J. David Stephens, assistant general overseer of the Church of God, was recognized Saturday for his achievements in Christian leadership over a continuing 41-year career as a pastor and church executive and for his work as director of the Division of Education of the denomination. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the South American Ministerial Seminary.
The seminary, located in Quito, Ecuador, is the flagship seminary of the 38 colleges and Bible schools of the Church throughout Latin America.
It offers several academic graduate programs, including the doctor of philosophy degree in a joint arrangement with the Free University of Amsterdam.
Two Cleveland residents spoke during the graduation activities. Dr. Tim Hill, director of World Missions, addressed the commissioning service Friday, and Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, of Lee University, was the commencement speaker on Saturday.
“The exemplary model of effective leadership demonstrated by Bishop Stephens sets an example for a new generation of leaders,” said Dr. Francisco Jiménez, president of the Seminary, in presenting the degree.
“His outstanding record as a visionary and an administrator has benefited the church and those it serves.”
Stephens, who earlier earned degrees from Lee University and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, ministered many years in the field of youth and Christian education, including eight years as a member of the General Board of Youth and Christian Education.
He was also state director in Arizona, Washington, Indiana, South Georgia, North Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. He subsequently served as state administrative bishop in Northern New England, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida.
The church leader was elected to the International Executive Committee in 2012 in his present position, in which he heads the Division of Education.
In that role, he chairs the International Board of Education, coordinates U.S.-based schools of higher education and the 124 educational institutions of Church of God World Missions outside the United States, and oversees the Ministerial Internship Program and other nonresidential ministerial development programs.
Stephens is married to Joyce Petree and is the father of Brent, a pastor in Acworth, Ga., and Jeanna Chiara, wife of a pastor in Easton, Pa.