ATLANTA — Cecil Sherman, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Asheville, and founding coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), died April 17 in Virginia after a massive heart attack suffered April 15. He was 82.
A worship service celebrating his life will be held at 2 p.m. April 20 at River Road Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. A second service will follow at 2 p.m. First Baptist Church, Asheville on April 23. Visitation will follow both services.
Updates will be posted to www.cecilsherman.com/news.
“Baptists have lost a great champion, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has lost its founding coordinator and I have lost a friend,” said Fellowship Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal. “But I celebrate his fruitful life and the resurrection hope we have in Jesus Christ.”
Born Dec. 26, 1927, Sherman was a native of Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated Baylor University Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. He was pastor of churches including First Baptist Church of Chamblee, Ga. (1956-1960); First Baptist Church of College Station, Texas (1960-1962); First Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C. (1964-1984); and Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas (1985-1992).
Photo courtesy of CBFNC and Steve DeVane
Cecil Sherman at CBF of North Carolina’s 2010 General Assembly in March.
He also served at Baptist General Convention of Texas as staff associate in the evangelism division from 1962-1964. As conflict arose in the Southern Baptist Convention over leadership and terminology concerning the Bible, culminating in the election of conservative flag bearer Adrian Rogers in 1979, Sherman was among those who fought against the change, paving the way for the formation of the Fellowship in 1991.
He was then unanimously selected by the Fellowship’s first Coordinating Council to become the new organization’s first coordinator. He began serving on April 1, 1992, and served until his retirement in 1996.
“Cecil had the courage and capacity to look reality in the face and make hard decisions. His leadership was widely recognized,” said Jim Slatton, who chaired the search committee that recommended Sherman for the CBF role.
“Cecil is a genuine churchman, who has a real life-wish for the local church and for the Baptist denomination and for Baptist principles.”
Sherman met Dorothy “Dot” Hair in 1950, and the two were married on Dec. 23, 1953, in Greer, S.C. After 54 years of marriage, Dot died Aug. 1, 2008.
Just days before her death, Sherman was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and underwent repeated treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Sherman’s cancer treatments had been largely successful, and he was able to continue serving as a visiting professor of pastoral ministries at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR).
“His devotion to his students was nothing short of legendary. He saw himself preparing a new generation of ministers for local church ministry,” said Ron Crawford, the seminary’s president. “His service at BTSR has made a grand contribution to students. It is a contribution that will pay dividends in the lives of ministers and churches for decades to come.”
Also an author, Sherman’s writings include a 2008 memoir, By My Own Reckoning, and the Formations Bible study commentary series for adult Sunday school classes.
Recently, he had been writing a new book, which had not yet been published.
Sherman is survived by family including his only child, Eugenia Brown of Madison, Wis.; a brother, Bill Sherman of Nashville, Tenn.; a sister, Ruth Hamm of Edmond, Okla.; and a grandson, Nathaniel Brown.
Memorials to: Dorothy and Cecil Sherman Scholarship Fund, Baptist Theological Seminary, 3400 Brook Road, Richmond, VA 23227.