A host of students, faculty, guests and friends of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary filled Binkley Chapel for Convocation and the first Kingdom Celebration on campus. The day launched a diversity initiative of Southeastern to exemplify, “Every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9) at the seminary and in the church.
Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern, welcomed new students and introduced the Convocation guest speaker, Rev. Fred Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Dr. Akin shared: “My wife and I wept when he was announced as head of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a dear friend and I have so much respect for him.”
The first chapel of the semester was marked with worship, prayer and conviction as Rev. Luter preached on Romans 1:16-17. The sermon focused on the transforming power of the Word of God because it is personal, powerful, practical and persistent.
Rev. Luter encouraged students to look back at their own B.C. days and asked, “What did it take to change you?” He reassured listeners that the Word of God is available to others regardless of their race, heritage or ethnicity. His words energized and challenged the audience to impact culture in the last days through their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
An intimate luncheon following Convocation was moderated by Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern. Local pastors asked questions and shared personal diversity insights with Rev. Luter and Dr. Akin.
Rev. Luter said: “Out of 45,000 Baptist churches with 60 million members, only 8 percent are African-American. For an African-American to be elected unopposed is unheard of, God had to be in it.”
Dr. Akin stated: “Despite our intention we all have blind spots. At chapel this fall, we will have five or six African-American preachers. I pray diversity to just be second nature here at SEBTS.”
Rev. Luther shared: “There is not a whole lot we can do about our past but there is a whole lot we can do about our future. I see walls coming down every day.”
In the evening students, pastors and local church members came together to worship, pray and listen to a discussion on kingdom diversity. Bruce Ashford, provost of Southeastern, introduced the event as a demonstration of a multi-colored splendor and celebrating what Christ can do through us. Walter Strickland moderated the guest panel featuring Dr. Akin, Rev. James White, pastor of Christ our King Community Church in Raleigh, Edgar Aponte, director of Hispanic leadership development at Southeastern and Dr. Norman Peart, pastor of Grace Bible Fellowship in Cary.
Dr. Akin spoke about building churches on earth that look like churches in heaven and working hard to be part of the movement that brings believers from every tribe, tongue and nation together.
Rev. White encouraged the audience to be willing to be learners, engage in conversation and become aware of historical contexts. “You can start tomorrow,” said Rev. White.
Aponte said: “We should push ourselves to be with people we are not comfortable with and pray that God will bring different people to us. Also, forgive where there has been offenses and where we offended others, ask for forgiveness.”
Dr. Peart stated: “Diversity is not peripheral or optional for the Gospel, it is the core of what the Gospel is.” He also encouraged the audience to persevere and be patient as they work towards diversity in the church.
The events were held on Aug. 20 on the Southeastern campus in Binkley Chapel and the Hall of Presidents.
Rev. Luter last visited Southeastern in 1993 and the community seems eager to embrace his presence and legacy in the future. Dr. Akin said: "Go out from this place and intentionally start building relationships, disciple others and start trusting God to build up leaders in the church. I am committed to this until I leave this place. By God's grace, we will be much further down the road than we are today.”
To view photos from the Kingdom Celebration click here