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.”