ESTES PARK, CO (June 29, 2011) – Robert Owens, superintendent of the Southeast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), was presented with the Irving C. Lambert Award, which honors excellence in urban ministry, during today’s business session of the 126th Annual Meeting of the ECC.
The award is given each year to a Covenanter whose life and practices reflect a deep commitment to urban and/or ethnic ministries. It is administered through the denomination’s Commission on Urban Ministries. The award was presented by Gary Walter, president, and Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice. Watch video of the award presentation by clicking here.
Walter praised Owens for being a “courageous pioneer with a heart for the city” and for his “creative, entrepreneurial spirit.”
In 1994, he organized New Life Covenant Church in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the first African American churches to be planted in the denomination. Owens was elected to the Southeast Conference executive board in 1996 and was elected as conference superintendent in 2007. Previous ministry experience includes serving as pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Compton, California.
Owens has helped lead the denomination’s progress in racial reconciliation and has been a participant in multiple Sankofa trips. He says he has known all too well what it is to be judged by the color of his skin and not by the content of his character – on more than one occasion, he says police have stopped him simply because he was “a black man in the wrong neighborhood.”
But it is for the content of his character and accomplishments that Owens was honored today. “Robert has faithfully and fruitfully ministered in the urban setting as a Covenant pastor for more than 30 years,” said Dave Olson, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, earlier in the morning.
Owens thanked all who have served alongside him, but saved special praise for his wife, Mary. “She is truly the butter pecan in my Häagen-Dazs ice cream,” he said to laughter.
Owens earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in new church development from Columbia Theological Seminary. He graduated in 1994 from North Park Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from California State University and a Master’s Degree in public administration from Pepperdine University.