20 years after Southern Seminary’s redirection, Henry speaks about trusting God in storms
On the 20th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, trustee and Southern Baptist statesman Jim Henry asserted that Jesus reigns in the midst of life’s storms.
In his opening remarks for the April 21 chapel service during the institution's trustee meeting, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said that his heart was full as he remembered the events of 1995, when Mohler’s critics held a protest rally against the attempts to return the seminary to the convictional integrity of its founders.
“The critical turning point in this institution’s change came 20 years ago today, in this meeting,” said Mohler. “I had no assurance I would be in this room 20 years later.”
When the trustees of Southern Seminary arrived for their Tuesday board meeting in 1995, they gathered for the plenary session after a tense chapel service. Two years earlier, Mohler had been elected president, but this meeting was critical to decide whether or not Southern Seminary would be allowed to continue in its conservative redirection. Students and faculty members held a protest rally on the seminary lawn the night before the meeting, but the trustees still voted to adopt the changes in faculty hiring criteria including a statement on gender roles in ministry.
Mohler offered an example of how much the seminary has changed: 22 years ago, Henry spoke in chapel. In his message, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention highlighted the moral deterioration of the culture by pointing out that a person could be put in jail for destroying a turtle egg but would experience no consequences for aborting a baby. According to Mohler, Henry was in “no exaggeration, almost physically assaulted” as he left the stage by a faculty member and students because of his comments against abortion. Mohler expressed his thankfulness for Henry’s faithful ministry and friendship through all his years as president of Southern Seminary.
Henry, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Orlando, began his April 21 sermon during the trustee week 22 years later by describing a significant trial in his life: the first church where he served as pastor almost fired him a short time after he arrived for his support of racial integration. Preaching from Mark 4:35-41, Henry said that the storms of life often came unannounced, inexplicably, unavoidably, and unselectively.
“You never know when a storm may come,” said Henry.
In Mark 4, Jesus’ disciples experienced this when a storm swept suddenly upon the Sea of Galilee, which is only 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. The north winds and warm south winds often hit over the water and create waves that can be 10 or 15 feet high. Though experienced sailors, the disciples were terrified by this storm, and the storms in the lives of believers can produce fear instead of faith in the same way, Henry said.
“Be prepared spiritually when the storms come — it can be spiritual war going on against you because you are serving the king of kings,” Henry said to Southern Seminary students, drawing a connection between storms and spiritual warfare.
According to Henry, storms can develop character by jolting people out of their careless routines and “clear out the debris from our lives.”
“A storm may be allowed in your life for God to do something in developing who you are in your spiritual dependence upon him,” he said.
Henry offered several principles for people to remember in the midst of storms: “Jesus in the boat is no guarantee against a storm in your life.” Remembering that God uses the storms to help others who are watching can encourage Christians, Henry said, and so they must keep their eyes on Jesus and remember that when he is in the boat no storm will be able to sink God’s plan.
“When your storm comes,” he said, “Don’t ever forget: our Lord reigns.”
Audio and video of the message are available online at sbts.edu/resources.