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FIRST-PERSON: Remembering ‘Uncle Wayne’

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following reflection by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was written after the death May 23 of Wayne Ward, 90, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1951-91 and a cousin of Patterson’s wife Dorothy. Patterson was in Europe when he wrote this reflection.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Uncle Wayne was actually the cousin of my wife Dorothy’s father. Her father Charles Kelley and Wayne Ward grew up together in Piggott, Ark. To our whole family, he was always known as “Uncle Wayne,” a moniker of profound respect and deep affection.

We disagreed about not a few vital matters, but agreed about many others. Like many others, Dr. Ward shaped my life. Today I miss him already even while I rejoice in his arrival home. Here is why we loved him, though not in any particular order.

First, he taught me to witness by example. On a flight from Dallas to Louisville, he once probably saved a plane from disaster simply because he was late arriving in order to lead a man to Christ.

Second, he was passionate about the biblical languages, especially Greek, and believed that no one could teach theology well without these languages since the best theology was exegetical theology. The greatest class Dorothy and I ever had was from Dr. Ward in a summer term at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Though it was a class in “Contemporary Theology,” we spent the first hour of every morning with our Greek Testaments open, pouring over the sacred text.

Third, Dr. Ward was a preacher’s preacher. Through exegesis, illustrations that walked around Zion and applications that took you to your knees, he was a pulpit master as his preaching schedule every weekend demonstrated. Who among those 10,000 that attended the Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference will ever forget the three-part series on the Holy Spirit?

Fourth, “Uncle Wayne” was always the encourager of young preachers. He would sit and weep when I would preach. Thinking back on my pedestrian efforts, I sometimes wonder if they were tears of desperation or just downright agony. If so, he never let on, but would hug me at the conclusion and tell the boy preacher how greatly God had used the message in his own life. It was he who persisted with me to send a book manuscript to Zondervan when I was a second-year student in seminary. Three printings later, I realized that I owed everything that happened to my kinsman by marriage.

In all of this, I was but one of thousands touched and blessed by this remarkable scholar/preacher. So, my treasured mentor, I must bid you goodbye. Today here in Europe, my heart feels lonely and strangely empty — like something of great value had been pilfered. But I am warmed and comforted by the quiet confidence of the Holy Spirit about whom “Uncle Wayne” so often preached, the One who wafted him away to undiluted glory and blessing, and will come soon enough for each of us and for that family reunion in the heavenlies. God bless your memory, my dear mentor and kinsman.

    About the Author

  • Paige Patterson