A Life Well Lived: Remembering the Rev. Dr. Wayne Bell

Editor’s note: The complete obituary for Dr. Bell may be seen here. 

Rev. Dr. Wayne H. Bell, President-Emeritus of Lexington Theological Seminary, died peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning, April 17, after a glorious Easter Sunday filled with music, hope and family. He is survived by his wife of almost 73 years, Virginia Marsh Bell, their children, grandchildren and extended family.

Dr. Bell served Lexington Theological Seminary as President from 1974-1986. During his presidency, he completed a successful campaign that doubled the endowment, increased enrollment and expanded the footprint of the campus.

“He was a tremendous thought leader,” said LTS President Charisse L. Gillett.

Rev. Dr. Bell continued to be a strong advocate for the Seminary.

“Indeed, he was one of the strongest supporters of the Seminary’s new model for theological education and its renewed focus on serving the church,” Gillett said.

He lived his life fully engaged with family and the communities in which he lived. A committed advocate for social justice, he was known for his compassionate ministering to congregations and his astute leadership of organizations associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Born June 9, 1919, in Dayton, Washington, son of the late Harry L. and Inez Fortune Bell, he was educated in the public schools of Wenatchee and Ellensburg, WA and Harlan, KY.

He was a graduate of Transylvania University and Lexington Theological Seminary, with Clinical Pastoral Education at Rochester State Mental Hospital in Rochester, NY, and continuing studies at Union Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Transylvania University and an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from Episcopal Theological Seminary of Kentucky.

Prior to serving as President of Lexington Theological Seminary, Dr. Bell was Senior Minister of Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville, TN; Seventh Street Christian Church, Richmond, VA; and First Christian Church, Shelbyville, KY.

Throughout his ministry he was involved in issues of religion and mental health, social justice, ecumenical relationships and the education of ministers.

He served on many national and regional boards of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), including the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, the Commission on Brotherhood Finance, the Council on Christian Unity, Division of Higher Education, the Virginia Christian Missionary Society, the Tennessee Christian Missionary Society and the Virginia Council of Churches.

While President of LTS, he served on the executive committee of the Theological Association of the United States and Canada and was a founding member of the Appalachian Ministerial Education Resource Center (AMERC).

He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Transylvania University, a devoted Rotarian, and an active member of Central Christian Church, where he served as elder and lay leader. Following retirement from the Seminary, he was a Donovan Scholar at the University of Kentucky in Russian studies and facilitated, on behalf of the National Council of Churches, several dialogue meetings with the Russian Orthodox Church in the former Soviet Union.

He served as interim pastor for churches in central Kentucky and was the coordinator for the Theological Education Association of Mid-America.

During the latter part of his life, he was an active member of the American Society on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease International. He joined his wife in making many presentations on religion, spirituality and aging in the US and abroad.

The family is comforted by the bright and hopeful words of the family’s pastor in his Easter morning sermon. He spoke of the “Easter posture” in which we lean, bright-eyed and heart forward, into the future. In the Christian tradition, “death is a comma, not a period; the worst thing is never the last thing.” We know that the ripples of Wayne Bell’s good life will live on for generations to come.

A service of remembrance will take place at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, April 23, at Central Christian Church, 205 E. Short St., with a reception to follow. Memorial gifts may be made to Lexington Theological Seminary, Transylvania University or Central Christian Church Building Fund.

He is predeceased by a son, David Wayne Bell (Carol Flitner Bell); a granddaughter, Jennifer Little; brothers Keith and Winston Bell; and sister Lavonne Bell Smith. His life is celebrated by his children Brenda Bell, Marsha Uselton (Terry), Laura Bell (David Beckett), Dr. Kendall Bell (Linda); grandchildren Laura Bogle (Katie Goslee), Anna Bogle, Maggie Bogle (Peter Shriner), Nathan Uselton (Andrea), Beth Uselton (Chad Winn), Sarah Bell Helevang (David), Luke Bell, Jane Bell, Amy Little Bey (Jeremy); Melissa Bell Jaggers (Tommy), Miles Bell; and great grandchildren Dagon, Kaden and Kelsey Uselton, Wiley and Mavis Shriner, Johanna, Willa and Ellie Goslee-Bogle, Virginia Winn, Gus and Graham Bey, Isaac and Eliza Jaggers; brother, Raymond L. Bell, and a large extended family.