentleman. It was an inspiration to see him ever ready to give a witness for the Lord Jesus. It was my joy to work with him from the founding of our convention to the very time of his passing. I praise God for Brother Rudy’s life and rejoice that he is now in the presence of the Lord he loved so well. At the same time, I express to the family for the SBTC our prayers and support during their personal loss.”

— Morris Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee: “Rudy Hernández was one of God’s choicest servants. His faithfulness to the Lord’s call in his life was unmistakable. His devotion to Christ reached such depths that it was immeasurable. His exuberance reached such heights that his spirit soared with the eagles. His joy in the Lord was contagious. He loved Jesus, he loved people, he loved his family, and he loved souls. As a God-called evangelist, he preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ with passion and power. He loved to see people come to Jesus.

“I thank the Lord I was privileged enough to be one among his many friends,” Chapman continued. “We all will miss him, but we can be assured that, by his faith and God’s grace, he is with Jesus. The words, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant,’ have never been more deserved than to be spoken about this humble man of God.”

— Chris Osborne, SBTC president and pastor at Central Baptist Church in College Station, Texas: “Rudy Hernández was one of the finest and gentlest men I have ever known. We played golf together years ago here in Bryan and I laughed the whole day. He had a great sense of humor and a warmth that few men possess. God’s kingdom here really has suffered a huge loss.”

— Mike Gonzales, SBTC Hispanic Initiative director: “The home-going of Dr. Rudy A. Hernández is indeed a great loss to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and all Southern Baptists. He was a great evangelist, a great preacher of the Gospel and a great man of God. He loved his family and he loved to serve His Lord and Savior. He was my mentor in ministry and taught us all how one can be gracious in all things. Our Hispanic ministries in Texas have been blessed by his many contributions. He will be greatly missed.”

— Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson: “As a young pastor at Hardin-Simmons University, Rudy Hernández came to my church, Sardis Baptist, and preached a revival. Our people loved him, and his sweet counsel and example to me continues until this day. A great statesman-evangelist has today entered Heaven’s gates. I wish I could have witnessed the welcome. Back on earth we shall miss him profoundly, but Rudy himself will be busier than ever learning the new assignments of glory.”

Among Hernández’ other honors were being named to President Reagan’s National Committee for the Year of the Bible and the National Day of Prayer steering committee. He was a member of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie, Texas.

In December, the SBTC announced a scholarship at Southwestern Seminary named in honor of Hernández and his wife of 59 years, Lucy — the Rudy A. and Lucy L. Hernández Scholarship for Hispanic PhD. students.

Hernández is survived by his wife, Lucy; children Robert, Mary Elizabeth, Ruben, Eunice, and Gina; 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Services were pending Friday afternoon.

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  • Jerry Pierce