By Sharon Mager
ABILENE, Texas—Kenneth (Ken) Lyle Sr., Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) executive director from 1983 to 1993, died on April 10. Lyle was known as a visionary who loved missions and listened to people. In addition to his ministry in Maryland, he served as director of missions for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association from 1970 to 1979, and later as director of the New England Baptist Convention from 1993 until his retirement in 2000. He also pastored churches in Mississippi, New York, Georgia, and Texas and he and his wife Judy began serving with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), then known as the Home Mission Board, in 1963. Lyle was also a veteran of the United States Army.
Lyle was born in Houston, Texas, in 1936. After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College, a Master of Divinity from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and an honorary doctorate from Georgetown College, Kentucky. He and his wife, Judy, married in 1957.
In Maryland/Delaware, Lyle is remembered as a leader who was a dreamer with a passion for missions. John Roberts, Woodbrook Baptist Church Pastor Emeritus and Baptist historian, said that for Lyle, the calling came first, then the administration to implement it. God used Lyle to lead the convention through a structural organization, overcoming financial challenges, streamlining staff, and transitioning offices from Lutherville to Columbia.
Roberts was a part of the search committee that recommended Lyle. The men became friends, and for awhile, Roberts was Lyle and his family’s pastor. Roberts said Lyle and his wife were fun people, who truly cared for others.
Extending that care to the world, Lyle led the convention’s partnership missions to Africa, resulting in seventy-nine churches and 7,400 public decisions to follow Jesus, and later under his tenure, the BCM/D entered into a Latvia partnership.
According to W. Loyd Allen’s book, “You Are A Great People,” one of the most important contributions to future Baptist work during Lyle’s tenure was his work with contextualized theological education.
He was especially concerned about bi-vocational pastors, Roberts said, “He had real sympathy for what bi-vocational pastors were up against in sermon preparation with limited theological education resources to draw on.”
Lyle, along with Roberts, David Flumbaum (a former BCM/D president), and BCM/D Staff Member Ron Brown, were part of the Northeast Task Team for Theological Education (NETTE), partnering with conventions in Pennsylvania-South Jersey, New York, and New England to provide contextualized ministry training for ministers in the Northeast. By 1995, NETTIE had centers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts and produced 30 graduates.
Lyle was also admired for his ability to listen to friends and colleagues and consider and implement their ideas. Roberts said Lyle had a “program of listening,” which included going to association leaders and pastors and asking, “What can the convention do for you that we’re not doing?”
During his retirement years, Lyle served as a consultant to the Mississippi Baptist Convention in Jackson, Miss., and as interim pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, in Sweetwater, Texas.
Reflecting on Lyle’s ministry, Flumbaum said, “He loved to preach, he loved to teach, and he was a good spiritual leader.”
He is preceded in death by his brother James, his mother Lucy and his father Oscar Lyle.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, his children, Christy and Bobby Waddail; Sandy and Duane Hammack; Ken and Anita Lyle, Jr., and Scott and Missy Lyle, as well as eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 pm on April 13 at the Welcome Center of First Baptist Church, Abilene, and the funeral will be at the church on April 14. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to City Light Ministries of First Baptist Church, Abilene.