FROM THE SEMINARIES: SEBTS (prayer for racial reconciliation; missionary Sam James) & SBTS (Evan. Theological Society)

Today's From the Seminaries includes items from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (prayer for racial reconciliation; missionary Sam James) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Evangelical Theological Society).

Southeastern prays for racial reconciliation

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (SEBTS) -- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a time of prayer and Bible reading for racial understanding and reconciliation for the fall semester's last chapel, Dec. 4.

Students, faculty, staff and local members of the community participated in the event.

SEBTS President Daniel Akin led the chapel service, noting the importance of leading the seminary community in thinking through present issues facing Americans today.

"Ours is a broken world and a fractured world. It is a world in desperate need of reconciliation," Akin said, citing 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

"The most important reconciliation is that which we have with God," he said. "Apart from reconciliation with God, we will never see reconciliation within ourselves and among ourselves."

Recent events prompting the time of prayer and Bible reading for racial understanding and reconciliation are "a great tragedy in a fallen, broken world," Akin said.

"I am heartbroken at the loss of life, and the tragedy of sin and all that it inflicts on everyone," he said. "Everyone is impacted by these events. It is becoming more evident in these recent days that our nation still has a long way to go when it comes to racial understanding and racial reconciliation and ethic affirmation of one another."

Akin said he is convinced that reconciliation will not happen in America until it happens in the church. "It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the body of Christ, that needs to step up at this particular time and ... show the way forward through the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Walter Strickland, SEBTS special adviser to the president for kingdom diversity and a theology faculty member, helped organize the event.

Other seminary and community leaders joined with Akin in helping lead the time of prayer: Edgar Aponte, SEBTS director of Hispanic leadership development; Brent Aucoin, associate professor of history and associate dean of The College at Southeastern; Al Fullwood, adjunct professor of preaching and speech; Mike Lawson, campus director of security; James White, pastor of Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh and executive vice president of organizational relations for the Triangle YMCA,

Students involved in the chapel were Rease Wilson and his wife Kristal, who works in the financial aid office at Southeastern and is a former police officer, Maliek Blade and Jesse Parker.

During the service, diplomas and certificates were presented to students concluding their students during the fall semester, while the Owens Evangelism Award was given to Brooke Davidson.

The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was collected for International Mission Board missionaries. Since 1888 when the offering began, more than $3.5 billion has been raised to fund missionaries. To make a gift to the offering, click here. To watch highlights from the chapel, click here; to watch the chapel online, click here. To view photos from the chapel, click here.

Sam & Rachel James receive SEBTS Presidential Award

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (SEBTS) -- Retired International Mission Board missionaries Sam and Rachel James have been awarded the Southeastern Presidential Award, the highest honor given by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

James, a three-time Southeastern graduate, and his wife served with the IMB more than 50 years prior to their retirement earlier this year.

The couple's career included service in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He is the author of "Servant on the Edge of History: Risking All for the Gospel in War-Ravaged Vietnam."

Southeastern President Daniel Akin said James is "a modern-day missionary hero. ... Sam has been a faithful, wonderful servant in some very hard places."

James became a Christian while in the Navy in Japan. Having studied Greek at Wake Forest College before being appointed as a missionary in 1962, he wanted to be able to translate the New Testament from the original Greek to a native language without having to use English.

He met his wife, who was a student of nursing at Duke University, on a blind date; they have been married for 57 years.

James has deep roots in North Carolina. In his hometown of Liberty, N.C., there were eight churches in the town of 1,400 people. After coming home from the war, he decided to go to a place where people did not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. While a student at Southeastern, he pastored the church that would eventually become the Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

Chuck Lawless, Southeastern's vice president for graduate studies and ministry centers, interviewed James during chapel, giving students the opportunity to hear his story.

The couple originally sailed with three young children from San Francisco to Asia, eventually making their way to Vietnam, where they served during 14 years of war.

Sam helped found a seminary in Saigon, where Southeastern professors have gone to teach.

Lawless highlighted Sam's ability to embrace the people he was trying to reach by learning their language and immersing himself in the culture. "You are for me what we want our students to become," Lawless said.

"When you learn their language and culture, you learn to love them," James said.

James noted the sense of being surrounded with God's presence and the privilege of being in Vietnam. "We're glad we stayed," he said. "It was the call of God. The call of God is always sufficient."

Lawless asked what it takes for a missionary to stay faithful on the mission field. James responded by encouraging students to maintain their spiritual maturity, learn the local language well and keep a sense of humor.

The Jameses have three sons, one daughter and nine grandchildren. Their daughter Deborah and granddaughter Ana were in attendance for the Nov. 6 chapel presentation. His wife and two of his children also have attended Southeastern.

