History of Grace Bible Church of Oklahoma City, OK
1978 Church Plant and Early Locations
Upon graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1978, Philip G. Bowersox moved to Oklahoma City to plant a church in the Reformed tradition with a key emphasis on biblical exposition. He was ordained as a teaching elder. The church started in a bail bond office in downtown Oklahoma City with the smells of cigarette smoke and alcohol which were a weekly reminder of the need for God’s saving grace to be shared. The meeting place was the generous provision of a local businessman. It was free, and Oklahoma City is not a place where Reformed theology and covenant theology were well received. Philip Bowersox balanced three careers to sustain the ministry: US Army Reserves, business, and the church.
After several years, the church was able to afford conference rooms at a local motel. After several more years, it was able to rent commercial office space as a meeting place, and displaced to a larger complex some five years later. Jay Bruce was ordained as a ruling elder.
2014 Re-Location to Current Location in The Village, OK
In 2014, Queen of Angels Catholic Church came on the market and was purchased by Grace Bible Church. Queen of Angels was a pre-Vatican II independent Catholic Church. The sanctuary was completed in 1990 and a parsonage a year or so later. The priest was retiring and had the desire that another church acquire the property. Despite the commitment to Reformed Theology, Grace Bible Church met that requirement! The transaction was closed in the late summer.
Renovations began immediately to remove confessionals, turn the sacristy into an office, and bring in new pews and pulpit along with other cosmetic changes. The parsonage was transformed into Sunday School rooms and a nursery. The church also retained the cry room in the back of the Sanctuary for families with young children. Some windows in the sanctuary and parsonage were displaced upon purchase of the building as they were not consistent with Protestant theology along with a removal of a statue of Mary.
In 2016, Ronnie Andrews was ordained as a ruling elder, and Paul Buchanan as a deacon. In 2017, planning began to transform the garage into an additional Sunday School room, and to renovate the balcony to incorporate additional seating due to growing attendance. There are plans to increase the size of the current parking lot in 2018.
The Sanctuary’s 100 Year Old Windows Teach a New Generation
The Sanctuary’s stained glass windows feature beautiful depictions of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Savior Jesus Christ. The windows’ origin, survival, restoration and “reformation” are all elements of their uniqueness for our Reformed congregation. The story behind the windows is a unique history which has been pieced together from the institutions, companies and people involved.
In addition to the windows, the Sanctuary features a Communion table (altar), chancel rails and angels in front of the rails; all compliment the beauty of the Sanctuary. The Communion table (altar), chancel rails and angels were designed and installed by Patrick Biolchini of Colorado during the original construction of Queen of the Angels Chapel.
Origin: Academy of the Sacred Heart, St. Louis, Missouri:
The collection of the archives of the order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ) in St. Louis, Missouri indicate the windows were ordered in 1913 for the chapel at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, also known as City House. The Emil Frei Art Glass Company of St. Louis was awarded the contract. The company was founded in 1898 by an Emil Frei, an immigrant from Bavaria who studied at the Munich Academy of Art. Emil Frei & Associates continues today in its fifth generation of the Frei family. The original bid includes the following vignettes: Finding in the Temple, the Holy Family, the Sorrowful Mother, the Samaritan Woman, Four Visitations, the Presentation, Christ Calling the Disciples, and others. The lowest plate on each window reflect inscriptions requested by the donors.
Survival and Discovery: 1968 to mid-1980’s
The RSCJ archives confirm the sale of the City House property to a developer in 1968 with the closing of the school. From there, the details are somewhat murky. However, in the mid-1980’s, the windows were discovered in a storage room of a cement plant that was slated for demolition as it was in the path of a new highway. In this time frame, Reverend Graham Walter’s congregation was planning their church’s building and location. Through providence, an architect from Colorado Springs learned of the windows and contacted a member (Patrick Carmack) of the Queen of the Angels Chapel about the windows’ discovery and availability for purchase. The windows in their original oaken frames were purchased and moved to Oklahoma City for restorative work.
Restoration and Re-installation
With the windows secured and plans going forward for Queen of the Angels Chapel, Father Walters secured the services of Glasshaus Studio in Oklahoma City. With Owner Lynn Holmes and her team of artisans (Larry Huff and Randy Marks), the restoration took place over the course of a year to correct sagging lead, repair broken panes and construct new frames. The process involved taking each window apart for marking, cleaning, repairing and re-leading. Holmes painted all glass as necessary. Glasshaus Studio closed in 1990 shortly after the windows were installed in the new sanctuary of Queen of the Angels Chapel where they have withstood Oklahoma’s weather through the present day.
