In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Rebecca Knott McKinley, 1929-2024

Portrait of Rebecca McKinley. IMB Photo

Rebecca Knott McKinley, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Zimbabwe, died March 18, 2024. She was 94.

Rebecca was born May 23, 1929, in Granville County, North Carolina, to Samuel Lee and Lois Daniel Knott. She graduated from Berea High School, and received her bachelor’s degree at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her Master of Religious Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the WMU Training School in Louisville, Kentucky.

She met Hugh Thomas McKinley in seminary and married him on May 24, 1953. Her obituary reports that the couple for, “70 years shared a deep and abiding love and a relationship Rebecca described as ‘partners in love and ministry.’ That partnership took them first to Stetson University where Hugh was an instructor in the department of religion and Rebecca worked in the alumni office and birthed their first child. In 1955 they returned to the seminary in Kentucky where Hugh completed his doctoral dissertation and the couple served as ‘pastor and pastor’s wife’ at Magnolia Baptist Church.”

Her obituary added: “After learning of the great need for personnel to train leaders for churches in other parts of the world and being reminded of Jesus’ instruction ‘to make disciples of all nations’ the couple decided to contact the Baptist Foreign Mission Board instead of returning to Stetson.”

In 1957, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed Rebecca and Hugh missionaries to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). They served at the Baptist seminary in the central part of the country near until they retired in 1994.

Her obituary also states that: “Although Rebecca’s missionary career in Zimbabwe was limited to one geographical area, her ministry was far-reaching. She was a devoted wife and mother. She helped to train church leaders from six countries in Africa by serving as a seminary teacher, registrar, administrative secretary,and leader of campus discipleship groups. Rebecca also ministered in the local churches, the local association of churches and national convention and the mission organization. Additionally, she wrote and edited literature for use in the churches of eastern and southern Africa.”

Rebecca is survived by her husband, Hugh Thomas McKinley, and three children: Marsha Lynn McKinley of Durham, North Carolina, Margaret Rose Fortenberry (Robert) of Clinton, Mississippi, and Dr. Dale Thomas McKinley (Ferrial Adam) of Johannesburg, South Africa; two granddaughters; three great grandsons; and six cherished nieces and nephews and their spouses.

A funeral service was held March 24 at Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina.

Read an obituary here.