Voices of Our Past: Dr. James Dunn | By Patrick Cardwell
Week 1, Day 7 | December 5
Throughout this week, we have walked with giants in our tradition, and today our week concludes as we remember another giant.
Dr. James M. Dunn, a self-proclaimed “born-again, Texas-bred, Spirit-led, cornbread-fed Baptist,”3 exemplified what it means to prepare the way of the Lord. From his experience as director of the Texas Baptist Life Commission, fighting racism and poverty, to his years on Capitol Hill, arguing with the likes of Ronald Reagan and Al Gore, Dr. Dunn showed us all what authentic Christian faith looks like in the public sphere.
Convinced by friend and colleague Dr. Bill Leonard to come teach when Wake Forest’s divinity school opened its doors in 1999, Dr. Dunn dedicated the last years of his life to preparing the way for students and ministers to carry on the causes of social justice and religious liberty. My first hour of credit in the M.Div. program was earned with Dr. Dunn when we traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of a course in the fall of 2013. Leading us around the capital, we were treated to extended sessions with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Dr. Dunn spoke eloquently, with the same energy as he surely had many times before, about the importance of separation of church and state and the crucial role that religious liberty plays in a pluralistic society.
As this devotion about Dr. Dunn comes to a close, it is imperative to remember that Dunn’s own devotion never did. Indeed, Dr. Dunn’s commitment to claim his conscience and let the gospel fall where it may continues to be an inspiration even now. Yes, as Dr. Dunn prepared the way of the Lord, he surely had a burlap sack of gospel seed in hand, spreading a healthy mixture of conviction, compassion, and commitment as he went.
PRAYER: Empower us, O Lord, to be as faithful as Dr. James Dunn, unashamedly claiming the gospel and letting it fall where it may. Let our voices join with those who have gone before, preparing the way and assured by the hope of your coming. Amen.
Patrick Cardwell, a third-year student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, will graduate with a Master of Divinity in the spring of 2016. A member and intern at FBC Greensboro, he currently focuses his attention on missions and community engagement activities, while seeking ordination this fall.