Oklahoma Christian mourns death of Stafford North
OKLAHOMA CITY — Stafford North, a longtime preacher, educator and…
OKLAHOMA CITY — On July 5, in the parking lot of the Memorial Road Church of Christ, Stafford North gave what would be his final public prayer to the congregation he served as an elder for 48 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2,400-member church to move its worship outside with an online simulcast. North, under hospice care, sat in a parked sport utility vehicle and delivered the closing prayer through a microphone.
“Father, we are so thankful that we can meet in this way, even though these difficulties are upon us,” said North, his usually strong voice cracking with fatigue and emotion. “I pray that you will bless our country right now, and help all those things that are plaguing us to go away.
“We thank you for the church, the bride of Christ.”
North, a longtime preacher, educator and tireless promoter of Oklahoma Christian University, died July 25 at age 90. During his career he taught Bible to thousands of students and was teaching a course on personal evangelism up until his death.
He was a friend, supporter, adviser and occasional critic of The Christian Chronicle for multiple generations of the newspaper’s staff.
“Stafford loved the Bible and God’s people with a fervor and looked for every opportunity to teach Scripture to others,” said Lynn McMillon, who served alongside North in the Bible department at Oklahoma Christian and is a former editor and president of the Chronicle.
“His signature phrase, “Be There,” showed his burning desire to go to heaven,” McMillon said, “and his hope for everybody else to go as well.”
Born Ross Stafford North in Abilene, Texas, on March 12, 1930, he earned a bachelor’s from Abilene Christian University in 1950, a master’s from Louisiana State University in 1952 and a doctorate from the University of Florida in 1957.
“His signature phrase, “Be There,” showed his burning desire to go to heaven, and his hope for everybody else to go as well.”
In Florida he met and married JoAnne Boswell, who for 65 years was “his lifelong best friend, mission partner, Boggle-playing buddy and world-traveling sidekick with whom he would build a home, a family, a congregation and a university,” family members wrote in North’s obituary.
Just three weeks after Stafford’s death, his beloved wife also died. JoAnne North passed away, on August 22, 2020.
North began teaching at Oklahoma Christian’s predecessor, Central Christian College in Bartlesville, Okla., in 1952. There he met a student named Bailey McBride, who became North’s coworker for more than a half-century.
“We became friends with the distance required between teacher and student,” McBride recalled. “That friendship lasted the rest of his life. In 1954 I was employed to teach English at Central Christian. We were colleagues, but in a sense Stafford North was always my teacher.”
The college moved to Oklahoma City in 1958. North taught Bible and for 38 years served in the school’s administration. He was executive vice president for 20 years. McBride went on to teach at the University of New Mexico and was recruited by North to return to OC in 1966.
“He has been a powerful example of many good qualities. His commitment to the Lord and his church are undeniable.”
“His training in rhetoric and oration prepared him to be a great speaker and an outstanding spokesman for the church and for Christian education,” said McBride, who taught English and served in a variety of administrative roles for OC, retiring in 2014. McBride served for 10 years as editor of the Chronicle.
McMillon, a former dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Oklahoma Christian, and his wife, Joy, knew North for 61 years, since they were freshmen at the college.
“He has been a powerful example of many good qualities,” McMillon said. “His commitment to the Lord and his church are undeniable.
“On a personal level, Stafford had a great sense of humor and loved to have fun doing skits and performing, and he had a way of making all of us have fun with him. His influence will be felt on us and countless others for a long time.”
North was the driving force behind Enterprise Square USA, a museum on Oklahoma Christian’s campus dedicated to entrepreneurship, innovation and the free-market system. More than 600,000 visitors passed through Enterprise Square during its 17-year run.
North’s love for Oklahoma Christian was rivaled only by his love for his church family at the Memorial Road congregation.
In his 80s he launched Good News, an email newsletter that shared inspiring stories from Churches of Christ and believers around the globe.
“I always made sure to look at Good News, and I often got ideas from it for our international pages,” said Erik Tryggestad, a former editor and now president and CEO of the Chronicle.
He so valued unity — not at the expense of truth, mind you. He wanted us all to be together.”
“Brother North was a kind-hearted, compassionate conservative for our fellowship,” Tryggestad said. “He didn’t always agree with what we put in the Chronicle, and he let me know. But his criticism was respectful, instructive and constructive. He so valued unity — not at the expense of truth, mind you. He wanted us all to be together.
“If he weren’t preaching somewhere else, he’d be at the church building every time the doors were open,” said Tryggestad, a deacon of the Memorial Road church. “I know this pandemic had to be especially hard for him. That’s why it meant so much to hear him lead that closing prayer in the parking lot. And now he can worship with no mask, no SUV. He’s in heaven. He’s there.”
CONTRIBUTIONS may be made to the Stafford North Memorial Fund for Faculty/Staff Development at Oklahoma Christian University. Find a link at christianchronicle.org/staffordnorth or call (405) 425-5070.
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