Southwestern Seminary alumni hear from newly elected SBC president, honor Iorg, Lee

Timothy McKeown
| Jun 17, 2022

ANAHEIM, Calif. - For the second consecutive year, the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention who is an alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary addressed the gathering of the seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon in Anaheim, June 15. 

Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, who earned the Master of Divinity with biblical languages (1996) and Doctor of Philosophy in church history (2006), challenged his fellow Southwesterners to proudly proclaim their Southwestern Seminary heritage by joining the recently relaunched Southwestern Alumni Association. President Adam W. Greenway called Barber a “double-domer,” referring to the iconic building on the seminary’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Barber also served as trustee of the seminary from 2009 to 2019.

The annual luncheon hosted a crowd of just under 600. 

Barber recalled Southwestern Seminary taught him and other students to interact with others in ways that are charitable and exhibit Christian virtue, mentioning the example of the late James Leo Garrett, distinguished professor of theology.

Southwestern also helped Barber to learn about the rich heritage and workings of the Southern Baptist Convention built on a strong biblical foundation, he said. 

“I joined the Alumni Association, and I am thankful to be a Southwesterner. I want those good seeds that were planted by this institution in others to shape the future, a healthier future, for our convention of churches.” 

Following Barber’s comments, Greenway called on Jared Wellman, newly elected chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, a Doctor of Philosophy student and pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, to pray over Barber and his upcoming term. 

Greenway also recognized Daniel Dickard, the newly elected president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and senior pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, among other leaders present for the gathering. Dickard earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern in 2014.

Announced in May as the 2022 Southwestern Seminary Distinguished Alumni, Gateway Seminary President Jeff P. Iorg and retired Rear Admiral Phillip “Endel” Lee Jr., received their awards at the luncheon.

Speaking of Iorg and Lee, Greenway stated, “There are so many distinguished Southwesterners that have been recognized over the years. We are able to add two more to that pantheon today.”

Photo courtesy of The Alabama Baptist/The Baptist Paper

Jeff P. Iorg

Iorg, a 1990 Doctor of Ministry graduate from Southwestern, has served as president of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, California, since 2004. From 1995 to 2004, he was executive director-treasurer of the Northwest Baptist Convention and was the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon. In 1990, he began teaching at the Pacific Northwest campus of what was then known as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Greenway said that Iorg did something he could not imagine himself doing: relocating an entire seminary. The seminary was relocated 425 miles south of its original Mill Valley, California, location to Ontario, California, and was renamed Gateway Seminary in 2016.

In receiving the award, Iorg said Southwestern changed his life in three ways. First, the institution helped him with his character, which he called “marks of God’s grace” in his life.

Second, Southwestern helped him with ministry skills, including being a church planter in Portland, Oregon, and as an evangelist, especially with the late Roy J. Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism, who not only served as Iorg’s Doctor of Ministry supervisor, but also later preached his inauguration message at the seminary. 

Third, Iorg said his degree gave him the administrative skills useful in preparing for two seminary board of trustee meetings a year, which is “like writing for two D.Min. projects a year, every year.” 

Born in Forsyth, Georgia, Iorg was raised in Abilene, Texas, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University in 1980, and a Master of Divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1984). The author of The Character of Leadership, The Painful Side of Leadership, Seasons of a Leader’s Life, and Shadow Christians, Iorg teaches courses in leadership, preaching, and church ministry at Gateway Seminary. 

He and his wife Ann have three adult children and five grandchildren.

Greenway recognized Iorg before the meal began as he and Greenway replicated the presentation at Gateway Seminary’s alumni luncheon, which was held at the same time in a nearby ballroom. 

Phillip “Endel” Lee Jr.

Greenway praised the number of chaplains among the gathered alumni. Lee served as the deputy chief of chaplains for reserve matters in the United States Navy until his retirement in September 2020. 

Greenway referred to the native of Tanner Williams, Alabama, as a “triple-domer,” having earned Master of Divinity (1990), Master of Arts in Religious Education (1998), and Doctor of Philosophy (2000) degrees. Lee joked that all those years of study at Southwestern were a result of either being “a slow learner” or “a glutton for punishment.”

An emotional Lee gave his appreciation to a number of recipients, including “first to God for His grace and mercy, crescendoing eternally in the life of this good old country boy from Alabama, who’s just trying to be obedient to God’s Word and His will every day as I live.” Additionally, he expressed appreciation to people who prayed for him and supported him as well as his wife, Kathy, for standing with him on what was the 37th anniversary of his marriage proposal to her.

Lee said he would like to be a representative of many other Southern Baptist chaplains, serving in the missional ministry and a missionary lifestyle “to help carry the Gospel beyond the walls of the local church.”

The veteran who served in numerous places around the world including Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Washington, D.C., said, “One of the greatest pleasures of God’s matchless grace is that you are set free to pursue a corresponding compensation for His sacrificial and unending love without the expectation of ever reaching such a mark.” 

Lee joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1982 and served with the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, the 14th Marines Artillery unit, and had two tours of duty with the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion – one as an executive officer with the A Company and the second as a commanding officer with the C Company.

After serving 11 years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in both enlisted and officer capacities, Lee was commissioned as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1993. His Navy Reserve tour of duties include deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps for Reserve Matters at the Pentagon, officer in charge of the U.S. Coast Guard Religious Support Unity 106, deputy chaplain of the U.S. Coast Guard for Reserve Matters, and as the 4th Marine Division chaplain, which is the nation’s largest Marine division. 

Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Lee was deployed to New York City and served in Iraq. When he returned to the U.S. in 2005, Lee worked for a year and a half with the U.S. Coast Guard following Hurricane Katrina. He also served as a professor of preaching and pastoral work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary during his time of military service. 

In his remarks to the luncheon attendees, Greenway encouraged the alumni present to reconnect to their alma mater through the Southwestern Alumni Association.

“I want you to know Southwestern Seminary is for you and Southwestern Seminary is for our convention,” Greenway said. “Southwestern Seminary wants to be a place where we can come together around the essentials” and “where Southern Baptists have said that we will stand with clarity and conviction, but also a place where on the issues where Southern Baptists have said that there is a liberty and a latitude that we grant that freedom and grace.”

Greenway said Southern Baptists “are heading toward a crossroads” concerning “what it means to be a cooperating convention of churches.”

He said it appears “some voices” in the Southern Baptist Convention would like to “use our confessionalism to drive out as many Southern Baptists as possible,” noting that approach would be a “serious mistake” and “grievous error.”

Greenway warned about “a hermeneutic of suspicion, until they prove their orthodoxy to us, rather than a hermeneutic of trust, until they show that they have placed themselves outside the tent of cooperation,” with his comments greeted by applause.

He told the audience while he has the “privilege” of serving as the ninth president of Southwestern Seminary, it is his “heartbeat” that more “oxygen” must be given to “the things that will draw us together and not to the things that are going to tear us apart.”

Greenway said he prays daily “the Lord would find me faithful in the charge that has been given to me,” noting he prays the same for Southwestern Seminary.

“Our assignment has been clear since the beginning: to provide theological education for God called men and women preparing for Christian ministry, a more faithful ministry that fulfills the Great Commandment and the Great Commission that glorifies God and advances the kingdom,” Greenway said. “That’s who we are. That’s what we’re about. And it is my prayer and our prayer that our King will lead us on, all the way until Christ comes again.”