Wecome to Logia, the personal blog of Paul Hartwig. Reflections and resources to enhance understanding of what God has revealed of himself in Scripture.
Every remembrance of Kevin Roy’s sudden and unexpected home-call on the 27th November 2021 is echoed in my heart with feelings of deep and uncommon sadness and loss. This tribute of mine is a personal attempt to articulate why my knowledge that Kevin is ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’ produces those strong feelings within me. I write for very personal reasons, but believe it will also honour Christ and his servant whom he loved ‘to the uttermost’.
I was in my second year at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary, 1989, when a rather idiosyncratic new lecturer was presented to the student body. His rather quirky characteristics and abstracted bearing told us we were receiving a lecturer without precedent, whose uniqueness would be easy prey for comical imitation. Who amongst us can forget his early modes of lecturing: the frequent rocking motions in all directions, his compulsive wiping of the whole face with his hand for reasons known to him alone, his gesticulations synced to his varied intonations, etc. His clothing was also memorable, especially his short ties and those trousers which continually needed preventative intervention- explicit and visible to all! Dr Roy was a phenomenon to us, and his entire manner was entirely the opposite to the composed and well groomed Dr Crutchley. We were blessed by some very able teachers, but the manner of Kevin surpassed them all.
Kevin was my lecturer mainly in the fields of Systematic Theology and Church History. In those subjects he came into his own, excelling especially in Church History. I’m sure we all knew then, and still do, that Dr Roy knew Church History. Though in teaching Systematics Kevin frequently expressed his ignorance of certain details (he was never pretentious), in matters of Church History he infrequently expressed ignorance. His immersion in Church History - especially that story in its South African chapter - and his own living faith in Jesus Christ had combined in him to give us a lecturer who eschewed all extremes and sectarian Christianity and humbly sought to direct his life and students ‘to the faith once for all given to the saints’. I now can identify him as a reformed catholic. This made him a friend to the Charismatics and the Reformed, the Activists and the Pietists. He was a catholic (with a small ‘c’), a mere Christian alert to any ‘tribalism’ in the Kingdom of God. It was also evident to me that Kevin loved his Bible. Though he did not give any courses in Biblical Exegesis, his love for the Scriptures and belief in their inerrancy clearly fuelled his life and ministry. He would frequently share from some text that had just spoken to him in his private reading. It was refreshing to have a lecturer who was not ‘preparing lectures’ but one who taught from out of a life in tune with both the Saviour and the Scriptures. Little did I know in 1989 how formative that inimitable Dr Roy was to be in my life and career.
Fast forward to 1999. In this year I decided to enroll with Pretoria University through CTBS for my PhD. My topic interfaced with the subjects of Eschatology and Ecclesiology, and I knew who I wanted as my Supervisor. Kevin was glad to take on the role, and I think from that time onwards he became a friend who travelled with me through subjects and materials that we both felt passionately about. I was very fortunate to have someone at hand even in Pinelands to give knowledgeable feedback on the 19th century Brethren Movement. We spent some good time together in his home, a home which I always felt matched the friendly, sympathetic and godly man that characterised Kevin. My conviction that all theological research should be illustrated by Church History probably grew out of that formative time in my relationship with him. When I graduated in 2002 at St James Church, how glad I am now that it was Kevin who presented me to the assembly for the conferral of my PhD. Who would have guessed that evening that God was preparing me to return to the Seminary 11 years later to lecture in those exact subjects Kevin had taught me - Systematic Theology and Church History!
We shared much in common. We both liked to walk alone to meditate and pray. We both served in Baptist pastorates. We both taught Theology and Church History at the same institution and then both of us went on to pastor churches outside our denomination. We both wanted the Baptist Union to adopt a clearer theological identity in terms of creation and gender. And we both embraced a more reformed catholic identity in theology. Yet in other ways we are very unlike. Kevin was a ‘consultant’ for me who would give wise and experienced guidance. He was an authority in South African and Baptist History. He was a mature man in life and in thought. Even though living far away in Carlisle, I could text him with a query and just share something I had found interesting in church history. He was a senior friend on the one path we were both travelling toward the Celestial City.
How grateful I am now that Heather and I could have visited him and Ina in 2019 in Carlisle. Closer personal friendship around common theological and denominational matters were formed in his cozy loft above a busy family home. The memories of standing with him at Hadrian’s Wall in the pouring rain and talking of the Roman Empire and Early Christianity will not be forgotten. And of course Kevin driving those narrow farm lanes with his body in the car and his mind somewhere else! He was as inimitable as ever. I have lost a comrade and friend in Kevin. But I think he has given me enough over the past 33 years to continue some of his work in his absence. When the Master of the household calls one of his servants to leave the fields and come in to the Main House, who can begrudge such a honour to a fellow worker, and a veteran at that. I’m very grateful that the Master sent him to work in the fields close to where I was learning to labour. The Lord could have sent him somewhere else. Later, when I am called in, we can complete this good relationship that has only just begun.
I close with a text that I think Kevin personally cherished, and I often think of him when I read it.
“ For this is what the high and exalted One says – he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15)
Paul B. Hartwig