Ken Owen, who spent 25 years trying to add a Christian influence to local government and public schools, died Wednesday. He was 76.
Owen, a high-profile Christian activist, founded an organization called Christian Community Concerns, and participated in many Christ-related causes. He was frequently seen at Lodi City Council meetings to promote public prayer and posting of The Ten Commandments at City Hall while fighting the approval of adult bookstores and a cardroom.
Owen also organized Lodi’s observance of the National Day of Prayer each May, promoted “keeping Christ in Christmas” and compiled a candidates guide that focused more on moral issues than whatever the hot political issue at the time.
Owen retired in 2010 and disbanded Christian Community Concerns, saying that God told him to do so. He suffered a mild stroke in February 2010. He had been in declining health since that time.
“I think he held the faith in values that Lodi holds, especially in our government,” Mayor Alan Nakanishi said. “I am deeply saddened. I thought he would live forever.”
Owen’s wife, Jan Owen, acknowledged that her husband’s ministry was sometimes confrontational.
“He did take flak for different things he thought was needed,” Jan Owen said. “If he felt that strongly about it, I was going to be supportive in it.”
Owen was actually an atheist until finding the Lord in 1971, when he stopped fishing on Sundays and went to church instead. In previous News-Sentinel interviews, he said he stopped drinking, smoking, gambling and swearing as well.
“There came a point in his life where he had a real encounter with the Lord, and the rest is history, said former Pastor Dale Edwards, who will return to Lodi from his Oregon home to officiate Thursday’s memorial service at Century Assembly.
Owen said he founded Christian Community Concerns in 1985, when he got a calling from God to exert a Christian influence in the community. He said he began noticing an increase in homosexuality, abortion, pornography and sexual promiscuity in American society.
“Ken was not somebody who would do something halfway,” Edwards said. “Ken was a person who had a very strong moral compass. He wasn’t an antagonist. He was clear in his thinking. He loved his family, church and community, and he just wanted the best for all of them.”
Owen frequently attended Lodi City Council meetings when moral issues were on the agenda. One such issue came in 2009, when the council agreed to allow prayers before meetings after an out-of-state atheist organization argued that prayer should be banned at government meetings.
Owen also led fights against a cardroom being allowed on Cherokee Lane and adult bookstores to be operated in Lodi. He also supported Proposition 8 in 2008, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
He also organized Lodi’s celebration of the National Day of Prayer, held each May at the All-Veterans Plaza off Pine Street, and began a "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign. That includes singing traditional Christmas carols in public schools and for business owners to proclaim themselves as Christians, with the idea being that Christians would be more likely to patronize those businesses.
“He just felt drawn to that ministry (activism),” Jan Owen said. “He felt very strongly the Lord was pointing him that way.”
Jan Owen has wonderful memories of her husband.
“We’ve been married 54 years,” she said. “Ken has always been an even-tempered kind of person. I can’t say enough good about him. He was just a very good man. He was a gentle man. I don’t recall him raising his voice.”
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.