by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga., (TMNews)—In honor of a Georgia Baptist statesman, lobbyist and pastor, Truett-McConnell College announced on Nov. 14 the launch of the endowed “H. Ray Newman Ethics and Religious Liberty Lectures,” an annual spring lecture series to begin in 2014.
However, on Nov. 25, Newman succumbed to brain tumor.
“The entire Truett-McConnell family, as well as Georgia Baptists, grieve with the Newman family in the loss of their loved one, and in the loss of one of our Lord’s most stalwart champions for the things of God,” Truett-McConnell president, Dr. Emir Caner, told TMNews.
“Just a few days ago, we were blessed to have Brother Ray speaking in our chapel service, and though we are saddened to lose him, we rejoice that this giant of the faith upon whose shoulders we stand is now in the presence of the God he loved and served in exemplary fashion for so many years. We will miss him,” Caner said.
“Though he has gone from this life to the next,” Caner added, “the biblical influence and godly life of H. Ray Newman will remain a force on our campus and in the state of Georgia for generations to come. We praise God for Ray Newman – that He who as begun a good work in him has completed it (Philippians 1:6).”
During the Nov. 14 chapel service, Caner said, “Our vision at Truett-McConnell College is built upon an Anabaptist vision,” which is a four-fold commitment to “love the Lord, love his word, love his church, and love the lost. No other group has done that consistently as the Anabaptists, the Baptists of old. And no other personality I know represents the Anabaptist vision better than Ray Newman.”
Caner said Newman had traversed the globe “sharing Jesus, where there is no religious freedom.”
Newman, who founded the Georgia Citizen Action Project, served Georgia Southern Baptists under the auspices of the Georgia Baptist Convention as a specialist in ethics and public affairs. He has testified before legislative committees under the golden dome in Atlanta and helped pen bills adopted by the Georgia House and Senate.
Such bills include the social, cultural and moral issues of abortion; embryonic stem cell research; the marriage amendment, defining marriage biblically as one man and one woman for life; the sex slave industry; and using the Bible as textbook in public school classrooms.
As a follower of Jesus Christ and a patriot, he prayed with and counseled members of the Georgia General Assembly and with others considering elective offices.
Newman, who was also a pastor for 26 years, conducted countless public policy briefings in churches and other venues for various groups concerned with the moral issues facing Georgia and the US.
Citing the need for a continuing ministry like Newman’s, Caner said, “If there is ever a day we need godly people influencing those who are legislating and making laws, it is now.”
Dr. Caner acknowledged the Newman family’s presence in the chapel service before a video interview of Newman played for the gathering.
Therein, Newman said: “Had it not been for the Anabaptists who were willing to die for the truth, we couldn’t be here today.”
Newman expressed “concern” for “people in leadership roles who do not understand that.”
“My greatest concerns are that we have leaders in our churches who do not understand our history, who do not understand who we are as Baptists, and that we’ll fall prey to every wind of doctrine rather than being lashed to the cross,” he said.
“I want this lecture series to motivate, inspire and equip the generations yet to come so that, as we stand for that which is right, we will be standing clearly, squarely upon God’s word,” Newman said. “I am so confident that with Dr. Caner’s leadership at Truett McConnell that, Truett-McConnell is better equipped than almost any other place I can imagine in academia today.”
Newman also commended Caner and the faculty, who, by appending their signatures to the Baptist faith and Message have agreed to follow biblical teachings and ethical principles.
“For me, that says everything that needs to be said for the leadership for these students, and what will happen in the future at Truett-McConnell, and what can happen across our nation,” he said.
Emphasizing that one of the greatest threats in the world, and especially in the United States, is the loss of religious liberty, Newman said he wants those attending and supporting the lecture series to “hear some of the great evangelical minds as they express themselves from their experience out of God’s word – that we would ever more remain a free people, who can enjoy our religious liberties for the generations yet to come.”
Following the video, Caner told the crowd, “Who we are at Truett-McConnell we could not be except that men like him have gone before us.”
Caner also noted that Newman suffered from a cancerous brain tumor as he charged the young academes to pick up the mantle Newman has carried for decades: “Students, your generation is going to have to take a tougher and rougher stand than any other generation has had to do. But know that the Lord is faithful.”
Caner then read from a plaque he gave to Newman: “The Truett-McConnell College Presidential Meritorious Service Award.” The inscription noted Newman’s “tireless efforts on behalf of the kingdom of God as a pastor, denominational leader, writer, statesman, and lobbyist for religious liberty and ethics in Georgia and across America,” as well as his “faithful stand on the word of God” and “unwavering commitment to our Baptist heritage.”
As Caner handed Newman the plaque, applause thundered in a sustained, standing ovation.
Among the numerous notables attending the meeting was Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the GBC, and Christian Index editor, Dr. Gerald Harris.
In Feb. 2012, Editor Harris wrote about Newman, quoting the honoree: “It is vastly important for Christians to be salt and light in their community,” stated Newman. “We can make a difference if we will stand up and be counted. Edmund Burke said, ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ … I wish every church had a public policy committee or a salt and light committee in their church.”
In a later interview, Caner told TMNews: “We have the example, we have the endowment and we have the encouragement from God in a man like Ray Newman. Our new lecture series will augment other curricular goals as we graduate students who will be equipped to engage the world as salt and light, just as the Scripture commands.
“In so doing, we will not only be continuing in the spirit of Ray Newman’s ministry,” Caner said, “but we will be obeying the very Spirit of God as we take the gospel into a sin-darkened world for the sake of biblical ethics, religious liberty and lost souls.”