Francis M. DuBose, Urban Missions Leader, Dies

Francis M. DuBose, retired professor of missions and former director of urban church studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, died at his home in San Francisco of age-related natural causes, on Saturday, June 20, 2009. 

“Dr. DuBose changed the way Golden Gate viewed its mission as an urban seminary and was a pioneer in leading Southern Baptists to embrace ministry in the city,” said Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg. “We thank God for his legacy.” 

“Francis DuBose put Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary on the map as far as global and urban missions were concerned,” said Dr. Rick Durst, Director of Golden Gate Seminary’s eCampus and Professor of Historical Theology. “Dr. DuBose has left us a legacy in his published works, How Churches Grow in an Urban World, The God Who Sends and Classics of Christian Mission.” Durst described how DuBose initiated an annual Urban Training Event, where for four days pastors, directors of missions and students assembled under his mentorship to use San Francisco and Oakland as a living lab for learning how to reach cities for the gospel in the midst of their complexities of ethnic diversity, economic crises and moral challenges. This event, which began in 1974 and was held annually for over 25 years, was so effective that several Baptist associations continually sent teams from their cities to learn and participate. “Dr. DuBose changed the urban paradigm among many Baptist leaders from ‘flight or fight’ into one of ‘engage and evangelize’ holistically,” noted Durst. 

“Dr. DuBose lived a genuine passion for the city, especially the city of San Francisco,” said William O. Crews, President Emeritus of Golden Gate Seminary. “I will always remember being moved deeply when he would quote poetry he had written about the city. From a personal standpoint, Francis was always an encourager to me in my role as President. I will always be grateful for his contribution to the seminary and to my own life.” 

“Golden Gate is the premiere school for a multi-cultural Christian education,” said Dr. Leroy Gainey, J. M. Frost Professor of Educational Leadership at Golden Gate Seminary. “We stand on the shoulders of Dr. Francis DuBose, who was a pioneer in this area long before it was popular. Dr. DuBose was a mentor, friend and brother that I’ll personally always be indebted to. Dr. DuBose would always remind me, ‘if you are ever in need of a good friend, call on Christ first, and then call on me.’ I’ve not forgotten this and I continue to pass it on.” 

“Golden Gate Seminary has been known as a distinctively ‘missions’ seminary,” said Dwight Honeycutt, retired William A. Carleton Professor of Church History at Golden Gate Seminary. “That is a large part of Francis DuBose's legacy. Within the collegiality of faculty circles Francis kept the missionary vision before us. Not one to simply theorize about missions, his whole life was engaged with people who needed the kind of witness that Francis was always ready to provide. Deeply sensitive, he was an excellent poet, and some of my fondest memories of him are hearing him read publically many of his poems within the Seminary community. His was an amazingly wonderful, inspiring and productive life.” 

DuBose, known as "The Shepherd of the City," joined the faculty of Golden Gate Seminary in 1966. In 1971 he became professor of missions and director of urban church studies. In 1979 he was appointed director of the World Mission Center (now The David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions). He was elected senior professor of missions in 1992 in honor of his official retirement, and continued to teach into the early 1990s. 

Dr. Linda Bergquist, church planting missionary with the California Southern Baptist Convention and North American Mission Board, as well as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Seminary, recalled that Dr. and Mrs. DuBose volunteered for almost 40 years at the Page Street Baptist Center in San Francisco. “Everything they did, they did together,” she noted. “They are both our heroes!” 

“Francis and Dorothy DuBose chose the city. They made it their home, and they gave it their lives,” Bergquist explained. “They were fully engaged activistic San Franciscans who, even in retirement, chose to live near the ministry center they loved and ministered with for 40 years. Francis DuBose’s passion, humility, wisdom and kindness towards all things urban inspired me to be a better San Franciscan, and a better missionary to the city. Over and over again, I have reiterated these words from a poem he wrote, “I Choose the City.” 

by Francis DuBose 

I choose the city...
Not simply to live in it,
to see it,
to hear it;
But to touch it;
yes, to embrace it,
to hold it,

To feel the wild glory of its
pulsating soul,

To move over its wide,
hurried broadways,

To stand stilled and sobered
at the nowhere of its dead-end streets,

To be trapped with it in its
pain and problems,

To be at once chilled by its ill
and covered with its confetti.

I choose the city because I choose God,
Because I choose humanity,
Because I choose the divine-human

The struggle which will be won
Not in the serene path through
meadow and wood,
among the bees and birds, and flowers,

But in the city street
Made by the hand of man
Through the gift of God--
Main Street: the final battle field,
The scene of the ultimate struggle,
Where man chooses right
Because he is free to choose wrong.

Babylon, dirty and daring--
Babylon, yes--
Babylon today--

The New Jerusalem!

Francis DuBose, Mystic on Main Street, Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1993, pp. 78, 79.

DuBose was born in Elba, Alabama on February 27, 1922. He was a recipient of a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from Baylor University; did graduate study in anthropology at the University of Oklahoma; received a bachelor of divinity degree and doctor of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a master of arts degree from the University of Houston. He did additional post-doctoral study at Oxford University, England, and was a visiting research fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary. Before coming to Golden Gate Seminary in 1966, DuBose served as pastor in Texas from 1939 through 1961, served as director of missions in Detroit, Michigan from 1966 to 1970, and was a teaching fellow in missions at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas from 1960 to 1961.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Anne Sessums DuBose, four children, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.