Donald V. Wideman, 95, passed away Wednesday (May 3) in Kansas City, Missouri. A leader in Missouri Baptist life, Wideman served as executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention from 1987–1997 and was elected as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Born Aug. 13, 1927, in St. Louis, Missouri, Wideman graduated valedictorian at Crystal High School in 1945. He volunteered for the Navy during World War II. Wideman married Marian Kiepe on Jan. 27, 1951, and they had four children: David, Kathy, Tom, and Becky.
Wideman attended St. Louis Baptist College (now Missouri Baptist University) before graduating from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He pastored four churches in Missouri: Oakland Baptist in De Soto, First Baptist of Oakville, Liberty Manor, and First Baptist of North Kansas City. During his stint at that at the latter church, he was elected as president of the Missouri Baptist Convention (1979-1980) and second vice present of the Southern Baptist Convention (1984-1985).
He later called his year as an SBC officer “the low point of my life.” At the 1984 SBC annual meeting in Kansas City, he lost the race for first vice president (which traditionally went to a local pastor from the host city) to Texas motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. But Wideman was elected on the next ballot as second vice president. He praised Ziglar as “nothing but a gentleman to me.” But he as he told Word&Way in 1997, SBC President Charles Stanley shut him out of a meaningful role. Stanley, who died last month at age 90, was the fourth president in the rightward shift of the SBC in a movement led by Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.
After pastoring, Wideman led the MBC with his tenure ending just before a movement pushed the body further rightward. As he ended his time leading the MBC, then-Word&Way Editor Bill Webb praised Wideman as “a proactive, wise, and courageous leader.”
Following his retirement from the MBC, Wideman served as executive director of the Partee Center for Baptist Historical Studies at William Jewell College in Liberty and also served as the college’s interim chaplain and vice president of religious life. He continued to teach Sunday School at First Baptist in North Kansas City until he was 90.
“I am a grateful man, grateful for what God has done,” Wideman said in 2016. “I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and was 20 years old before I went to church. I’m grateful for the life, the family, and the church God has given me.”
He is survived by his wife of 72 years, his four children, 10 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. A private family graveside service was held at Glenridge Cemetery. A celebration of life is planned for 11 a.m. on May 27 at First Baptist Church in North Kansas City.