WAKE FOREST, N.C. – After 28 years of faithful teaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Hammett will retire from full-time teaching and administration as senior professor of systematic theology and John Leadley Dagg Chair of systematic theology on July 31, 2023. In his retirement, Hammett will teach occasional courses as an adjunct professor and continue mentoring doctoral students at Southeastern.
“For almost 30 years John Hammett has epitomized what it means to be a Southeastern faculty member,” said Provost Scott Pace. “His experience as an international missionary and a pastor, his love for the local church, and his widely regarded excellence as a scholar established him as a leader among our faculty and a favorite among our students.”
Born in Charlottesville, Va., but raised in Gaffney, S.C., Hammett first came to Southeastern as a student in the 1980s and received his Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern in 1986. Five years later, he and his wife Linda answered God’s call to the nations and moved as missionaries with the International Mission Board to Brazil in 1991. Over the next five years, Hammett served as professor of systematic theology at the South Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary (Seminario Teologico Batista do Sul do Brasil) in Rio de Janeiro.
While stateside, the Hammetts sorrowed to learn that ongoing health issues would prevent their return to Brazil. However, in God’s providence, Hammett received an offer to teach at Southeastern where he began as an adjunct professor in 1995. For Hammett, teaching at Southeastern became an extension of his missionary task – teaching and mobilizing others to go to the nations.
“We could not continue to serve overseas, but we could have a part in equipping and sending others,” Hammett recalled. “We have continued at Southeastern because we see God’s hand upon it and resonate deeply with its Great Commission focus.”
Over the next 28 years, Hammett would have a lasting Great Commission impact on generations of students, pastors, missionaries and other theologians. Known to students for his humble presence in the classroom, Hammett modeled charity to other perspectives, a commitment to biblical and theological reasoning, and a heart for the Church and its mission.
“His love for Christ, the Church, and for the mission of God is exemplary and inspiring,” said Benjamin Quinn, one of Hammett’s former students, who now serves as associate professor of theology and history of ideas and associate director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern. “He is a model par excellence for clarity, charity, and conviction. His even-handed and organized approach to theology will doubtless serve hundreds of students for many years of ministry.”
Through his faithful example and longevity as a professor and theologian, Hammett also helped to enrich the charitable and missional culture of Southeastern’s theology department.
“John Hammett models integrity, scholarship, and kindness,” said Ken Keathley, senior professor of theology, Jesse Hendley Endowed Chair of biblical theology, and director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture. “Even with those with whom he disagrees he engages with charity and respect. I am glad that he will continue to be involved with Southeastern through teaching adjunctively and mentoring doctoral students because John exemplifies the Southeastern ethos of having a winsome heart for the nations.”
In the days ahead, Hammett hopes to continue investing in students and in his scholarship while spending more time with family. Hammett is grateful for the opportunity – even in retirement – to continue teaching occasional theology courses and to finish mentoring several of his doctoral students at Southeastern. Yet, perhaps what he is most excited about in retirement is being more involved in his grandchildren’s lives.
“I will still teach a few classes; I still have a few Ph.D. students that I want to see through to the end of their programs; and I have a couple more books I want to write,” Hammett said.
“But my brother passed on a remark he once heard from a friend: ‘Have something to retire to,’” Hammett added. “I plan to retire to grandfatherhood. My grandfather was my guardian from 5 to 18 and had an incredible impact on my life, and I was never as thankful as I should have been. I want to honor him and pay it forward by being an involved grandfather to my grandchildren – thus far two girls, 2 years and 6 months old.”
As Hammett retires, his investment in the Southeastern community will continue to have a lasting impact because he embodied the heart and mission of the institution: to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.
“Words are inadequate to express my gratitude for my brother, colleague, and friend,” said President Danny Akin. “John is not only an outstanding theologian and scholar but also a faithful disciple of King Jesus who loves the local church and has a heart for the nations. As a former pastor and missionary, he has profoundly enriched our theology program with his pastoral heart, and his faithful investment in our students has equipped them to serve our Lord well in any context. He has been such a blessing to Southeastern.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Burchett is a news and copy writer at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)