|Retired Bishop Ben Oliphint dies at 83|
By United Methodist News Service
July 9, 2007
Bishop Benjamin Oliphint
Bishop Benjamin Ray Oliphint, who had an impact on The United
Methodist Church at many levels, died July 7 at Methodist Hospital in
Houston. He was 83.
The bishop had experienced a cardiac episode recently and undergone
an angioplasty procedure. He seemed to be doing well, but had a setback
and did not recover, according to the Council of Bishops office in
Elected bishop in 1980, Oliphint led United Methodists in the
denomination’s Houston, Kansas and Louisiana areas during the following
12 years. He was instrumental in helping start Africa University, the
United Methodist-related school in Zimbabwe.
"Bishop Oliphint was … an extremely well loved and respected bishop
by everyone in this episcopal area," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, who
leads the Houston Area and is president of the United Methodist Council
Oliphint also was respected at the general church level for his work
with the boards and agencies, she said. Even in retirement, he was
involved in fundraising for the Methodist Global Education Fund for
Leadership Development "to help make it possible for people around the
world to have access to higher education and seminary degrees," she
"Bishop Oliphint believed that education is the way to transform
people, society and the world," said Ken Yamada with the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. "He lived out that
belief beginning with his service to educational institutions in the
Yamada, who serves as special assistant for global education and new
initiatives to the board’s top staff executive, the Rev. Jerome King Del
Pino, worked with Oliphint on the development of Africa University and
the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development.
Oliphint was president of the board from 1988 to 1992, during which
Africa University was launched near Mutare, Zimbabwe. Ground was broken
for the school in 1991, and the first students were admitted the next
"Bishop Oliphint believed that education is the way to transform people, society and the world."-Ken Yamada
"During his tenure as president of the General Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, he was instrumental in handling the difficult
negotiations with the Zimbabwe government to allow the first
nongovernmental university to open in the country," Yamada said. "He
presided over the groundbreaking of the new campus.
"Even after his retirement, he continued his work promoting worldwide
education. He was co-chair of the task group that developed and
promoted the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development,
which aims to promote global progress and stability through education."
Oliphint was born May 28, 1924, in Hemphill, Texas. He earned his
bachelor of arts degree in 1946 from Southern Methodist University in
Dallas and his master of divinity degree from Duke University Divinity
School in Durham, N.C. He received a master of sacred theology degree
from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1947 and a doctorate from
the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1951.
Ordained a deacon in 1947 and an elder two years later, Oliphint
began his ministry by serving churches in the Louisiana Area. He was
pastor of St. Luke’s Church in New Orleans from 1947 to 1949, followed
by an appointment as associate pastor at First Church in Alexandria from
1951 to 1952. During the following two decades, he was pastor at St.
Paul’s, Monroe; First Church, Alexandria; and University Church, Baton
In 1972, he transferred to the denomination’s North Texas Conference
and became pastor of First United Methodist Church in Dallas, where he
served until 1980.
Throughout his years as a pastor, he was a delegate to seven General
Conferences —leading the delegation four times — and five South Central
Jurisdictional Conferences. Between 1966 and 1986, he served as a
delegate to five assemblies of the World Methodist Council, and he was a
member of the council’s presidium.
General church leader
Elected bishop in 1980, Oliphint was assigned to the Kansas Area,
where he served four years. He led the Houston Area from 1984 until his
retirement in 1992. He also served as interim bishop of the Louisiana
Area from 1987 to 1988.
"He knew how to laugh at himself. He knew how to love people. I think that's part of the reason why so many people loved him."
-Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
The bishop was an early key supporter of women in ministry, Huie
said. "I personally have benefited from his mentoring and his support. A
number of clergywomen in the Texas Annual Conference can testify to his
leadership in that area."
She added that he "had a great sense of humor and a sense of
humility. … He knew how to laugh at himself. He knew how to love people.
I think that’s part of the reason why so many people loved him."
After retiring from the episcopacy in 1992, he served for 10 years as
president of the Texas United Methodist College Association.
Oliphint served on several church boards and agencies, including the
Board of Education, 1964-1972; the Board of Global Ministries,
1972-1976; the Committee to Study the Church School, 1972; and the
committee to write the concordat with the Methodist Church in Mexico,
1976. He served on the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity
and Interreligious Concerns from 1980 to 1988 and was its president for
four years. He also was on the governing board of the National Council
of Churches in the USA from 1980 to 1986.
He provided leadership for the South Central Jurisdiction College of
Bishops, serving as its president from 1984 to 1985. He also was a
trustee for Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Methodist
Hospital in Houston, along with other institutions.
Survivors and arrangements
He is survived by his wife, Nancy Kelley Oliphint of Houston, whom he
married in 1952; daughter Mary Brooke Casad of Carrollton, Texas; son
Stuart Oliphint of Fort Worth, Texas; son Clayton Oliphint of Dallas;
son Kelley Oliphint of La Grange, Texas; brother John Oliphint of
Colorado Springs, Colo.; and several grandchildren and
Graveside services will be July 10 at Greenwood Cemetery in
Pineville, La. A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. July 11 at St.
Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to the Benjamin R.
Oliphint Scholarship of the Methodist Global Education Fund for
Leadership Development, 1 Music Circle North, P.O. Box 340029,
Nashville, TN 37203-0029; Nancy Oliphint Playground, Lakeview Conference
Center, 400 Private Road 6036, Palestine, Texas, 75801-4350; or St.
Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer, Houston, Texas, 77227.
*Some details for this story were gathered from an obituary in the Houston Chronicle.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commentary: Developing leaders through education
Global Education Fund presents opportunity
Council of Bishops
United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry
The Methodist Global Education Fund