LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Franklin Owen, executive secretary of the Kentucky Baptist Convention from 1972-83, died Aug. 30 in Lexington. He was 93.
Duke McCall, retired president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, described Owen as “both a friend and a scholar.” He was “one of those modern saints,” McCall said. “He is one of those whose religion simply flowed out of his everyday activity and context.”
Ted Sisk, KBC president in 1976-77, noted that Owen “was one of the best preachers I ever knew.”
“I appreciated his great denominational statesmanship,” said Sisk, retired pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington. “He was a good, honorable brother in Christ and he left a good trail everywhere he went.”
Owen was state convention president in 1964-65 and preached the KBC annual sermon in 1967. He also served as a trustee of Georgetown College, the Western Recorder, the former Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and Southern Seminary.
Harold Sanders, Owen’s predecessor, told KBC board members at the time of Owen’s election as executive secretary that he “has the vision, concern and dedication required for this office,” while former Western Recorder Editor C.R. Daley described Owen as “a person of transparent honesty, integrity and openness.”
During his inaugural Western Recorder column in 1972, titled “I’ll be Frank,” Owen urged Kentucky Baptists to “be a fellowship of frankness and openness, and above all, to be Christian and Christ-like in our regard for and treatment of one another.”
During Owen’s years as KBC executive secretary, convention receipts increased nearly 220 percent, indebtedness was eliminated and ministry reserve funds were established. He also led efforts to build Baptist student centers on the campuses of several universities across the state as well as a major addition to the former Baptist Building in Middletown.
KBC Executive Director Bill Mackey said Owen “was used by God to help bring Kentucky Baptists together in a new spirit of cooperation.” Ministry initiatives launched by Owen “continue to provide a powerful impact for the Kingdom of God today,” Mackey said.
Before accepting the KBC post, Owen served 18 years as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington. He also was pastor of other Kentucky Baptist congregations as well as churches in Missouri, Georgia and Alabama.
A native of Missouri, he was a 1937 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and a 1942 graduate of Southern Seminary. He also held honorary degrees from Campbellsville University and Georgetown College.
A World War II veteran, he served as an Army chaplain with combat troops in Europe, earning the rank of major and receiving the Bronze Star.
In addition to his denominational service, Owen was a Mason and Kiwanis member. Known for his humorous anecdotes, he recounted many of them in his book, “The Preacher Remembers: Slightly Soiled Saints.”
Although he retired more than two decades ago, Owen continued to be honored by fellow Baptists in recent years.
The KBC Mission Board named the chapel in the current Baptist Building in Owen’s honor last year and honored him in 2004 for “lifetime achievement in supporting the Cooperative Program.”
Additionally, the University of the Cumberlands established the endowed Franklin P. Owen Chair of Home and Foreign Missions in 2004.
“I have always been a supporter of missions,” Owen said at the time. “Through the position I was elected to, I have worked hard to build the mission program.”
Owen and his wife, Sue, “traveled the commonwealth building relationships among Kentucky Baptists,” Mackey recalled. Sue Owen died in 2001 at age 91.
“Although a visionary leader, he knew how to be a good steward of resources for Kingdom ministry,” Mackey said. “We mourn with his family but celebrate his welcome into the presence of God and reunion with his beloved wife.”
Owen is survived by three sons, Franklin Owen Jr. and Bill Owen, both of Lexington, and John Owen, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winchester, Ky., as well as nine grandchildren.
His funeral service will be Sept. 2 at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington. Memorial gifts may be made to the Franklin Owen Chair of Pastoral Studies Fund at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Lexington.