The recent edition of the Biblical Recorder briefly surveyed numerous highlights of the 2014 year. The stories, chosen by the BR staff, in this section highlight notable personalities in Southern Baptist life.
1. Daniel Akin honored for 10 years
During the spring Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees meetings, 10 years of Daniel Akin’s vision and leadership was celebrated. Under his supervision, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has grown from 2,400 to more than 3,100 students. This is the fifth year of record enrollment. In 2014, the seminary exceeded the $50 million comprehensive campaign goal with $50,221,165 in gifts, faith commitments and planned gifts. SEBTS also announced in December 2013 its accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). The school is the only Southern Baptist seminary to receive ECFA accreditation.
2. Jerry McGee, Jerry Wallace and J.D. Grant retire
Jerry E. McGee, Wingate University’s 13th president, announced Apr. 22 his plans to retire in May 2015. McGee is N.C.’s longest-serving university president. At the time of his retirement, he will have served at Wingate for 23 years.
Campbell University president Jerry M. Wallace, who has led Campbell to unprecedented growth and transformed the university into a destination for leading health education and other key programs over the past 11 years, announced Apr. 23 that he will step down as president on June 30, 2015. After a one-year sabbatical, he will transition to the honorary role and title of university chancellor.
James Dillard (J.D.) Grant was honored in a celebration of his retirement from Fruitland Baptist Bible College on May 27. Grant’s association with the school began in 1970 when he came to the campus as a student. He retires after serving as a professor, vice-president of academic affairs and most recently as vice-president of development.
3. Ronnie Floyd elected SBC president
In a year when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) focused on “Restoration & Revival Through Prayer,” Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd was elected as the SBC president. Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 27 years, topped fellow nominees Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim and Kentucky pastor Jared Moore to win the SBC post June 10 in Baltimore with 51.62 percent of the votes.
4. W.A. Criswell Chair at SEBTS
The W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching was installed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring convocation in January. The convocation featured a video recording of Criswell’s sermon “Whether We Live or Die?” He delivered the message at the Southern Baptist Convention pastors’ conference in Dallas, Texas, June 10, 1985.
Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching and a teaching pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., was installed in the new chair.
5. Billy Graham’s ‘Heaven’ Film
On Nov. 7, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association debuted “Heaven” on Graham’s 96th birthday. It is a film that includes a never-before-seen message from Graham. It captures an aging, yet still passionate evangelist who worked with a camera crew at his home in Montreat. In 2013 on his 95th birthday, “The Cross,” a 30-minute My Hope America short film, was released with a gospel message from Graham.
6. Chad Barefoot re-elected to Senate
Chad Barefoot was elected into the N.C. Senate as its youngest member in 2012. He ran unopposed in the 2014 Republican primary and defeated Sarah Crawford in the general election in November. He represents Wake and Franklin counties in the 18th Senate District. He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a master of arts in Christian ethics. He also earned a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in public management from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
7. SEBTS honors Sam and Rachel James
Former International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Sam and Rachel James were awarded the Southeastern Presidential Award Nov. 6. The Presidential Award is the highest honor given from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Sam James is a three-time graduate of SEBTS. He and his wife served with IMB for over 50 years prior to their retirement earlier this year. He is the author of Servant on the Edge of History: Risking All for the Gospel in War-Ravaged Vietnam.
8. Tom Elliff retires
Former International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff asked the mission agency’s trustees to search for his successor in late February. He was 67 when he accepted the post in 2011. Former pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, David Platt, was elected president of the IMB Aug. 27.
9. Mark Driscoll steps down
Mark Driscoll, the megachurch pastor of Mars Hill Church accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego, resigned from his Seattle church Oct. 14. Driscoll announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him.
Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation. Driscoll found a niche within a largely secular Northwest culture. Though he has been controversial for statements on women and sexuality, several tipping points likely led up to Driscoll’s resignation. As part of the transition plan, all of the 15 Mars Hill’s properties will either be sold or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the new independent congregations. Each of Mars Hill’s campuses will decide whether to become an independent self-governed church, merge with an existing church or disband in early 2015.
10. SEBTS honors George Harvey
During the Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees (BOT) meetings in October at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), George Harvey was honored for 25 years of service to the seminary. Harvey, who is general counsel and director of planned giving, joined SEBTS in June 1989. After a unanimous vote of the trustees, Todd Linn, chairman of the BOT, and Akin presented a resolution to Harvey. The resolution honored and celebrated a man who left a highly respected career in law to come to a failing seminary, and trusting the Lord and His purpose for the institution.
S. Truett Cathy, 93, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain famous for closing on Sundays, died Sept. 8. In 1967, Cathy charted new ground, opening his first Chick-fil-A venue in a mall, followed in 1986 by the first free-standing Chick-fil-A. His son, Dan Cathy, became president of Chick-fil-A in 2001, and chairman and chief executive officer in 2013 while Truett Cathy continued in the role of chairman emeritus until his death. Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school to 13-year-old boys for more than 50 years and a member of First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Ga.
Freddie Gage, 81, a Southern Baptist evangelist for more than 60 years whose fervency for souls extended to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence, died Sept. 12 in a Houston hospital after an extended illness. Gage, a teen gang leader who came to Christ after hearing the gospel in 1951, was among the initial inductees to the Evangelists Hall of Faith in 2008.
Braxton Caner, 15-year-old son of Ergun and Jill Caner, took his own life on July 29. Ergun Caner is president of Brewton-Parker College, a Baptist-affiliated college in Mount Vernon, Ga. Members of his football team, Southern Baptist leaders and friends of the family, joined the Caners and other family members for an emotional 2-hour memorial service for the teen Aug. 2 at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas.
David Landrith, who led Long Hollow Baptist Church to be the first Tennessee church to baptize 1,000 people in a year, died of cancer Nov. 18. Landrith, 51, battled a rare form of cancer, colorectal melanoma, diagnosed in March 2013. He had been pastor of the Hendersonville church in the Nashville area since 1997.
Thomas W. (“T.W.”) Hunt, widely recognized in Christian circles as an authority on prayer, died Dec. 11 at the age of 85. Hunt was the author of such books as The Mind of Christ and Disciple’s Prayer Life and a former professor of music and missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Prominent N.C. Baptists who died in 2014 include Joe R. Babb, 84, who served on the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors and was the chairman of that board in 2006. He passed away April 25. Robert C. Stewart, 77, died Jan. 20 after a battle with cancer. In 1978, he became the state Sunday School director at the Baptist State Convention (BSC), and was later named church programs director and senior consultant for the convention until his retirement in 2003. Gene Lee Watterson, 84, was pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C. for 26 years. He was president of the Council of Christian Higher Education and served as first vice president and president of the BSC.