From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Minister, scholar, "Disciples statesman" dies
02 Oct 1998 11:50:10
Date: October 2, 1998
Disciples News Service
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Contact: Curt Miller
on the Web: http://www.disciples.org
EUGENE, ORE. (DNS) -- The Rev. Ronald E. Osborn, 81, a widely
respected Disciples minister and scholar died here October 1. He was
an renowned church historian, and an architect of church history as
well. He served as the first moderator of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ).
His memorial service will be held Thursday, October 8, 1998 at 3:00
p.m. at First Christian Church, 116 Oak Street, Eugene. Inurnment
took place in Pleasant Hill, Oregon on Saturday, October 3.
"We've lost a giant among Disciples -- a vibrant warm voice for
Christ and the church," said the Rev. A. Dale Fiers, Osborn's
colleague and friend in the formative years of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ).
Drs. Osborn and Fiers served together on the Commission on
Brotherhood Restructure in the 1960s. Until 1968, the Christian
Churches (Disciples of Christ) was referred to as a brotherhood, made
up of national and state societies. "They were societies of
individuals," Fiers explained. Osborn, he said, was instrumental in
the "giant leap" to a design for the church that moved from the
"interests of a collective group of individuals" to a covenantal body
expressed in congregations, regions and general ministries. "All of
these manifestations of the church were within the church universal,
not apart from it," Fiers said.
Osborn was "one of the - if not the - primary guiding figure" in
developing the elegant pattern for restructure, Fiers recalled.
Osborn was the chief author of the preamble to The Design for the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The preamble, while not a
creed, is widely regarded as a Disciples affirmation of faith. He
brought to the task enormous personal depth in the disciplines of
theology, ecclesiology and church history. Fiers said Osborn's
spiritual depth augmented his ability to lead the church during a
momentous period. "He was able to relate an understanding of God's
will for the church as we tried to restructure ourselves."
Six years of work on restructure by Osborn, Fiers and many others
culminated in the pivotal 1968 International Convention. Osborn
began the Kansas City gathering as president of the convention and
later presided as first "moderator" of the General Assembly of the
restructured Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Fiers was named
the church's first general minister and president at that same
Osborn was a professor of church history at Christian Theological
Seminary, Indianapolis, for 23 years. He was dean of that
institution for 11 years and subsequently served as professor of
American church history at the School of Theology at Claremont, Ca.
"Ronald was a kind of Disciples statesman in the 1960s," said the
Rev. T.J. Liggett, president of Christian Theological Seminary,
1974-1986. "He was looked to with confidence by people in the
bureaucracy and the local church; the pietists and the socially
active people; the pastoral ministry and the scholarly community."
Osborn served on the search committee that called Dr. Liggett to the
Osborn was devoted to Christian unity. He lectured on ecumenism in
the Philippines and at the Institut Oecumenique, Chateau de Bossey,
Caligny, Switzerland. He was a delegate to the Consultation on
Church Union from 1963-1976 and a delegate to the Fourth Assembly of
the World Council of Churches, Upsala, Sweden and made many other
contributions to that field. "He was deeply involved in the
ecumenical movement," said Liggett, "he was nevertheless a very loyal
Disciple. Ronald was heard with respect in all circles."
Osborn authored numerous books and scores of articles and papers.
The first in a three-volume analysis of preaching in Christian
history, "The Folly of God: Rise of Christian Preaching" is due to be
released by Chalice Press soon. Dr. Osborn was working on the second
volume at the time of his death. According to the Rev. Dan Bryant,
Osborn's pastor in Eugene, Osborn had made arrangements for his
colleague, Dr. Joey Jeter to complete the work.
Osborn died early Thursday morning, October 1. He had suffered a
heart attack, and died after emergency surgeries to repair the
Osborn, born Sept. 5, 1917 in Chicago, Ill., is survived by Nola
Osborne. The two married after both had experienced the death of a
spouse. Nola has three children, Marylou Moore, Patrick Neill and
Barbara Sinclair and numerous grandchildren.
Osborn's first wife, Naomi, died in 1986. Their daughter, Virginia,
was killed in an automobile accident in 1968.
At the time of Dr. Osborn's death, he and Nola, were members of
First Christian Church, Eugene. "His loss will be mourned around the
world, but no where as great as in his own congregation where he had
become for all here a model servant of Christ," said pastor Dan
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