A luncheon following chapel featured the dedication of the "Sam and Rachel James Seminar Room" in the Center for Great Commission Studies. The room displays photos of the James family and items from Vietnam.

To view photos from this event, click here.

Same-sex attraction 'occasion for repentance,' SBTS prof says at ETS

By S. Craig Sanders

SAN DIEGO (SBTS) -- Christians experiencing same-sex attraction should repent of those desires, but God can transform a person's sexual identity, Southern Baptist professor Denny Burk said at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting in San Diego.

"This is what I would say to guys in my church ... 'If you are in the moment feeling an attraction for a person of the same sex, that's an occasion for repentance,'" said Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate division of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "'Well, I didn't choose that.' That's still an occasion for repentance."

Burk presented a paper titled "Is Same-Sex Orientation Sinful?" and participated in a panel discussion on the issue with fellow lecturers Preston M. Sprinkle, vice president of Eternity Bible College's extension in Boise, and Wesley Hill, assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry and self-described celibate gay Christian.

Burk assessed three components of same-sex orientation in his paper: sexual attraction, romantic attraction and identity.

He acknowledged same-sex attraction as a predisposition but categorized it with sinful predispositions such as pride, anger and anxiousness. Emotional attraction to the same sex, he argued, is sinful so long as it contains "sexual possibility." The notion of same-sex orientation as a person's identity also is sinful because "it invites us to embrace fictional identities that go directly against God's revealed purposes for His creation," he said.

The terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual" were "ways to describe an identity based on a person's pattern of sexual passions," Burk added in the panel discussion in the same session, Nov. 19. "That is not going to be helpful to us or useful to us at the end of the day if we add our endorsements to those identities."

Burk, however, noted the necessity of using the terminology of sexual orientation, while "scrutinizing it from a biblical perspective" to focus on God's purpose in creation for sexual desires.

Hill and Sprinkle likewise emphasized the importance of using the terms, though not found in Scripture, for the purpose of recasting that language in a Gospel context.

"To say that Christians will simply avoid altogether the language of sexual orientation -- gay, lesbian, homosexuality -- that would mean in my own experience forfeiting a lot of conversations with people from my own generation who that's just the language they speak," said Hill, author of the forthcoming book, "Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian."

Sprinkle's paper, "Sexual Orientation in Paul's World: It's Not What You Think," focused on the absence of understanding sexual orientation as identity in the first century. In the discussion, he affirmed Hill's statement in line with Paul, who "infuses" Greco-Roman terms with "new meaning or gutted them where they needed to be gutted and transformed them."

In the panel discussion, the participants clarified the terminology and found themselves in agreement on the sinfulness of experiencing same-sex attraction. Burk distinguished the act of feeling same-sex attraction from the predisposition to sinful desire.

While same-sex attraction cannot be reduced to sexual desire, Burk said, it is the "defining characteristic." Burk insisted on clarifying that orientation is not feeling sexually attracted "at every moment" but that a person is inclined to have desires in a certain direction.

Same-sex "orientation is not a natural evil to be swept away with tornadoes and earthquakes" as issues of moral indifference. Rather, Burk argued, "it's a moral concern" with which every disciple of Christ must come to terms.

Hill affirmed Burk's approach to call for repentance when experiencing same-sex desire and added: "I want to be able to say to someone who experiences no shift at all in their unchosen patterns of same-sex attraction, that a life of faithful, Christian holiness is still open to them, every bit as much as if they experienced a dramatic shift in their sexual attraction or their sexual desire."

Burk added that repenting of illicit sexual desire, whether heterosexual or homosexual, does not mean it will instantly disappear. "Repentance is a way of life," Burk said. "We're talking about wrestlings that are deep and visceral" and could go on indefinitely.

Panelists also noted the principles of temptation and sexual desire apply not just to same-sex attraction but to heterosexual lust outside of marriage, providing an opportunity for repentance and growth in Christian discipleship.

"The moral space between a sinful lust and a benign recognition of beauty," Burk said, is the "apprehension of beauty in which there is no sexual possibility," just as brothers and sisters in Christ.

"If you're looking at a woman with the purpose of pursuing this illicit lust, that's wrong. But I would also say the experience in any degree of that desire is sinful and it's something we should repent of when we become aware of it."

For additional reports on this year's annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, click the following links:

Baptist Press: ETS meeting: 'Southern Baptists everywhere'

Baptist Press: ETS meeting to feature Southern Baptists

Southern Seminary: 'Growing influence' in ETS seen at recent meeting

Southwestern Seminary: Faculty to be represented at ETS meeting

Midwestern Seminary: Baptist Press: Faculty to present papers during ETS meeting

Southeastern Seminary: Second Annual Southeastern Theological Fellowship Meets at ETS

Compiled by Baptist Press Editor Art Toalston
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