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James 2 and Southern Baptist Seminaries: 2 Leaders Address the Perils of Partiality

 akin

MooreIn the first week of Seminary classes two Seminary administrators preached from James 2.  At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Dr. Danny Akin preached a message entitled "Seeing Others with the Eyes of Jesus." Two Days later Dr. Russell Moore, Vice President of Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached a message entitled "The Kingdom of God in the Wal-Mart Breakroom: Poverty, Partiality, and the Peril of a Gentrified Ministry." These sermons are excellent and significant for the current Southern Baptist situation.

Dr. Akin specifically addressed perils in the region where he serves. He aggressively denounced the evils of racism and socio-economic snobbery. He adamantly proclaimed to his students that partiality, whether racial or economic, is a matter of the heart. Partiality does not evidence a heart captured by our Savior. He specifically mentioned a story from his days as a young Bible college student at Criswell College. Dr. Akin worked in a kitchen at a local church. A staff person there racially slurred both he and a co-worker. Unfortunately, racism is still a problem in the church. Near the end of the sermon Akin gives advice to the future pastor who interviews with a search committee. Akin says that the candidate should ask questions about several issues, especially on issues of racism and partiality, because these are "gospel issues." Prospective pastors must be careful because they might be called into a "wicked religious social club" that does not reflect the gospel and is not really a church. Dr. Akin is very passionate in this sermon and I believe it is a piece that ministers and lay people should heed in order to see people as Jesus sees people.

Dr. Moore also thundered away on similar issues. He particularly singled out theological snobbery. He begins his sermon with the example of Herman Moore. Herman Moore, Dr. Moore's granddad, was a "typical" Southern Baptist Pastor. He was a man whom academia would look down upon because he was unpolished and had only a grade school education. As Dr. Moore points out there is a tendency in the academic world to be arrogant about one's knowledge. I have grown up around Seminaries and seen this time and again. Knowledge indeed "puffs up" (1 Cor. 8). Moore warns of the danger to not be relevant to those people that we will serve in our Southern Baptist Convention. Those in a Seminary culture sometimes are more concerned with impressing other seminarians or those in the blogosphere than they are with impacting the plumber in their congregation. Moore explicitly asserts that if our attitudes are wrong then it does not matter how right our doctrine is. He explains that we do not realize that those that we look down on God has chosen to rule the cosmos with Christ. This sermon, like Dr. Akin's, is delivered with power and authority. Dr. Moore provided a message that is very convicting as I now sit in Seminary classes and train in theology. 

So, why would two administrators start the academic year off with this passage? Both of these men felt a burden to deliver these messages because there is always a tendency in academia towards arrogance. This is a message that we as seminary students, future pastors, current pastors, future professors, current professors, current administrators, and teachers need to hear and heed. We cannot ever see ourselves as better than the people that we serve or the people that we must evangelize. If we do we blaspheme that "noble name from which we are called." Brothers and sisters, let us never think that we are too good to talk to the "fisherman," "tax collector," "woman at the well," or the "thief on the cross." 

I hope these messages will be as helpful to you and your ministry as they have been to me. As Southern Baptists support another year of seminary education, I pray that we will thank God for the leadership God has given them. And I hope that we all never forget that the kingdom of God is advancing throughout all the world, whether that's seen in the academy or the Wal-Mart break room. And its advancement doesn't come through eloquent words. It comes through a simple message, Jesus Christ is Lord!

Nathan Akin 

 

The Passing of a Baptist Leader

Rev. C. Mark Corts, longtime pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, passed away August 29 from congestive heart failure. He was 68 years old. Rev. Corts pastored Calvary Baptist for nearly four decades, watching the church grow from 125 members to 6000 members today. Calvary was a leading church–perhaps the leading church–among conservatives in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Rev. Corts was active in the "official" Conservative Resurgence, but just as important, he was a leading conservative dissenter in the SBC in the years leading up to 1979.

Rev. Corts was part of a small but influential group of North Carolina pastors that found themselves in regular opposition to the moderate leadership of the state's Baptist convention. Along with men like M. O. Owens, Gerald Primm and James Bulman, Rev. Corts stood for the inerrancy of Scripture in one of the most progressive states in SBC life. He stood for baptism by immersion when some churches in the state convention were rejecting the ordinance as prerequisite to church membership. He stood for traditional gender roles in ministry when North Carolina Baptists took the lead in ordaining women into the ministry. He stood for the autonomy of the local church when state convention bureaucrats successfully pushed through a resolution calling upon churches to alter their constitutions so that, in the event of a church split, whichever faction remained loyal to the convention would retain the church's property and other assetts. He stood with Lewis Drummond and Paige Patterson as they led Southeastern Seminary to transition from a small, progressive seminary to a large, conservative seminary. He was one of the key leaders in Conservative Carolina Baptists, a network of conservative churches that were critical of the state's progressive leadership.

Besides his leadership at the state level–which included a term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina–Rev. Corts was also involved in the national convention. He was president of the Pastor's Conference. He served on several Southern Baptist committees. He was a trustee of the International Mission Board, serving a term as the board's chairman. In fact, mission was at the heart of Rev. Corts' ministry; Calvary Baptist Church remains one of the most mission-minded, Great Commission churches in the SBC. At present, 25% of the church's budget is allocated for mission causes. Also close to Rev. Corts' heart was theological education, especially at Southeastern Seminary. Today the North Carolina Baptist Pastor's Conference gives an annual preaching award, named in honor of Rev. Corts, to an outstanding SEBTS graduate.

For more about the life and ministry of this man of God, read the obituary published in yesterday's edition of Baptist Press.