Owens Honored with First NPTS Distinguished Service Award

By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (January 29, 2014) — Robert Owens, the superintendent of the Southeast Conference, barely made it to the Midwinter Conference evening reception honoring him as the first recipient of the North Park Theological Seminary Alumni Award for Distinguished Service on Tuesday.

He had been at the event on Sunday but flew to Nashville to perform a funeral service on Monday for retired Covenant pastor Robert Dawson, who died January 19, and Dawson’s wife, Rachael, who died three days later. Robert Dawson had been Owens’s close friend and “spiritual father in ministry.”

Most of the flights from Nashville had been cancelled or delayed. Owens’s flight was one of those delayed, but he ultimately arrived at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare less than an hour before the presentation.

That selfless commitment to serving others was just another example of why Owens was chosen to be the first recipient of the award, Dave Kersten, dean of North Park Theological Seminary, told the gathering.

Kersten enumerated the other reasons—a bachelor of arts in psychology from Cal-State University, a master’s degree in public administration from Pepperdine University, a master of divinity from NPTS, and a doctor of ministry in new church development from Columbia Theological Seminary.

But the academic achievements actually were among the lesser reasons, Kersten said. It was Owens’s service to people in and outside the church that made it easy for the selection committee to choose Owens, who also received the Irving C. Lambert Award at the denomination’s Annual Meeting in 2011. That award honors excellence in urban ministry

Owens served Grace Covenant Church in Compton, California from 1984 to 1991, planted and served New Life Covenant Church in Atlanta from 1992 to 2001, and has since then led the Southeast Conference as associate superintendent and superintendent.

“He is a pastor’s pastor, he is a preacher’s preacher, he’s a mentor of young pastors, he is a bishop of souls,” said Kersten.

In accepting the honor, Owens first thanked his wife of 38 years, Mary Ann, and said the award belongs to her as well. He quipped, “She is the butter pecan of my Häagen-Dazs ice cream.”

Owens told the gathering that marrying her was one of the four most-important decisions he has made in his life. The others were committing his life to Jesus, join together with the Covenant, and then deciding to enroll at NPTS.

“These four decisions have helped to shape who I am today,” Owens said.

His strong commitment to mentoring young people developed at North Park, he said. There were few African Americans attending the school when he started there, and he discussed the issue with then school-president David Horner. The president asked him to mentor the African American students on campus.

Owens also celebrated the work of the denomination. “We got something that can help to shape the kingdom of God,” he said.




  • Congratulations, Robert! You are a wonderfully caring person who has served our Lord faithfully! I was blessed to be able to serve the Southeast Conference with you as superintendent. Clay and I value yours and Mary Anne’s friendship and count knowing you both as one of the treasured blessings we have received from God. May he continue to lead you and bless you.

  • Robert and Mary Ann introduced me to Grace Covenant in Compton when I became superintendent in 1987. How I admired even then the devotion they both had for that need ministry while serving the congregation as a bi-vocational pastor.

    Robert should write up the amazing journey from his childhood that led to his well deserved honors as an African-American pastor who enriched our rather white denomination with grace, humility, and vision of what could be. He taught me and many others what it is to be a ‘band of brothers’ who truly love God with all their hearts. I learned a lot about godliness from and with him. God is good! Mary Ann grew up in an amazing home in which servanthood was lived out under the wing of a great mom.

    John and Miriam Notehelfer

  • I’m so proud of you dad but not at all surprised at this honor that has been given to you. We joke in the family that you have a direct connection to God! Your love for him and to people is definitely proof of that! Congrats to you and thanks for being my dad!!
    Much love,

  • I had the pleasure to work hand in hand with Robert on the SEC Board for about 15 yrs. I can say without reservation he has a heart for God, is a man’s man, is a people person, a gifted leader, a compassionate soul and most emphatically,our brother in Christ. If I had an actual brother I would like for him to be Robert. Congratulations!

  • Blessings on you Robert for the work that you do and have done. I can think of no others that are so deserving. I would add that you are a friends, friend. I praise God for you and your ministry. May the Lord continue to place you and Rachel’s feet in a large place.

    Your Friends,
    Thomas and Janice Robinson

  • I am so glad that Robert has been recognized in this way. He is an amazing servant of Christ both in and outside of the church. I am grateful to have known him and Mary Ann through my years with our church. Congratulations and many blessings as you continue your work for the kingdom.

  • Warmest greetings and congratulations to my friend Robert Owens. You are very deserving of the honor the Seminary has bestowed on you. You have been a great blessing to the Covenant Church, to North Park, and to the congregations and conference you have and are serving. Best wishes to you and Rachel.

    Craig and Dotty Anderson
    Punta Gorda, FL

  • I am honored to know Robert and to call him both friend and mentor. He deserves to be the first recipient of this award.

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