Seminary names Merritt alumnus of the year during annual luncheon

Communications Staff — June 24, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Wednesday named James Merritt its 2005 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the school’s annual luncheon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Merritt, pastor of the Cross Pointe Church at Gwinnett Center in Atlanta, Ga., who served as president of the SBC from 2000-2002, called the award one of the choice honors of his many years in ministry.

More than 750 attended the school’s annual luncheon. Also during the luncheon, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced that noted theologian Mary Kassian will join the seminary faculty and that Louisville will host the 2009 SBC annual meeting.

“This is one of the greatest awards I have ever received in my life and I pray that I will always be worthy of its honor,” Merritt said. “I am proud today to call myself a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Merritt is a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, completing a master of divinity degree in 1978 and a Ph.D. in 1982. A longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., Merritt is also the host of the “Touching Lives” television program.

“I know that James Merritt prays for me and for Southern Seminary and he has, in the most incredible way, demonstrated his love and his friendship to this institution,” Mohler said. “He continues to be one of the closest friends this institution has.”

Merritt said his relationship with Mohler makes the award even more gratifying. Mohler and Merritt’s friendship dates to Mohler’s days as editor of the “Christian Index,” the Baptist newspaper of Georgia, Merritt’s home state.

“The reason today why I very humbly accept this award is because of the incredible leadership of the best friend I have on this earth outside of my wife and my children in Dr. Albert Mohler,” Merritt said. “I never cease to be amazed, not only by his intellect, but by his leadership and his integrity.

“He has done in a microcosmic way, what this convention has done in returning this seminary back to her biblical roots. I take pride in saying that under his leadership, Southern Seminary has rightly taken its place again as the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am very humbled to receive this award.”

Mohler also announced the appointment of Kassian as Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Seminary. Kassian is a well-known author, teacher and scholar on issues of biblical womanhood, family, and gender.

She is the author of numerous books including the recently-released Feminine Mistake and In My Father’s House (Broadman & Holman), along with The Feminist Gospel and Women, Creation, and the Fall. Kassian is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

“Mary Kassian is one of the most outstanding scholars in the entire Christian world [in] defending, defining and teaching biblical womanhood,” Mohler said. “We are looking forward to her joining us…It is another sign of God’s favor and blessings to us.”

During the luncheon, Mohler also announced that Louisville will host the 2009 SBC annual meeting. The meeting, to be held June 16-17, 2009, has an anticipated attendance of 15,000-20,000.

The convention will coincide with the sesquicentennial of Southern Seminary. The convention was last held in Louisville in 1959, the centennial of Southern Seminary.

“I think it’s a great development for Louisville and great for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Mohler said. “It’s timely and historic. The last time the Southern Baptist Convention met in Louisville was 1959 when the seminary was 100 years old.

“Of course, it’s very special to us that the Southern Baptist Convention is coming back when we celebrate our sesquicentennial, our 150th anniversary. This says a lot of good things about Louisville as a city.

“As the convention host, we are looking forward to having Southern Baptists reintroduced to Louisville. We think they’ll go away with a very positive impression of the city, and we’re also looking forward to Louisville meeting Southern Baptists, who will be coming by the thousands.”

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