Religious Liberty

My Tribute to Dr. James Dunn


By Ray Higgins  

     A memorial service will be held this Saturday [18 July 2015] at the Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC for Dr. James Dunn. He was one of the most influential mentors in my life and ministry.

     I first met James when he served as a guest lecturer in one of the Christian ethics courses I was taking at Southwestern Seminary. I blame him and Larry Baker, my college pastor at First Baptist Fayetteville, for getting me hooked on Christian ethics and religious liberty.

     During the semester before graduation, James worked it out for me to serve as an intern with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, where he was executive director.

Our paths have crossed many times since the spring of 1980. At ethics and religious liberty conferences, on college and seminary campuses, in local churches, at funerals and revivals.

     He made sure that I met Marilyn, his wife, and he always asked about "Judy and the boys," and meant it every time.

     It was fun keeping up with James through these decades when he was Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee and as a Christianity and public policy professor at Wake Forest University's Divinity School.

     During the years that I taught Christian ethics at Southwestern, I brought James in as a guest lecturer. Each time he spoke, it felt like he was connecting us directly with Roger Williams, and the architects of the First Amendment. He was a master at exposing the variant interpretations of how historic Baptists viewed the relationship between church and state.

     For over 50 years, James sparked passion and commitment in clergy, lay leaders, and college and seminary students to a Jesus-style ethic for the world in which we live.

     His contemporaries in Arkansas CBF life include the late Tom Logue, Dale Cowling, Wilson Deese, Floyd Emmerling, Andy Hall, Don Harbuck, Jamie Jones, and John McClanahan, and the retired Gilbert Nichols, and the still-preaching-and-pastoring Emil Williams of Jonesboro.

     Family commitments keep me from attending his memorial service. Yet, every day gives me multiple opportunities to say thanks.


James Dunn memorial service video available online

Video of the memorial service honoring the life of Dr. James M. Dunn is now online.