On October 1, 1992, the SBC Executive Committee inaugurated a new president and chief executive officer who would not only lead them into the next century, but would have a profound impact upon the denominational structure and spiritual focus of the Southern Baptist Convention.
After thirteen years of leadership, Harold Bennett announced his retirement as executive secretary-treasurer of the Executive Committee in June 1991. At the time, Dr. Morris H. Chapman, pastor of Wichita Falls First Baptist Church in Texas, was just completing his first of two years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in which he aggressively promoted prayer for spiritual renewal and the need to address the condition of families in America. After eight months of prayer and deliberation, the Search Committee nominated and the Executive Committee overwhelmingly approved Dr. Chapman as the fifth Executive Committee president and treasurer.
A native of Kosciusko, Mississippi, he is a graduate of Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, and holds the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Southwest Baptist University of Bolivar, Missouri and Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi have both honored him with the award of honorary doctorates.
Morris H. Chapman became a Christian at age seven, was called to Christian vocation at twelve, and was called to preach at twenty-one. Licensed to preach by First Baptist Church in Borger, Texas, he was ordained to the gospel ministry by Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Before his coming to the Executive Committee he served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Rogers, Texas, First Baptist Church of Woodway in Waco, Texas, First Baptist Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas. During each of his thirteen years at Wichita Falls, the church's baptisms and Cooperative Program gifts were in the top one percent in the Southern Baptist Convention.
As pastor, he participated actively in the work of the state Baptist conventions where he served. He was president of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico two years, trustee of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, eight years, and a member of the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas five years.
While in Wichita Falls, a church known for its denominational support, Dr. Chapman came under a profound conviction that the church should do more for the denomination than just to give generously, as important as that was. Accordingly, he led the church over a six-month period to pray by name for each of the 36,000 Southern Baptist churches, their pastors and all Southern Baptist Convention agencies. Over the course of those six months and following, the church received hundreds of responses from across the nation testifying to the powerful, beneficial impact of the effort.
Long before his arrival at the Executive Committee, Dr. Chapman rendered distinguished service to the Southern Baptist Convention. He was elected to preach the annual Convention Sermon, and served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, and was selected to preach in four annual SBC Pastors' Conferences.
In his first two years as president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee Dr. Chapman recognized the need for the SBC entities to be restructured in such a way that denominational ministries would be more efficient and effective in the twenty-first century. Under his leadership the Executive Committee established the Program and Structure Study Committee (PSSC) to study the need for and viability of such an undertaking. The PSSC presented the Covenant for a New Century to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1995 and it was approved overwhelmingly.
The plan called for a reduction of the number of separate entities from nineteen to twelve, with the prospect of redirecting $35 million back into frontline ministry in the following five years. Part of that plan called for the combination of the Home Mission Board, the Brotherhood Commission, and the Radio and Television Commission into one new entity, the North American Mission Board. The Implementation Task Force (ITF) was assigned the role of overseeing the transition, and in 1997 the reorganization was successfully completed.
As a result of the changes wrought by the Covenant for a New Century the Southern Baptist Foundation was brought under the oversight of the SBC Executive Committee. Dr. Chapman has been chairman of the Southern Baptist Foundation Board of Trustees since 1997.
Dr. Chapman initiated and oversaw the extensive renovation of the Southern Baptist Building's top two floors in 1998. When additional office space became available after the reorganization, the Executive Committee staff offices were allowed to expand from their cramped and overcrowded conditions on the seventh floor to occupy offices on the sixth floor as well.
He led the Executive Committee in 1998 to establish an independent Web site for the SBC, with a vision to unite every aspect of the denomination under one Internet umbrella. Since its beginning, the site has spun off eight related sites and total site activity has grown to well over a half million sessions per month.
In 1999 he promoted the recognition and celebration of the Cooperative Program's seventy-fifth anniversary, assigning the theme "Partners in the Harvest" to mark the momentous occasion. The Southern Baptist Convention celebrated by embracing aggressive goals in evangelism, volunteer ministry, and increased giving to SBC mission causes.
In his address at the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Chapman challenged Southern Baptists to a passionate commitment to prayer for revival in our nation. Following the Convention he initiated a Web site dedicated to facilitating his challenge to prayer, offering the opportunity for visitors to submit prayer requests and to commit to a specific, consistent time of prayer.
In 2000 he also challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to embrace a united commitment to family renewal and spiritual health, noting the rapid and alarming decline in the state of America's families. As a result, the Executive Committee recommended, and the Southern Baptist Convention approved the establishment of the Council on Family Life which undertook and aggressively pursued the task of calling families back to God's design for healthy and wholesome families.
Financial support of the Southern Baptist Convention has broken all previous records in each of his years as president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee.
Most recently Chapman led the Executive Committee and the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt and pursue a new focus and direction. At the 2002 Convention in St. Louis he introduced Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG), a call for Southern Baptist churches and members to unreservedly and wholeheartedly pursue the Kingdom of God above all else. Heralding Matthew 6:33, he indicated that his hope was that the vision would filter down and take root in individual hearts, then "bubble up" to sweep across the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation, and the world. Of all his efforts and emphases at the SBC Executive Committee, he noted, "Nothing in ten years is more significant than EKG because it puts the focus where it needs to be."
In addition to denominational service, he has offered effective leadership to the broader Christian community. He is currently on the Advisory Board of the American Bible Society, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance.
From the earliest days of his ministry, he has been motivated by compassion for those who do not know the Lord. At Southwestern Seminary he received the Stella P. Ross Award in evangelism. In his professional labors and personal evangelistic service, he has traveled and spoken extensively in thirty-six nations. He has participated in international evangelistic ministries in six nations on four continents, baptizing thousands of new Christians in the Indian Ocean in Mombassa and the Han River in Korea. He has preached widely in revivals, conventions, and conferences in the United States. He has also taken seriously his ministry to pastors and others in local church ministry, and is the author of four books on biblical doctrine and pastoral practice.
Dr. Chapman has received numerous honors recognizing his contributions including being awarded the George Washington Medal of Honor by the Freedoms Foundation for a sermon he wrote entitled, "Hear This Word, America," and the Good Shepherd Emblem by the Association of Baptists for Scouting for his commitment to spiritual, physical, mental, and moral development of Baptist youth. In addition to his work among Baptists, Dr. Chapman has also been a respected civic leader.
He is married to the former Jodi Francis of Memphis, Tennessee. Jodi has distinguished herself as a recognized leader. She served as a trustee of the Baptist Sunday School Board, an officer for the Ministers' Wives Conference and a member of the strategic SBC Peace Committee. She has maintained an active speaking ministry to women's groups across America. The Chapmans have two married children, Christopher Morris and Stephanie Suzanne, and seven grandchildren.