Bishop Owen, mission leader, dies at 78

Retired United Methodist Bishop Raymond Harold Owen, a "passionate witness" for Jesus Christ, died May 15 in Oklahoma City. He was 78.

Owen was elected to the episcopacy in 1992 by the denomination's South Central Jurisdiction. He served the San Antonio Area, comprising the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande annual (regional) conferences, until his retirement in 2000.

Survivors include two sons, Darryl and Dyton, who are both United Methodist clergymen.

"My dad was always the one who was passionate about helping God to build God's kingdom," said the Rev. Darryl Owen. "He was very evangelism-oriented, mission-oriented and construction-oriented."

Raymond Owen led building projects in every place he ministered, his son recalled, ranging from educational wings for local churches to a new conference center in San Antonio. He also founded Southern Hills United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

"I remember he asked my brother and me, as young kids, to pull the nails out of old boards so they could reuse the nails" for a church's construction project, he said. The church "didn't have enough money, so we were saving everything we could."

Retired Bishop Joel Martinez, who succeeded Owen as leader of the San Antonio area, remembered him as a good colleague and friend who promoted responsible stewardship.

"He valued evangelism and church growth and challenged the churches to do new things and to grow in numbers and in spirit," Martinez said.

Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr., who currently leads the Oklahoma Area, called Owen "one of the finest Christian men I have ever met. He was a soft-spoken but passionate witness for Jesus."

The two men became acquainted through their Texas connection while Owen was bishop and Hayes was a clergyman in the Texas Annual Conference.

Hayes described one visit to the San Antonio Area headquarters, when he was in the city for a speaking engagement. Throughout that building, he saw pictures and mementoes honoring Owen's ministry there. "That has stayed with me," he said. "I understood the deep respect they had for him."

Tennessee native

One of seven children, Owen was born April 21, 1932, near Gleason, Tenn. He served in the U.S. Army for 12 years. He and his wife, Lavell, were married in 1952.

He had a bachelor's degree and doctorate of divinity from Oklahoma City University and master's degrees from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and Scarritt College, Nashville, Tenn. He held the distinguished alumnus award from both Perkins and Oklahoma City University, where he was a trustee.

Owen began his career in the ministry in 1959 at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Lawton, Okla. He was the Bartlesville District superintendent, 1976-81, and served other local churches, including First United Methodist Church in Bartlesville, where he had been for 10 years when elected to the episcopacy.

Owen was a delegate to every General Conference, beginning in 1980, until his election to the episcopacy. He also served on the World Methodist Council.

Besides his wife and sons, Owen is survived by four grandchildren. Another son, Dana, preceded him in death in 1973.

A memorial service is planned at 1:30 p.m. May 18, at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

In lieu of flowers, memorials have been established with Epworth Villa Benevolent Fund, 14901 N. Penn, Oklahoma City, OK 73134, and The Dana Owen Scholarship, Oklahoma City University, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73106.

*McCray is editor of the Oklahoma United Methodist Contact.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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