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Conyers loses cancer battle

Aug. 23, 2004

By STEPHANIE FRANKS, editor in chief

"The deepest spiritual truths will always be shrouded in mystery or they wouldn't be deep truths," Dr. R. Scott Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church Waco, said referring back to a conversation with Dr. Abda J. Conyers.


Dr. Abda Johnson Conyers, one of George W. Truett Theological Seminary's first faculty members and who many called "Chip," died July 18 at age 60 in Houston after a 10-year battle with cancer. Some say that Conyers' deep faith in the mystery of truth and suffering was an amazement itself.

"He was the kind of person who, even though he was constantly in touch with that dynamic, did not dwell on it," Walker said. "He squeezed as much life out as possible."

Conyers joined Truett faculty in 1994. Before that, Conyers was chairman of the department of religion and philosophy at Charleston Southern University in South Carolina.

Conyers' books include "The Eclipse of Heaven: The Loss of Transcendence in Church and Society;" "A Basic Christian Theology;" "The End: What Jesus Really Said About the Last Things;" "God, Hope, and History: Jürgen Moltmann's Christian Concept of History;" "The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe of Power and Profit;" and "Last Things: The Heart of New Testament Eschatology."

Walker and Conyers met when both attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Conyers earned his doctorate. Since then, the two men were friends. Walker said Conyers would sometimes preach for him and was an active member in the church.

Two days before Conyers passed away, Walker visited him in Houston. Conyers felt strong enough to go to a coffee shop and look at books. According to Walker, that day was an example of Conyers' life: sitting to talk in the midst of literature and thought.

Conyers' favorite place for writing was McDonald's or Denny's, "surrounded by people and conversation, not separated from life but in midst of life," Walker said.

"He had deep convictions but also had an incredible capacity for toleration which I think is incredibly lacking in Christianity today."

The last thing Walker remembers talking to Conyers about was Conyers teaching class in the fall.

"He was very positive and thoroughly loved his time here and at Baylor," Walker said.

Conyers was one of the first faculty members hired for Truett Seminary along with Dr. Ruth Ann Foster.

A week after his appointment at Baylor, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

According to Foster, there was a great deal of professionalism "even after just receiving his diagnosis."

Conyers would sometimes have students meet at his house whenever he was too weak to drive to the campus.

"He believed theology was very practical and thought students should know how to think theologically to enhance their ministry," Foster said. "His vitality of life was even evident in his illness."

Conyers earned his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is survived by his wife, Debbie; a daughter, Emily; a son, A.J. IV; and one grandson, Paul.

Memorials can be made to the A.J. "Chip" Conyers Scholarship Fund at Truett Seminary, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, TX 76798-7050.

"He'll be missed," Foster said.