It is with sad but grateful hearts that we honour Rev. Dr. Robert (Bob) Berry, who passed away on Friday, August 28, 2020. His life and ministry were formative for countless leaders across Canada and around the world. Together with his dear wife, Grace, Bob was hugely influential in shaping my own sense of call to Christian mission and leadership. In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:14, I am a debtor to this amazing leader.
He was the General Secretary of Canadian Baptist International Ministries from 1980 until 1994, at which time, he humbly demoted himself to become the regional representative of CBM for Europe and the Middle East, until his retirement in 1998. After his retirement and even through the pain of the loss of Grace, Bob served as Interim Pastor in local churches in Atlantic Canada. His sons, Rik, Glenn and Paul and their families were Bob’s pride and joy. Over the past few days, I have heard from dozens of people around the world whose lives were touched by Bob and Grace. While I cannot adequately summarize the expressions of sympathy and admiration that were shared, common words include mentor, leader, influencer, perspective, legacy, encourager, gentle servant and, for almost everyone, a close friend.
Bob helped open many new doors within our global Baptist mission work. With his dear friend and occasionally sparring partner, Richard Coffin, he steered the merger of Canadian Baptist Federation and Canadian Baptist International Ministries into one united organization. With John Keith, his responsiveness to the “fall of the Iron Curtain” as it was known in the late 1980s, allowed many national leaders to return to Eastern Europe to be fruitful servants in their homelands. In the spirit of integral mission (and well before we used that term), he navigated the merger of The Sharing Way and the overseas mission board. And at a time when there were only several dozen Christians in the entire country of Turkey, Bob facilitated CBM’s role in the creation of a Bible Institute which has since helped train hundreds of pastors who have led thousands of people to Christ.
But above all other things, Bob was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and had a profound love and hope for the Church. As we grieve his passing into glory, Bob has been reunited with Grace and those who have gone before him. “And the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” – Matthew 25:34
* A special fund for the training of future leaders has been created at CBM in honour of Bob and Grace Berry.