Crescent Hill Baptist Church

Dr. Roy Lee Honeycutt, Jr. (1926-2004)

Memorial Service: Wed, Dec 29, 11 AM; CHBC sanctuary.

obituary in Dec. 22, 2004 Courier-Journal

See also Guest Book notes under "obituaries" in The Courier-Journal. These notes will remain on permanent display.

Roy Honeycutt, ex-seminary president, dies
Southern Baptist shift marked term

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal

Roy Honeycutt, a former president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who fought unsuccessfully to prevent a rightward shift in the seminary, died yesterday at Norton Hospital.

Honeycutt, who was 78 and had a history of heart ailments, died after accidentally hitting his head at his home, according to the Arch L. Heady-Cralle Funeral Home.

Honeycutt served as president of the seminary from 1982 to 1993 and was a respected biblical scholar who was active in Baptist-affiliated seminaries for more than 30 years.

His accomplishments as president included soothing some internal tensions from a previous administration, expanding the faculty, installing the seminary's first female academic dean and theology professor and overseeing construction of a campus center that now bears his name.

But much of Honeycutt's attention was claimed by the growing controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention that pit his fellow moderates against conservatives. The latter group, which opposed ordaining women and said the Bible is without historical or scientific error, eventually won control of the convention and its seminaries.

Honeycutt spoke of a "holy war" to prevent what he described as the fundamentalist takeover effort, and he came under criticism in 1990 from a seminary trustee who contended Honeycutt "just doesn't believe the Bible."

But Honeycutt also displeased some moderates by cooperating with conservatives in other areas and by overseeing the departure of renowned scholar Dale Moody over a doctrinal dispute. Honeycutt retired when it became clear that conservatives had control of the seminary's board of trustees, and some conservative trustees praised him for helping ease that transition.

"He was almost in a no-win situation," said former professor Bill Leonard, a moderate who is now dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. "The fundamentalists thought he was completely unacceptable because he represented the old tradition theologically and administratively." But some moderates thought he should have taken the seminary out of the convention, Leonard said, adding that was an unrealistic hope.

Leonard said Honeycutt was a gracious leader who loved the Hebrew Bible so much that Leonard teased him as being unable to "preach one sermon on the New Testament."

Honeycutt's successor, R. Albert Mohler Jr., called Honeycutt a "Christian gentleman" who "gave so much of his life to the Southern Baptist Convention and to Southern Seminary in particular."

"He led during difficult times and was not afraid of controversy," said Mohler, who completed the seminary's conservative shift after being appointed in 1993. "At the personal level he was as gracious a human being as you could ever expect or hope to meet."

Born in Grenada, Miss., Honeycutt was a World War II Army veteran. He earned a master's and doctorate at Southern Seminary and a master's at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He and his wife of 56 years, June, had two children. The couple were "a model of commitment to each other and shared commitment to this institution," Mohler said.

Honeycutt was a professor of Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., from 1959 to 1975. He then moved to Southern Seminary, working as professor, dean and provost before becoming president in 1982.

In an interview last year, Honeycutt said he was disappointed in the seminary's rightward shift, saying it was "no longer the Southern Seminary ... that I knew."

"I'm just on the other side theologically, in our views on the openness of Scripture, liberty of conscience, etc.," he said.

But he also said he was enjoying retirement, traveling to such places as Oxford University in England and continuing his long tradition of teaching Sunday School at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, where he was a member.

In retirement, "you can choose your own worries," he said.

On a snowbound midwinter Thursday Dec 23, 2004, many friends and family gathered at Cralle's funeral home to bid Dr. Honeycutt farewell. Dr. Larry McSwain spoke of the three words which he felt exemplified Dr. Honeycutt: Honesty, Friend and Courage. There is a memorial service planned for Wednesday, December 29, 11AM in the CHBC sanctuary.

Service remembers Honeycutt as a devoted churchman

Dec 30, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
(published in Baptist Press)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--William Johnson says it will take some time for him to grow accustomed to looking out over the congregation at Crescent Hill Baptist Church and not seeing the face of Roy L. Honeycutt looking back attentively toward the pulpit.

Johnson, who serves as minister of spiritual formation at the church, pointed to the spot in the pew where the eighth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary sat with his wife, June, Sunday after Sunday, for nearly three decades. His regular presence bespoke a deep love for the church, Johnson said.

"He always sat there to the left of the pulpit with Mrs. Honeycutt," Johnson said. "There are those people who are an anchor or a cornerstone in each congregation. Roy Honeycutt was [an anchor]. I knew [the Honeycutts] were there and it was assurance to all of us.

"At the center of his life was a deep love for the church. This love informed his scholarship, his teaching, his leadership, his service. He loved the body of Christ."

Johnson and others remembered Honeycutt during a memorial service Dec. 29 at Crescent Hill, the church in which Honeycutt once served as interim pastor and taught Sunday School for many years.

"Dr. Honeycutt had the true heart of a teacher," Johnson said. "He was a student of the Word of God. ... He embodied what he taught [so that] his walk truly had become what he taught."

Honeycutt, who served as president of Southern Seminary from 1982-1993, died Dec. 21 from head injuries sustained the previous day in an accident in his Louisville, Ky., home. He was buried on Dec. 23 in a private funeral, but a winter storm forced the memorial service to be postponed.

Honeycutt served as dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary from 1975-1980 and as provost at the seminary from 1976-1982. After retiring as president, he was Southern Seminary's chancellor from 1994-1997.

Walter Jackson, who served as professor of pastoral care during Honeycutt's tenure as president, recalled his former colleague as a man who exhibited great integrity in every part of his life.

"His word was his bond and he stood behind it," Jackson said. "There was no pretense, no covert objectives. He was forthright in that which he said and that which he did. ... He was called by God to be an educator in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and he never wavered from that goal. He had great interpersonal integrity as he went about that goal."

Born Oct. 30, 1926 in Grenada, Miss., Honeycutt was a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, receiving his Ph.D. in 1958 and his master of divinity in 1952. He served as academic dean at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1971-1975 and as chairman of Midwestern's Old Testament department from 1963-1975 prior to joining the Southern Seminary faculty as a professor of Old Testament.

Jackson recalled the pastoral nature Honeycutt exhibited when interacting with seminary students.

"The students loved him," Jackson said. "[He was] a president who would walk down the hall and say 'hello' any time he saw you. And [by] the third time, he would call you by your first name. What an important thing [that was] for a prestigious person like the president to do in terms of ministry to the student body."

Honeycutt's daughter, Maryanne Honeycutt, said her father left their family with three gifts: he made family his top priority, he taught them how to love, and he gave them the gift of hope.

Though her father served as a prominent voice during Southern Baptist conflict in the 1980s, Maryanne Honeycutt said he never let it distract him from giving undivided attention to his family.

"He was never too busy for the three of us," she said. "He also loved us deeply, fully, and unconditionally. ... Dad was also our biggest champion. He believed so much in us. He was a great husband and a great father."

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