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The late Adrian Rogers continues to inspire

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–The late Adrian Rogers, longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church and three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was honored with separate personal and video tributes June 12 and 13 at the Greensboro Coliseum, during the SBC Pastors’ Conference and, then, the annual meeting.

In the first video tribute, Rogers was shown in various stages of his 33-year pulpit ministry at the suburban Memphis church. The video ended with Rogers stating in his distinctively deep voice that “the burning ambition in my heart is to finish well.”

The second video tribute came from past SBC presidents, culminating with a prayer by Jimmy Draper as he stood alongside Rogers’ widow, Joyce, and current SBC President Bobby Welch.

“He taught us how to be gracious, how to be convictional, how to be passionate yet kind,” Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, prayed. “He taught us never to compromise, to stand up for what is right and to do it with courage.”

Joyce Rogers was particularly moved with emotion on the second night as the past presidents presented her with a special keepsake chest.

“Thank you so much for your loving tribute,” she said. “He loved you all.”

Rogers was president of the SBC in 1979, 1986 and 1987 and was a key leader in the conservative resurgence, the movement in which Southern Baptists elected a series of conservative leaders in response to evidence of theological liberalism within the SBC’s seminaries and entities.

He and Joyce were married 54 years. She told the Pastors’ Conference on June 12 that she has cried out to Jesus for help and hope since her husband’s death last November at age 74 following a battle with cancer and double pneumonia, and that Jesus has embraced her.

“He was a man of deep integrity and purity,” she said. “He was a faithful man. He was faithful to his God, to me, his wife, to his children, his family, and the larger body of Christ. I heard him say on numerous occasions that he never wanted to do anything to make any of us ashamed. He wanted to be faithful to the end. We put that on his grave marker.”

Joyce Rogers stood with her four children, Stephen, Gayle, David and Janice, and read a poem by Janice that told about how the distinguished pastor finished well. The poem ended with a challenge about others taking up the challenge and completing the task. Joyce Rogers then showed a symbolic baton, praising her late husband for upholding truth, courage and unity and asking, “Who among you will reach out and take this baton and continue this race?”

Georgia pastor Bryant Wright, president of the Pastors’ Conference, accepted the symbolic baton on behalf of Southern Baptist pastors and assured the widow that he and his fellow pastors would “continue the race of faith in sharing the Gospel and preaching the Word of God.”

On June 13 at the SBC annual meeting, a dozen past convention presidents were shown to messengers on videotape as they gave “a heartfelt touch,” as Welch put it, concerning their friend. Clips of Rogers preaching at key moments in the conservative resurgence also were part of the six-minute presentation.

Charles Stanley of Atlanta remembered Rogers’ “unwavering faith and commitment to the Word of God” and “the powerful way in which he exalted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, both in his life and his preaching.” Ed Young of Houston referred to him as a man of “great, great wisdom.” James Merritt of Georgia simply called him “my hero.”

“Even though he’s dead, he still speaks, and we’re listening,” Draper said. “And we still miss him.”

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  • Allen Palmeri