Sunday, August 12, 2012

In Memory of Bob Culpepper

Robert Harrell Culpepper passed away on August 10 in Richmond, Virginia, where he had lived for the last several years. “Bob” (b. 1924) was a Baptist missionary to Japan and a seminary professor. And he was one of my most respected sempai (older colleagues) and friends in Japan.
Bob and his wife Kay, who passed away in 2007, went as missionaries to Japan in 1950 and served there for 30 years. After language school, Bob taught at what became, and is now, the Department of Theology, Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka City.
When we moved to Fukuoka in 1968, we moved to the missionary residence which was built for the Culpeppers. They started what became the Hirao Baptist Church in the upstairs of that house, and Hirao was our church home in Fukuoka for 12 years.
When Bob and Kay left Japan in 1980, I moved from the Department of Literature, where I had taught Christian Studies for the previous twelve years, to take his place in the theology department, which also is the only nationwide seminary of the Japan Baptist Convention.
The two missionaries in Japan with whom I had the most fruitful theological dialogue were Bob and Calvin Parker (1926~2010), about whom I wrote on this blog on 12/20/10.
Bob was more conservative, theologically and politically, than I, and we had some spirited discussions. But, as far as I know, there was never any animosity between us or failure on either of our parts to fully respect the other’s position.
In spite of the heavy demands of being a seminary professor and a church planter (he began the Nagazumi Baptist Church after Hirao), he also was the author of Interpreting the Atonement (1966), Evaluating the Charismatic Movement (1977), and God’s Calling (1981), his missionary autobiography.
As Bob was one of my mentors and friends, along with many other of his former colleagues, numerous students both in Japan and in the U.S., and many former church members, I am deeply saddened by his passing. June and I also extend our deep condolences to Bob’s daughter Cathy and her family.
Along with the sadness, though, is a feeling of gratitude for the meritorious life and service of Dr. Robert Culpepper, a brilliant scholar, a dedicated missionary, and a passionate churchman and seminary professor.


  1. I should have mentioned that Bob taught at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina for about twenty years after he left Japan.

  2. Bob was my mentor & friend. I'm so grateful for his life, teaching, Christian witness & example, & friendship.

  3. Comments from a Thinking Friend who was also a seminary professor for many years:

    "Thanks for writing about Bob, Leroy. I held him in high esteem for his scholarship and integrity."

  4. A late addition to this memory-memorial blog about Dr. Robert "Bob" H. Culpepper. I had the privilege and foresight to take a class with him at SEBTS during the mid 1980's. Dr. Culpepper could preach and it was a very rare day even in the confines of a seminary class day that some nugget of wisdom did not proceed from his lips. He surely lived his calling but he did it with a keen mind and a humble heart.

  5. Just happened on this blog. Dr. Culpepper taught me NT at SEBTS in the early 80's, but he also taught me a couple of life lessons about serving as a pastor, that proved of equal value. God surely blessed the church with this man. Steve Sanders, M.Div. '83