Regent Mourns the Loss of Theologian Dr. Vinson Synan
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (March 17, 2020) – The Rev. Dr. Harold Vinson Synan died on March 15, 2020 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Born on December 1, 1934 in Hopewell, Virginia, he was one of seven children of Joseph Alexander and Minnis (Purdue) Synan. Synan is survived by his wife Carol Lee (Fuqua) Synan, four children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Dr. Vinson Synan was a powerhouse minister who God used to bring His people together and grow His kingdom,” said Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson, founder, chancellor and CEO of Regent University. “He was also a world-class scholar who recorded God’s mighty works and trained new generations of ministers as dean of the Regent University School of Divinity.”
Synan graduated in 1967 from the University of Georgia, earning a Ph.D. in American Social and Intellectual History. As a distinguished and prolific scholar and educator, he was an eminent historian of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, publishing numerous books, articles, scholarly papers, and giving many presentations on the subjects of history and theology germane to his Pentecostal heritage and his interest in spiritual renewal of the church.
“Today, the Regent University School of Divinity is known as a center for research on revivals and renewal movements,” said Dr. Corné J. Bekker, dean of the Regent University School of Divinity. “We are indebted to Dr. Synan for not only establishing and nurturing the robust research stream in church history at Regent, but his love for God’s church continues to inspire us to serve the body of Christ in faithfulness and humility.”
Following the Pentecostal World Conference in 1970, Synan was instrumental in forming the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) and was elected as the society’s first general secretary. He also served, over several years, as the society’s newsletter editor. As a leader in the Pentecostal Holiness Church he served as general secretary, then assistant general superintendent, and later as director of evangelism, inclusive of the years 1973 to 1985.
A distinguished scholar of the Holy Spirit’s renewal of the church, Synan was magnanimous in his acceptance and love for all Christians. With a gracious spirit, Synan embraced the body of Christ in all its diversity. He touched and influenced countless lives as a pastor, denominational leader, scholar, teacher, and mentor.
One of Synan’s greatest accomplishments was his dedication in joining with other Christian leaders in opening the door to dialogue, building understanding, and fostering honor and mutual respect among leaders and participants in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. He has been recognized for his instrumentality in building relationships with leaders in the Roman Catholic church relative to spiritual renewal in both the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions.
Synan served as dean of the Regent University School of Divinity from 1994 to 2006, and then achieved emeritus status while he continued his contributions to teaching and mentoring. While serving as dean, Synan was instrumental in supporting and encouraging the emerging educational resource of online learning programs and courses. As a strong advocate for women’s roles in ministry, Synan initiated the hiring of the first female faculty members at the School of Divinity.
During the 100th Anniversary year of the Azusa Street Revival, Synan initiated a special event at Regent to celebrate this auspicious landmark in church history. Faculty and students collaborated in presenting a dramatic presentation in which the testimonies of Azusa Street participants were recreated as dramatic readings by students dressed in period costumes.
Dr. and Mrs. Synan were known for their gracious hospitality, often inviting faculty and staff, with their respective spouses, to visit their beautiful home to enjoy times of worship, fellowship, and sharing in community meals. Vinson was always willing to joyfully lead worship at these times and during faculty meetings as he accompanied songs of praise with his guitar.
He was intensely interested in supporting the scholarship of both faculty and students and generous in his mentoring of those who needed scholarly guidance. With his leadership, the School of Divinity progressed to new levels of moving forward in its vision and mission to the glory of God.
During the final phase of his prolific career, Synan and his wife moved to Oklahoma, where they would experience the joys of nearby family. With that move, Synan continued in educational leadership as interim dean of the College of Theology and Ministry at Oral Roberts University, later serving as Scholar in Residence. In 2017, he presented a moving address in Rome at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
In 2018, Synan, as a son of the Commonwealth of Virginia, was named to the Historical Hall of Fame of the Virginia History Series, a nonprofit devoted to the collection, organization, presentation, and dissemination of information about Virginia’s history. Synan served the global Church and academy with great faithfulness. He will be greatly missed at Regent University, but his legacy continues with eternal impact.