Atlanta – The Church of God in Christ’s former presiding bishop Chandler D. Owens of Atlanta has passed away at age 79.
Owens’ five year tenure as the head of the denomination was marked by tensions particularly in the leadership arena. He clashed on numerous occasions with current bishop Charles Blake over alleged “abuse of power”. In the summer of 1999, Owens and Blake were on opposing sides in an Orlando court case in which Blake supported political ally the Rev. Derrick Hutchins in a leadership controversy. Hutchins was later rewarded with a position as head of the influential General Council of Pastors and Elders. But last year, Blake announced that Hutchins had “submitted his resignation” from his high profile position (due to adultery).
As profiled by religion writer David Waters in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Bishop Owens spoke out forcefully and often against homosexuality.
In 1996, he called on COGIC to “rebuild the walls” of orthodoxy to prevent the world’s unclean spirits from invading the church.
“I believe this is a time of spiritual repair,” Bishop Owens told COGIC members in Memphis. “The walls of the Church of God in Christ, in my judgment, are in bad repair. In many places those walls have fallen. We have allowed the church to be open and we have been invaded by all kinds of people. The church used to be a sanctuary. Now it’s a zoo. Everything from everywhere has crept into the Church of God in Christ.”
He said the church had strayed too far from fundamentals.
“We are against same-sex marriages,” he said. “I don’t care what another church does. In the Church of God in Christ, a man, a real man, a ‘sho-nuf’ man knows the difference between the smell of Old Spice and Chanel No.5 … COGIC won’t ordain sissies.”
Chandler Owens took over the denomination’s troubled Central Georgia jurisdiction after its bishop, General Board member John D. Husband was stripped of his office and excommunicated. Husband admitted to embezzling half a million dollars of church money and sexually abusing countless young men under his charge.