SBC Life Articles

Celebrating Fifteen Years

Executive Committee members and leaders of Southern Baptist Convention entities celebrated Morris H. Chapman's fifteenth anniversary as president of the Executive Committee during a reception in his honor September 17 in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I never imagined having the privilege of serving in a position like this for Southern Baptists, and I can hardly believe it has been fifteen years," Chapman told Baptist Press (BP). "It's not an easy task. It's a responsibility with a lot of challenges, but I have come to one deep conviction and that is, God's hand is upon Southern Baptists.

"I'm grateful for that, and He just helps us along in all we're trying to do and keeps encouraging us and blessing us," Chapman added. "We have a lot for which to be thankful."

During the Executive Committee meeting before the reception, William Harrell, pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Evans, Georgia, and chairman of the Executive Committee, presented Chapman with a couple of gifts to mark the occasion.

The first was a Tennessee state flag that flew over the capitol building in Nashville in Chapman's honor on September 12, and the second was what Harrell described as "the Cadillac of golf carts," a Club Car made in Augusta, Georgia.

"I ordered it myself, and it has everything on it. It's completely outfitted with everything but air conditioning," Harrell joked, adding that Chapman could use it on the rough terrain of some land he owns.

Chapman's wife, Jodi, told BP fifteen years is a significant milestone, especially in Southern Baptist life.

"It's gone very fast, and we really have enjoyed it," Jodi Chapman said at the reception. "This is the longest we've ever stayed anywhere. I've really loved every minute of it, and I know my husband has because he is an administrator. That's his gift, and when you do things you love, it makes everybody else happy around you."

She also said one of the highlights of being married to the Executive Committee president is the various opportunities she has had to meet "some of the godliest people you'd ever want to meet" in the United States and around the world.

Chapman was selected president of the Executive Committee in 1992 after serving two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. During that time, he had emphasized the need for spiritual awakening through renewed prayer efforts, and the Crossover evangelistic emphasis accompanying each SBC annual meeting began under his leadership.

Julian Motley, a former North Carolina pastor, was chairman of the search committee that brought Chapman to the Executive Committee, and he told BP that Chapman's accomplishments as SBC president made him the man for the Executive Committee job.

"I thought he would be just an excellent person to move into this position because he had been one of the best presidents we had had in the Southern Baptist Convention in my opinion," Motley said. "He had initiative in the area of evangelism, global evangelism and missions, and so forth. That was some of the motivation that I had. I admired him personally as a Christian statesman."

David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, was chairman of the Executive Committee when Chapman was hired in 1992 and then "was privileged to join Dr. Chapman's staff as he led Southern Baptists in some of the most far-reaching endeavors of the Convention's history" while Hankins served as an Executive Committee vice president from 1996 to 2004.

"The implementation of the Covenant for a New Century was carried out with precision and greatly improved the effectiveness and efficiency of the SBC," Hankins said of the Convention's restructuring in the mid-1990s. "Dr. Chapman also was a driving force in the emphasis on spiritual renewal through Empowering Kingdom Growth and on denominational renewal through revitalizing the Cooperative Program.

"Dr. Chapman has helped Southern Baptists remember that their work rests on the twin pillars of sound biblical theology and cooperative missions," Hankins told BP. "Our denomination would do well to heed his challenge to be 'cooperating conservatives.' I commend Morris on this milestone and fully expect his latter day ministries to be just as fruitful."

In addition to bringing Ken Hemphill to the Executive Committee staff as national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth, Chapman also gave leadership to the development of a Global Evangelical Relations emphasis with former SBC President Bobby Welch as Southern Baptists' ambassador to leaders in other nations interested in building Christ-centered relationships.

Harrell, the Executive Committee chairman, is the only current Executive Committee member who also served on the committee when Chapman was hired. He said the position of president is an "extremely complicated role."

"There are so many different people in the Southern Baptist Convention, so many different ideas and directions and approaches," Harrell told BP. "It takes an individual who is able to get the big scope, get the big picture, and knows what to do and how to do it. I think Dr. Chapman has been very adept at doing that, and we're all thankful for his leadership."

Chapman thanked Executive Committee members for the part they've played in allowing him to reach the fifteen-year milestone as president.

"I just want to express my deep appreciation to you and all the members of our Executive Committee who have gone before you for your commitment to be faithful to the task to which God has called you during this time," Chapman said. "Those of us who have worked on staff, you have made this an easier job for us because you come to be alert, you come to be informed, you come to make prayerful decisions. I want to thank you for all you're accomplishing and what those like you have accomplished before."

The Executive Committee, based in Nashville, is the prime coordination entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. It operates with eighty-three representatives from qualified states and regions and employs a full-time support staff to conduct the Convention's business between annual meetings.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach