Obituary for Billy A. Melvin
It is with a mix of gratitude and sadness that the family of Billy Alfred Melvin, resident of Englewood Florida, formerly of Nashville, Tennessee and Wheaton, Illinois, announce that Billy went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on February 1, 2018. He will be missed and celebrated by his family and friends, including his two children, Deborah Ruth (Melvin) Penwell and Daniel Henry Melvin II, their spouses, Lanny Penwell and Theresa Litavsky, eight grandchildren, Cameron (Yuko), Carly, Connor, Alicia, Kathryn, Dylan, Phoenix and Lili, three great-grandchildren, Claire, William and Lawrence, sister-in-law, Dorothy (Eby) Jedele and nieces and nephews. Billy is reunited with his wife and ministry partner of 65 years, Marcia Darlene (Eby), who went to be with the Lord on August 19, 2016. He was preceded in death by his sister, Addie Louise Terry and brother-in-law, Rev. T. O. Terry.
Born in Macon, Georgia on November 25, 1929 to Daniel Henry Melvin and Leola Dale (Seidell) Melvin, Billy spent 88 years on this earth. His formative years were spent in Durham, North Carolina. Called by God to be a Free Will Baptist (FWB) pastor, like his father, Billy studied the Bible and theology at the FWB Bible College (now Welch College) in Nashville, Tennessee from 1947- 9. He completed his undergraduate education at Taylor University, Upland Indiana, graduating in 1951 with a B.A. in English. More importantly, he met his future wife, Darlene, at Taylor University, and they were married October 26, 1952 in Napoleon, Michigan.
Upon graduation from college and ordination in the FWB Church, Billy attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky from 1951-53. Billy and Darlene drove from Kentucky through the mountains to Newport, Tennessee every weekend where they served the First FWB Church. When called to pastor the First FWB Church in Richmond, Virginia, Billy and Darlene relocated there in 1953, after their daughter, Deborah Ruth, was born. While pastoring in Richmond, Billy completed his Masters of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in 1956, and Darlene gave birth to Daniel Henry II. In 1957, Billy and Darlene moved to Norfolk, Virginia to plant Bethany FWB Church, where they spent two years. There, Billy also served as a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol, having aspired to become a pilot in his youth. God then called him, in 1959, to serve as the Executive Secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (NAFWB), headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. While living in Nashville, Billy and Darlene were active members of Horton Heights FWB Church, and made many life-long friends there. Billy served the NAFWB faithfully for eight years (1959 - 1967) when God led him to serve as Executive Director of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), located in Wheaton, Illinois.
The family moved to Wheaton, a suburb of Chicago, in 1967 and he served NAE for 28 years, retiring in 1995. During this time, God blessed NAE with extraordinary growth under Billy's leadership. At a time when tele-evangelists and megachurches came to dominate the popular image of the Evangelical Christianity community, Billy never forgot the FWB Church in the Appalachians where he served his congregation for not much more than "gas money." Under his leadership, NAE focused its mission on supporting the local Evangelical church's mission of preaching and teaching the Gospel message to families in its local community. Further, always respectful of historical Evangelical denominational traditions, under Billy's leadership NAE worked not to dilute or minimize the power of these traditions, but instead drew on the strength, common Biblical faith and sheer number of these traditions' adherents to forge a unified and national voice for Evangelical Christianity in the arenas of higher education, theology, popular culture and politics.
For Billy, this mission of bringing Christ's message of God's saving grace never lost its deeply personal and interpersonal dimension. Throughout his years of service to NAE he was committed to private Bible study and prayer, and, while no longer a pastor, continued to frequently preach and teach the Bible, locally, and as part of his work for NAE. Despite a busy travel schedule, he rarely missed teaching a Sunday School class or attending the morning worship service at Butterfield Free Will Baptist Church in Aurora, Illinois, where he was a Trustee, choir director, and interim pastor when needed. He also never lost his passion for supporting pastors, through personal coaching and counseling, and as the author of a book, Randall House Minister's Manual, and numerous articles directed to pastors.
Billy Melvin's exceptional service to the Evangelical Christian community has been recognized by numerous organizations. He received honorary doctorate degrees from Azusa Pacific University (1968), Taylor University (1984), and Huntington College (1995), and was awarded the Legion of Honor from Taylor University in 1993. He served on the Board of the American Bible Society for many years.
Upon retirement, Billy and Darlene moved to Englewood, Florida where for two decades their gifts of service, teaching, administration and encouragement continued to bless the church of Jesus Christ in their community. Their sensitivity to the needs of seniors was evident in how they spent their time and resources.
Billy spent his free time pursing his interest in home, auto and boat repair. He was his own building contractor on a house built in Nashville in 1963. Never happier than when he had a tool, paintbrush or helm in his hand, Billy was generous in sharing these skills with friends and family. His interest in buying used cars also benefited others who often asked for his advice and his help. He loved getting a great deal! Billy and Darlene enjoyed many years of travel by motor home, plane and boat. Their grandchildren looked forward to regular visits from Granddaddy and Grammie, as did extended family and their friends across the country. Their counsel and loving care are missed by many.
Memorial Services will be held in both Englewood, Florida and Nashville Tennessee. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 17, at 11:00 am, in the sanctuary of Saving Grace Bible Church, at 2550 Englewood Road, Englewood, Florida (formerly Good Shepherd Church). Contact Deb Penwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (941) 474-8470 if you wish to be notified of the details for the Nashville service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to World Relief (www.worldrelief.org), Free Will Baptist International Missions (https://fwbgo.com/give), or the donor's choice of charity.
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