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