“Reformation” for the Current Congregation
With its purchase in 2014, Grace Bible Church sought to update the windows to reflect the teachings of the Reformation while respecting the beauty of the Biblical stories in the windows and attempting to maintain the decorum in the church. The church connected with Stefani Nachaltilo (www.glasshealer.com) a stained glass artist in Oklahoma City. She crafted overlay glass for the lowest portions of the windows so that the integrity of the restored window was not affected. The Reformation teachings are as follows:
The North side windows state (from west to east):
- Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformando
- Sola Fida, Post Tenebras Lux
- Christ is the Radiance of His Glory
- Sola Gratia, Solus Christus
- The Free Gift of God is Eternal Life in Jesus
The Chancel windows state: (North, East, South):
- I am the Good Shepherd Who Lays Down his Life for His Sheep
- I am the Resurrection and the Life
- Even the Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus Christ
The South Side windows state (From west to east):
- Preach the Word – All Scripture is Inspired by God
- God made us alive together with Christ
- Christ is the image of the invisible God
- By Grace you have been saved
- Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria
The three identical blue windows in the upper balcony have, in the Roman Catholic Church, Trinitarian significance. Ironically, the circle window above them is a likeness of the seal of the City of Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva officially accepted the Reformation in 1536.
Missions and Outreach to the World
Throughout this history, the commitment of the church elders has been to Reformed theology and biblical exposition. The congregants currently support missions work in Uganda, the Congo and South Asia. Our Ugandan ministry is in support of faculty members Rev. Tim Hoke, also a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and his wife Cheri as well as students at African Bible University (ABU) through need based scholarships and other in kind gifts. Our Congo ministry is in support of Upoki Bitum, a a graduate of ABU who has a mission to the Pygmies and other “vulnerable” members of that country’s population. Grace Bible Church has helped build a church and a school for the Pygmy tribe. We also support Luke and Julie who minister in one of the larger cities in a South Asian country. Luke is a graduate of Redeemer Seminary of Dallas, Texas. Their last names and country name are withheld for their protection.
Missions and Outreach to the Greater Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area
In 2004 Grace Bible Church began hosting The Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield Memorial Lecture Series to promote the exchange and examination of the great historic doctrines of the church, to foster a corporate sense of the relevance of the Christian faith and Reformed theology to our culture, and to challenge the individual Christian to connect with the historic Christian faith and the church. The focus has been to bring scholars and academics to Oklahoma City. We have partnered in the past with Oklahoma City University and currently with Casady School to provide a space for the event. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has also partnered with the church for many years as a sponsor.
Our past speakers have included Michael Kruger (2017), Andrew Hoffecker (2016), Richard Gaffin (2015), Scott Oliphant (2014), Carl Trueman (2013), GK Beale (2012), Mark Talbot (2011), Daniel Block (2010), Rev. Iain Murry (2009 and 2006), Dr. Gene Edward Veith (2008). In 2007 Father Mitchell Pacwa and Dr. Eric Svendsen debated the issue “The Christian’s Final Authority: The Bible or the Church?” In 2005 a debate between Dr. Bob Wilkin (Dispensationalist) and Dr. James White (Calvinist) addressed Regeneration. The first in the series was the 2004 debate on Bible Prophecy with Thomas Ice (Classic Dispensationalist) and GK Beale (Inaugurated Millennialist).
Our 2018 speaker will be David Garner, an associate professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminar on “Beyond all Measure: The Grace of Divine Adoption.” The lectures are scheduled for May 18-19, 2018 in the St. Edwards Chapel of Casady School.
For more information about our 2018 event, see www.alliancenet.org/events/bb-warfield-memorial-lecture-series.
Easter and Christmas Special Services
Grace Bible Church hosts two Scriptures and Hymns services during the year for our congregation, extended family members, and our neighbors throughout the Village. For the Christmas season, the Sunday evening before Christmas is typically the date for the Christmas Scriptures and Hymns service followed by a time of fellowship in the Fellowship Hall. The Easter Scriptures and Hymns service is held during the 11:00 a.m. worship hour; a fellowship continental breakfast is usually offered during Sunday School Hour on Easter. These services focus on the specific scriptures relevant to Christ’s birth and death with appropriate seasonal hymns. Both end with the Scriptural encouragement for the hope of a Christian. These are the only two services for which no nursery service is available for young children. The sanctuary has a cry room available for all services including these.