James Leo Garrett Jr., a Baptist scholar and teacher who combined evangelical fervor with deep erudition and yearnings for Christians worldwide to find common ground, died late Wednesday in Nacogdoches, Texas, at the age of 94.
He was, first and foremost, a trainer of ministers. With exactingly high standards, he sought to expose students to the broad sweep of Christian history and appreciation of how the church’s beliefs developed and should be sifted in modern times.
"It was certainly a great privilege for me to study with James Leo Garrett Jr., the premier Southern Baptist theologian of the second half of the 20th century," said David Dockery, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Southwestern Seminary. "His contributions to the church as well as to the academy have been of great significance. Not only was he a superb scholar and great teacher, but he was a faithful churchman, a person of deep and genuine piety, kind and considerate, and an exemplary ecclesial theologian with a love for the Gospel and an infectious commitment to and hope for the unity of the people of God."
In addition to their contributions in academia, Dr. Garrett and his wife Myrta Ann served for decades within the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Garrett attended his first Baptist World Alliance meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950 – the beginning of a long and fruitful association with the world’s largest network of Baptist churches. His service with the BWA included:
- Chairman, Commission on Cooperative Christianity (1968-1975) - Secretary, Commission on Human Rights (1980-1985) - Member, Baptist World Alliance Ecumenical Patriarchate Conversations, Istanbul (1994, 1996) - Co-Chairman, Division of Study and Research (1996-2000) - Member, Baptist World Alliance – Pontifical Council for Promoting Christianity Unity Conversations, Rome (2000)
"Dr. Garrett was a champion for the Kingdom of God, and his legacy will continue to shape the church for many years," said BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown. "We are especially thankful for his willingness to share his vast knowledge and unwavering passion within the Baptist World Alliance, and our global Baptist family joins with many today in celebrating the impact of this man of God."
Dr. Garrett's mentorship has encouraged many, including a new generation of Baptist scholars who are investing their gifts within the Baptist World Alliance.
"My career in academia and ministry has been greatly influenced by Dr. Garrett. He was my professor (PhD studies), as well as a faculty colleague at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My work in church-state studies and participation with the Baptist World Alliance is due to the influence and encouragement of James Leo Garrett," said Stephen Stookey, Dean of the School of Christian Studies at Wayland Baptist University.
Garrett was an only child, and was predeceased by Myrta Ann in 2015. He is survived by three sons, James Leo Garrett III of Nacogdoches, Robert T. Garrett (Tina Hester) of Austin, and Paul L. Garrett (Nancy) of Austin; four grandsons, James Mark Garrett (Lindsay) and Will Latimer Garrett, both of Houston, Michael Thomas Garrett of Nacogdoches and Wyatt David Garrett of Lubbock; and three great-grandchildren, James Thomas Garrett, Henry Leo Garrett, and Tassie Ann Garrett, all of Houston, Texas, USA.
Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12, at Meadowridge Community Baptist Church, Fort Worth. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 13, at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth with burial following at 3 p.m. at Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, Texas, USA.
Please join the global Baptist family in prayer for the Garrett family.