In Touch Ministries, the global broadcasting ministry founded by Charles Stanley in 1977, has made a $2 million gift to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to create an endowed chair in Stanley’s name.
The Charles F. Stanley Chair for the Advancement of Global Christianity is the “first fully funded, endowed chair in the history of Southwestern Seminary at the current funding level of $2 million,” President Adam Greenway told trustees.
At the dawn of the so-called “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, Stanley was one of the best-known Baptist pastors in America, although not involved in denominational affairs.
Nevertheless, he reluctantly became the fourth in a line of conservatives elected to lead the SBC during its years of schism, first in 1984 and again in 1985. His appeal as a well-known television preacher attracted supporters to attend the SBC annual meetings and vote for the conservative agenda.
Stanley’s second term as SBC president was clinched at the 1985 annual meeting in Dallas, which with 45,431 registered messengers remains the largest SBC annual meeting in history. It was there that the Georgia pastor defeated Winfred Moore, the genial pastor of First Baptist Church of Amarillo and the person SBC moderates considered their best hope of blocking the conservative juggernaut.
Stanley’s re-election bid also was aided by an endorsement by Billy Graham.
By most accounts, Stanley’s two years as SBC president cemented the conservatives’ hold over the convention’s infrastructure, including its agency and seminary trustee boards. His first election in 1984 was later described in a BNG analysis as “the year of the pivot.” At the 1985 convention where he was re-elected president, messengers also created the SBC Peace Committee, which eventually failed to create peace or unity.
Thirty-seven years ago, when Stanley — now age 89 — first was elected SBC president, he and his historic downtown Atlanta church were considered less-than-loyal Southern Baptists by denominational traditionalists. One of their key accusations was that the church gave less than 2% of its undesignated income to SBC causes, when the expected standard was at least 10%.
As an internationally known TV and radio preacher, Stanley operated in his own orbit and didn’t need the SBC as a platform. Nevertheless, after initially declining to be nominated, he allowed himself to be nominated twice, and his presidency became the hinge in the dramatic rightward swing that captured the SBC from 1979 to 2000.
In the years since the Pressler-Patterson coalition took complete control of the denomination, Stanley has continued to be revered as a hero of the movement, even as he retreated to his own international ministry. He was among 40 heroes of the movement who were enshrined in stained glass at Southwestern Seminary’s new chapel — until those stained-glass panels were removed recently.
Stanley earned a bachelor of divinity degree — precursor to the master of divinity degree — from Southwestern in 1957.
Current seminary President Adam Greenway called Stanley “one of the most well-known and prolific Southwesterners in our history.”
“There may be a liberal drift somewhere happening, but I’m thankful that Charles Stanley knows it’s not happening at Southwestern Seminary,” Greenway said. “He and his ministry want to identify with Southwestern Seminary and to put their resources in an institution that is committed to helping people know Christ, here and around the world.”
The $2 million gift technically is coming from the In Touch Foundation, the charitable subsidiary of In Touch Ministries. For 2019, the most recent year of IRS filings available the foundation reported total assets of $34.7 million and annual revenue of $11 million.
The foundation’s boards approved full funding for the endowed academic chair “as an expression of appreciation for Dr. Stanley’s love for Christ, for Christian education, and for the ministry of the seminary,” according to the agreement establishing the chair.
The Stanley Chair will operate out of the seminar’s Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. A seminary news release said the first occupant of the endowed chair will be named later.
For SBC, 1984 was the year of the pivot