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Former Southern Seminary professor Oates dies at 82

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Wayne Oates, a former professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., died Oct. 21 at Louisville’s Baptist East Hospital of complications from a recent stroke. He was 82.
Oates taught at Southern Seminary for 45 years, from 1945-90. He was most known for his work in the field of pastoral care, where he combined theology, psychology and psychiatry. Credited with coining the term “workaholic,” Oates was the author of more than 50 books on pastoral care.
“He is probably one of the most prolific writes in the field, and he’s definitely the most prolific Baptist writer in the field,” said Leigh Conver, the Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Counseling at Southern Seminary. “His influence was felt not only here at Southern Seminary, but in departments of pastoral care and counseling at the other five Southern Baptist seminaries as well.
“He’s going to be greatly missed,” Conver continued. “Right up to the very end he was available to persons looking for care and he was available to students yearning for consultation.”
Born June 24, 1917, in Greenville, S.C., Oates earned degrees from Wake Forest College (now University) and Southern Seminary.
Prior to his tenure with Southern Seminary, Oates was an instructor of philosophy and psychology at Wake Forest College and chaplain at Kentucky Baptist Hospital. He also served as pastor of churches in Kentucky and North Carolina.
In 1974, Oates joined the faculty of the University of Louisville as professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, a position he held for 18 years. He established the Wayne E. Oates Institute in Louisville in 1993, an organization which promotes dialogue among the medical, religious and social work communities.
“Dr. Wayne Oates was one of the most formative influences on Southern Seminary in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “His influence went far beyond Southern Seminary as he shaped and defined the field of pastoral care. He gave many years of his life to Southern Seminary and the training of ministers, and for that he deserves our respect.”
Mohler praised Oates for earning the respect of the medical establishment through his engagement with psychiatry and psychology. “He was a larger-than-life figure” who dominated the faculty during his tenure, Mohler said. “His approach was accepted by some and rejected by others, but he could not be ignored.”
Oates is survived by his wife, Pauline; a son, Charles; and a grandson. His son William preceded him in death in May. A funeral service will be held today, Oct. 25, at 4 p.m. Eastern at St. Matthews Baptist Church, 3515 Grandview Ave. in Louisville. Memorials may be sent to the Wayne E. Oates Institute, 1101-A Cherokee Road, Louisville, KY 40204.

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  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›