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Olford Ministries to become part of Union University

The Stephen Olford Center is located on 18 wooded acres in southeast Memphis. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
The Stephen Olford Center is located on 18 wooded acres in southeast Memphis. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.April 13, 2007 – Stephen F. Olford is known as one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century.

His radio and television programs were heard around the world, and countless preachers benefited from the training Olford provided them at the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in Memphis.

Now Union University will help to carry on Olford’s legacy, after the board of directors for Olford Ministries International on April 3 approved a transfer of a large majority of the ministry’s assets to Union University. Union President David S. Dockery reported the gift to Union trustees April 12.

The gift to Union includes the Stephen Olford Center, located on 18 wooded acres in the heart of southeast Memphis.

“The work of the Stephen Olford Center over recent years has earned the respect of the entire evangelical world,” Dockery said. “We count it a great privilege and a sacred stewardship to be benefactors of the legacy of Stephen Olford. We are excited about the new partnership and trust God’s providential favor to rest on this new aspect of Union University’s expanding outreach.”

David Olford, chairman of the board and president of Olford Ministries, said he was honored and privileged for the ministry to become part of Union University.

“The Lord has led in this development, and we’re excited about what it holds for the future,” Olford said. “We believe that more can be accomplished through this union and that it will lead to the furthering of God’s kingdom and the blessing of lives. The vision of training pastors and preachers that caused my father to establish this ministry is going to be continued and honored in this relationship with Union.”

With the gift, Union will establish the Stephen Olford Chair of Preaching, which will be held by David Olford, Stephen Olford’s son, who will join the Union faculty. David Olford has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Wheaton College and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Sheffield.

He and his wife Ellen have been married for 21 years and have two daughters. The family lives adjacent to the Stephen Olford Center in Memphis.

“David Olford is an ordained Baptist minister, serious scholar, faithful churchman, dynamic teacher and gifted preacher,” Dockery said. “His commitment to students, his love for the gospel, his international influence and his outstanding publications will all be tremendous additions to the Union University community.”

Stephen Olford was born in Zambia in 1918, the son of missionaries. His pastoral ministry began in 1953 at Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Surrey, England. From there he went to Calvary Baptist Church in New York City, where he served for 14 years.

Throughout his years in the ministry, Olford became close friends with such prominent preachers as Billy Graham and Adrian Rogers.

Olford began a Christian television and radio program, “Encounter,” during his years in New York, and his Sunday morning services were broadcast around the world on radio. The Olfords moved to Memphis in 1985 to develop a training program and a center to encourage and equip preachers and teachers of the Bible. The Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching was dedicated in 1988.

Olford died in 2004, leaving behind his wife of 56 years, Heather. She still lives on the Stephen Olford Center property and has played a key role in the operation of Olford Ministries since her husband’s death. In addition to their son David, the Olfords have another son, Jonathan, and five grandchildren.

The gift of the Stephen Olford Center is worth more than $4.5 million, the largest one-time gift in Union history. Closing on the transaction is scheduled for May 31.

In addition to current program offerings at the Stephen Olford Center, Union will begin new programming there this fall, with a new emphasis on expository preaching in the university’s offerings. Dockery also said plans are moving forward for Union to establish a Doctor of Ministry degree in expository preaching.

“Olford Ministries is known for delivering life-changing educational experiences to church leaders,” said Charles Fowler, Union’s senior vice president for university relations. “Future programming through the Olford Center at Union University will build upon this legacy of Christ-centered excellence to offer new and enhanced programs that will include both degree and non-degree offerings. We are hopeful that the future will see increased student enrollment, expanded program offerings and a broader constituent base that will honor Stephen Olford and advance the mission of Union University.”

A joint release from Union University and Olford Ministries International.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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