NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) voted Sept. 20 to authorize their chairman to name a search committee for a successor to Morris H. Chapman, who announced his plans to retire effective Sept. 30, 2010.
EC chairman Randall James, an assistant pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., did not immediately name a search committee after Chapman’s announcement during the opening session of the EC’s Sept. 20-21 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
James did ask Chapman, however, to remain in office after next September if the search process extends longer than expected.
Voicing appreciation to Chapman, James said, “I don’t think there’s any way in 12 months that we’ll be able to adequately thank you for how God has used you, for your obedience to come at a time that was so critical in the life of Southern Baptist work, and your leadership during the conservative movement.” Chapman became Executive Committee president and chief executive officer on Oct. 1, 1992, after conservatives had prevailed in a battle dating back to 1979 to uphold biblical inerrancy in the Southern Baptist Convention.
James, commenting on leadership transitions within the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “I know all of you are familiar with what’s happened the last few months with NAMB, IMB and now at the Executive Committee.”
At NAMB — the North American Mission Board — President Geoff Hammond resigned under trustee pressure during an Aug. 11 meeting at the board’s headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga.
At the IMB — International Mission Board — President Jerry Rankin announced his retirement Sept. 16 during a trustee meeting in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I think it’s the most important time right now in Southern Baptist life,” James told Executive Committee members. “I’m asking each of each of you to pray that God will direct our steps, that He will guide and guard our tongues, and that everything we do and say will bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The world will be watching us,” James said. “We have an opportunity to let the world see Jesus through how we carry out our business as the Southern Baptist Convention.”
During the EC session, SBC President Johnny Hunt, speaking of Chapman, recounted, “The first mission trip I ever took, Morris Chapman led that trip to Africa, and God captured my heart there for the Great Commission.
“It’s made a significant difference in my life and in the church that I’ve been privileged to pastor the last 23 years,” Hunt said. “And he (Chapman) always was a counselor in my life in helping me make a decision and pray through my appointment at First Baptist Woodstock in ’86.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said that at one point in their history Southern Baptists would descend on a city, conduct their annual meeting and then leave without conducting any organized evangelism on a large scale.
“However, under the leadership of Dr. Morris Chapman,” Kelley said, “we began doing something called Crossover in whatever city we were in (by) taking that mighty host of Southern Baptists who had come to the city and using them as an army of witnesses to work with the churches in that city and share Jesus Christ…. As a professor of evangelism and an evangelist, I always thought that that was one of the greatest innovations in Southern Baptist life.
“Dr. Chapman,” Kelley added, “there will be countless people in heaven who are there because of that wonderful idea that you brought to the SBC…. On behalf of all of them and all of us who love evangelism and witnessing, thank you.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Toalston is editor of Baptist Press; Michael Foust is a BP assistant editor.)