Upton Shares Baptist Values with BC
Bluefield College students celebrated the school’s history and culture with an annual Baptist Heritage Day ceremony, October 24, featuring a keynote address from an authority on Baptist life, Dr. John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.
November 1, 2012
Dr. John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, speaks to BC students about Baptist values during the school's annual Baptist Heritage Day, October 24.
Baptist General Association of Virginia executive director Dr. John Upton (second from left) with Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive (second from right), vice president for student development Rev. David Taylor (far right) and Christian studies professor Dr. Tracey Stout.
For the 13th consecutive year, the entire Bluefield College community came together to “celebrate the college’s Baptist tradition and its ongoing relationship with Virginia Baptists.” The occasion, according to Vice President for Student Development David Taylor, is designed to “help students, faculty, staff and the community at-large remember that Bluefield College is a Baptist college,” and as a Baptist-affiliated institution there are “certain ideals the college cherishes and celebrates.”
“We do this every year to celebrate our religious heritage,” said BC President David Olive. “Our founding was made possible because of the investments made by Virginia Baptists. We lift that up today and celebrate and acknowledge the vital role Virginia Baptists play in the life of Bluefield College.”
Elected BGAV executive director in 2001, Dr. Upton served as keynote speaker for the 2012 version of BC’s Baptist Heritage Day and shared his pride in Bluefield College and how thankful he is for the relationship Virginia Baptists have with the school.
“We are so proud of Bluefield College,” he said. “I don’t think any other school in Virginia has produced as many leaders for Virginia Baptist churches as Bluefield College has. Everywhere I go I see Bluefield College graduates at work or in leadership roles in Virginia Baptist life. We love you, and we’re behind you.”
Also the president of the Baptist World Alliance where he represents 41 million Baptists worldwide, Dr. Upton spoke about the values Virginia Baptists cherish, including the autonomy of the local church or the freedom for individual congregations to explore new opportunities of faith. He also spoke about the value of the centrality of Christ and how Christians honor God when they put Him first.
“You want to be courageous?” he asked the students. “Put Christ at the center of your life. Fear nothing. Stand firm. The world needs courageous people who put God first in their lives.”
A former pastor and missionary, Dr. Upton also talked about the priesthood of believers, another value held dear by Virginia Baptists, a value that says all believers have direct access to God, and a value that sees the potential in every human being.
“That’s why I’m so proud of Bluefield College,” he said, “because Bluefield College has always seen the potential in every student.”
Dr. Upton encouraged the BC students to live these values and to “never forget who you are.”
“This is your heritage,” he said. “Protect it. Guard it. Live it, and may you never forget it.”
Dr. Upton joins a long list of Baptist historians who have helped Bluefield College celebrate its annual Baptist Heritage Day, including most recently Dr. Bill Leonard, Baptist historian and founding dean of Wake Forest Divinity School (2011); Dr. J. Bradley Creed, a former Baptist pastor and longtime Baptist higher education professor and administrator (2010); Dr. James M. Dunn, former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (2009); and Dr. Joseph T. Lewis, former president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (2008).