ROCKVILLE, Md. (BP)–Robert D. Crowley, a former trustee of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who was instrumental in Paige Patterson’s election as SEBTS president in 1992, died Feb. 14 after more than 44 years of ministry. He was 80.
Crowley, who served on Southeastern’s trustee board from 1985-95 and chairman from 1987-90, “was an instrumental figure in the Conservative Resurgence and the re-commitment to biblical inerrancy at the institution,” according to a news release from the Wake Forest, N.C., seminary.
Crowley was pastor emeritus of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., where he served from 1956 until his retirement in 1995.
“He was at SEBTS during those tumultuous years when it was making the transition from a decidedly liberal institution to a conservative one that proclaimed the authority of the Bible,” said Kenneth Keathley, senior vice president of academic administration and dean of the faculty. “The school went through a tumultuous time when its theological future and very existence was unsure. There were a lot of things the board of trustees did, sacrifices they made, that had they not done them, Southeastern would not be what it is today.”
Southeastern’s current president, Daniel Akin, said he and Patterson, who led the seminary from 1992-2003, have said “on many occasions that neither one of us would have served at Southeastern were it not for Bob Crowley. He is as responsible as any person for the miraculous theological turnaround of Southeastern Seminary.
“I am grateful to God for all He did through this wonderful pastor, husband and father,” Akin said.
Crowley is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Elizabeth “Libby” Crowley; two daughters, Kathleen Coley and Christine Elizabeth Crowley; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His son-in-law, Ken Coley, is professor of education and leadership at SEBTS.
A news release from Montrose Baptist Church reported that Crowley — “in the mid-1970s at a time when few churches were considering Christian education and building schools” –- led the church to establish a fully accredited K-12 school, Montrose Christian School, and a daycare, Montrose Christian Child Development Center.
“Countless families have been (and continue to be) reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through these vital ministries of Montrose Baptist Church,” the news release stated.
Upon retirement, Crowley and his wife “focused their energies on Summit Lake Camp and Middle Creek Bible Conference, ministries they founded in 1969 and 1983, respectively). Summit Lake Camp was an innovative camp in its founding: it was among the first integrated camps where children of all races came to play games and hear the good news of Jesus Christ,” the news release stated. “In a time when Washington, D.C., and the nation were struggling through racial issues and riots in the streets, Pastor Crowley had the vision and the wisdom to bring the gospel of God’s peace to children and families of many different races.”
Crowley had “a larger-than-life personality matched only by his great love for his family and the congregations he served,” the news release stated. In addition to Montrose, Crowley led Upper Seneca Baptist Church in Cedar Grove, Md., from 1951-56.
“Pastor Crowley was an innovative and visionary leader,” the news release continued. “He kept a motto hanging in his office, ‘Keep your eye on the goal.’ Indeed, his ministry was quite focused. He led Montrose Baptist Church to do missions work in Brazil and Romania, building chapels for congregations.”
Crowley “had been declining in health for several years and passed away at home after an extended illness,” the news release stated. Crowley was the son of the first radio preacher in the Washington, D.C., area, the late Dale Crowley Sr., according to the church.
In SBC life, Crowley also served as a trustee of the former Annuity Board (now GuideStone Financial Resources) in the 1970s.
Crowley’s funeral was held Feb. 17 at Montrose Baptist Church.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s communications office.