(RNS) Bishop Chandler David Owens, a former presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ known as an orator and international leader, died Sunday (March 6) at the age of 79.
Owens served as leader of the nation’s largest black Pentecostal denomination from 1995 to 2000 and was a member of its general board for more than 35 years.

COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake said Owens’ contribution to the denomination will be remembered with “gratitude, fondness, and respect. Though we mourn his passing, we celebrate his life.”

Owens helped establish churches and schools in India, the Philippines and Africa and was known for sometimes provocative oratory, especially when opposing same-sex marriage.

“I don’t care what another church does,” Owens once told church members, according to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn. “In the Church of God in Christ, a man, a real man, a `sho’nuff’ man knows the difference between the smell of Old Spice and Chanel No.5 … COGIC won’t ordain sissies.”

Owens also made an unusual analysis of President Bill Clinton in a 1996 address.

“President Clinton,” Owens said, “is a man that was just born white, but on the inside, he’s a brother.”

During leadership battles in his denomination, Owens became the first presiding bishop to be unseated in 2000.

The denomination scheduled three funerals for Owens, the last on Saturday in Newark, N.J., where he served as a pastor for more than three decades.

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