Joseph Stowell II, a pastor who served as national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, died Saturday, June 23, 2007, at the age of 96.
Born on a farm near Colon, Mich., in 1911, Dr. Stowell professed belief in Jesus Christ at age 9 and was baptized into the membership of First Baptist Church of Colon. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1933 and began a long series of pastorates with Baptist churches in Michigan, Indiana, and New Jersey. His longest ministry was at First Baptist Church of Hackensack, N.J., where he served 20 years. In 1969 he was elected by GARBC messengers to succeed Paul Jackson as national representative.
Bothered by an increased tendency of Regular Baptists to “talk to themselves,” Stowell believed he should represent the association to the broader constituency. His speaking itinerary was sometimes a cause of consternation among those who believed their national representative should not be addressing groups that were not Regular Baptist in affiliation. But Stowell believed the association’s ideas were strong enough to stand on their own merits, no matter the audience.
“I first noticed Joe at a pastors’ rally in southern Michigan,” stated Corabelle Stowell in a 2001 interview. “On the program was this whippersnapper from the Upper Peninsula. I thought, Ohhh, Joe is so . . . , but he won’t pay any attention to me. I’m just a high schooler.”
But pay attention, he did. The Stowells were married in 1938 and recently celebrated their 69th anniversary. They have three children: Margaret Wheeler, a pastor’s wife; Joseph III, pastor and former president of Moody Bible Institute; and Hannah Jensen, former missionary, currently in camp ministry. They have 14 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
“I will always remember his commitment to the truth and his devotion to family,” recalled Valerie Wilson, director of Educational Resources at Regular Baptist Press. “When all of a leader’s children end up in vocational ministry, it tells a lot about a person’s priorities.”
Stowell was a Christian radio pioneer. In 1939 he began weekly broadcasts over WHCU in Ithaca, N.Y., while pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church. He also organized radio broadcasts for WBCM in Bay City, Mich., and for WJRZ in Hackensack, N.J. In 1970 he initiated the nationally syndicated program Living Reality, where he frequently appeared as speaker.
“He had a resonant, dignified voice that spoke volumes without shouting,” said John Greening, the current national representative for the GARBC. “I learned much from his calm and gentle manner, his strength of conviction, his distinguished and reverent approach to ministry.”
After retiring from the role of national representative in 1979, Joseph and Corabelle Stowell continued to be active in association events, living quietly in a retirement community in Carol Stream, Ill.
Stowell was a past member of the Baptist Mid-Missions council, a former vice-president of Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, and a trustee of Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, Pa.
“Dr. Stowell has proved that a man can be a gentleman while being a gladiator,” wrote Paul Tassell, former national representative of the GARBC. “A man can be saintly while being soldierly. A man can be holy without being haughty. A man can be obedient to the Bible without being obnoxious to his brethren. A man can indeed speak the truth in love. He can indeed be a true Baptist without believing that only Baptists are going to Heaven. He can be a true fundamentalist and a true separatist without demanding that every other fundamental separatist dot every i and cross every t exactly as he does. Dr. Stowell has been a role model for all of us preachers.”
A memorial service for family and friends will be held on Monday, June 25, at 7:00 p.m. in the chapel at Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Ill..
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be sent to:
The Stowell Amazonas Project
PO Box 8585
Harrisburg, PA 17105
Condolences may be sent to:
Mrs. Corabelle Stowell
120 Windsor Park Drive, A104
Carol Stream, IL 60188