September 8, 2009

Retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Joseph Lowery, a longtime U.S. civil rights activist, were among recipients August 12 of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. “Each has been an agent of change,” President Obama said of the 16 people who received the nation’s highest civilian honor. Tutu was a leading opponent of apartheid in South Africa, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Lowery, the United Methodist minister who gave the benediction at Obama’s inauguration, cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.

Robert C. Campbell, 85, a New Testament scholar who served as general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA from 1972 to 1987, died July 27 at his home in Bradbury, California, near Los Angeles. The current ABC executive, Roy Medley, said Campbell led the denomination through “the implementation of the radical structural changes in ABC life in the 1970s that has helped define us as the diverse body we are today.” Campbell’s four-word description of American Baptists as “evangelical, ecumenical, interracial and international” has been widely quoted. Upon taking the helm of the denomination, he also described the church as progressive and committed to “this-world involvements.” He had been dean of what is now the American Baptist Seminary of the West for 18 years before his election as ABC general secretary. When he left that office, Campbell became president of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, later renamed Palmer Theo logical Seminary.

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, a preeminent church historian and historical theologian who taught for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, died August 7 in Santa Barbara, California. Bromiley, born in England in 1915, earned doctorates at Edinburgh University and served a church in that city for seven years before accepting a teaching position in 1958 at the relatively new evangelical seminary in Pasadena, California. Bromiley was the English-language editor of the monumental Encyclopedia of Christianity, the fifth volume of which he completed in 2007 when he was past his 90th birthday and still using a manual typewriter. Colleagues called Bromiley, who retired from Fuller in 1987, a “painstaking” translator of the theological works of Karl Barth, Jacques Ellul and Wolfgang Pannenberg, as well as of articles in the ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. He was author of 14 books, including The Unity and Disunity of the Church and An Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth, and of numerous articles for evangelical journals.

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