Skip area navigation

Thomas Challenges University to Unity in Divisive Times

August 12, 2020

Dr. Heath A. Thomas delivered his first Convocation address as OBU President Wednesday, Aug. 12. The message was live-streamed from the stage of Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. He challenged the University community to consider the divisions facing us in the world today and to unite in Christ.

His message centered around the question, “What will unite us?”

“This is a pressing question in our world today because, despite calls for unity, much divides us,” he said. “We live in a divided world. Wedges wiggle their way between us so we can neither see one another nor work with one another.”

He then named some of the things that divide us, including politics, racial tensions, technology, wealth and health. He also discussed the problem of loneliness in our world and how it spans across the generations.

“On this day of convocation, that is, being called literally together…what will unite us in a common bond?” he said. “What will unite us in purpose? What will unite our humanity so that we go into our world and make a positive difference for good? What, my friends, will unite us?

“At Oklahoma Baptist University, what will unite us is not a what, it is a who. At Oklahoma Baptist University, we will unite around the expansive reign of God in the man that we know as Jesus the Messiah.”

He then addressed various views that perceive Jesus as “too small” and undermine His expansive reign, countering them with biblical texts.

“His voice and his reign is heard by every people, every nation, every tribe and every tongue that has walked or will walk the earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is ruler of all. Because Jesus transforms us from hostile to God, hostile to one another and through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross and the victorious resurrection, because of this fact, we have the ability to serve, to love, to live and to work in our world as emissaries of Jesus’s love.”

Thomas reiterated his point that what unites the University is Jesus Christ. He added that pursuing Christ in creation is the true purpose of a university education. He concluded with an exhortation to the campus community.

“What will unite us at OBU? Jesus. His expansive reign will unite us. May the expansive reign of Jesus drive us to our work this year. May the very power and wisdom of God, which is Christ, fire our imagination, spark our curiosity, wash our words, deepen our love and chart our way forward together, in unity.”

Dr. Heath A. Thomas assumed office as the 16th president of Oklahoma Baptist University Jan. 1, 2020. He joined the faculty in 2015 as the dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry and the associate vice president for church relations. He also served as interim dean of the Divisions of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Language and Literature, and the Floyd K. Clark Chair of Christian Leadership. Prior to arriving at OBU, he served as director of Ph.D. studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

An OBU alumnus, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature on Bison Hill. He then earned a Master of Arts in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from the University of Gloucestershire (United Kingdom). He has served on staff at churches in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and in the United Kingdom. Passionate about opening up the Scriptures for today, he preaches and teaches regularly.