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

‘Visionary’ leader Cecil Ray dies

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

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


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

African languages.

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.