‘Visionary’ leader Cecil Ray dies
    September 12 2011 by BR staff

    Cecil Armstrong Ray, who led the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) in the late ’70s, early ’80s, died Aug. 23.

    Ray, 88, of Georgetown, Texas, is known for promoting the Cooperative Program by giving and going.

    “Cecil Ray was a visionary leader with many strong qualities,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “He was a man of integrity, and he had a deep level of commitment to his family. Dr. Ray recognized the importance of being a good steward with our material possessions. He practiced this in his own life and he also developed excellent resources to help Southern Baptists obey God in this aspect of discipleship by liberally investing financially in the work of God’s Kingdom.”

    Cecil Ray

    Ray served North Carolina as the general secretary-treasurer 1976-1983. During that time he became known for his focus on stewardship.

    “He was a no nonsense, visionary leader who challenged N.C. Baptists,” said Johnny Ross, GuideStone’s representative at the BSC, who was an adult consultant in the Sunday School department when Ray joined the BSC team.

    Ross said Ray challenged N.C. Baptists to be good stewards and to participate in the Bold Mission Thrust, which was the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism emphasis at the time.

    “Stewardship was his expertise and special interest,” Ross said.

    Ray focused attention on the giving and going aspects to advance God’s Kingdom. Targeting Sunday School and evangelism, Ray encouraged churches to hold revivals and to find ways to reach the lost.

    “He cared deeply about Convention staff and gave strong leadership,” Ross said. “Dr. Ray and my immediate supervisor and dear friend, Robert Stewart, helped me to understand from the very beginning of my employment with the convention the high privilege and awesome responsibility to serve North Carolina Baptists.”

    Ray was born Dec. 9, 1922, in Seminary Hill, Fort Worth, Texas. He married his high school sweetheart, Charlene Andrews.

    Ray received his high school, college and graduate degrees in Texas, including a master of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of divinity degree from Howard Payne University.

    Ray played high school football while juggling his schoolwork and a part-time job as a bell hop at a local hotel. He also played football in junior college.

    Ray became a Christian at age 7 and was ordained at age 17. He preached his first sermon where his father once had pastored.

    During World War II, Ray sold war bonds, was a school teacher, Boy Scout leader and pastored four churches in Texas. He started and led Arnett-Benson Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas (1946-1956). During his tenure, the church grew to a membership of 1,500.

    After his daughter Susan contracted polio and almost died in 1952, Ray was determined to help his daughter have the best life possible. He built specialized equipment that she could use to help her travel, breathe, etc. In the 1960s Ray worked with an IBM volunteer engineer to develop a specialized typewriter so Susan could write.

    Ray took on more leadership within Texas as superintendent of missions for the San Antonio Baptist Association, coordinating mission activities for 70 churches. In 1960, Ray was recognized by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as the Texas Baptist “Father of the Year” for providing a “new way of life” for his daughter.

    He went on to serve as the secretary of the Cooperative Program and church finance department of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and was promoted to director of the stewardship division.

    J.W. Hutchens, also a native of Texas, knew Ray and his family when he was younger. Ray hired Hutchens to work at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and then later lured him to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Hutchens was the BSC’s director of evangelism for 10 years (1982-1992).

    “Two things that always got my attention about Cecil was his wonderful mind and his organizational ability,” Hutchens said. “He was always prepared for any meeting as he had done his homework, and he had a plan as to how to get the job done.”

    After his time in North Carolina, Ray was the national director of planned growth in giving for the Southern Baptist Convention. He retired Dec. 31, 1988, but continued to be active in the Williamson Baptist Association and taught Sunday School at Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas, until 2004 when his health would no longer allow him to teach.

    He authored and published: The Holy Spirit and His Ministry (1953); Living the Responsible Life (1975); Christian Family Money Management (1969); How to Specialize in Christian Living (1981); Witnessing-Giving, These Go Together (1988); and co-authored with Susan Ray Cooperation: The Baptist Way to a Lost World (1985); plus numerous articles for state and Southern Baptist Convention. His most widely used book, Living the Responsible Life,  emphasized all aspects of responsible Christian living and has been translated into Spanish, Korean and several African languages.

    He is survived by his son, Lanny Ray of Austin, Texas; sister, Beth Hunsinger of Midland, Texas; a granddaughter; and two great-grandchildren.

    Memorials: Crestview Baptist Church, Georgetown, Texas; the Cooperative Program of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; the Cooperative Program of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, Ga.; or the Alzheimer’s Association.
    9/12/2011 8:58:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

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