Paul Duaine Eppinger obituary photo
 
In Memory of

Paul Duaine Eppinger

May 7, 1933 - November 10, 2016

Obituary


.Paul Duaine Eppinger
May 7, 1933 - November 10, 2016
Paul Duaine Eppinger was born in Norton, Kansas on May 7, 1933 to Theodore and Gertrude (Anderson) Eppinger. During his childhood the family moved to Rocky Ford, Colorado, where his father owned a hardware store. As a teenager Paul played on the Rocky Ford High School football team, the "Meloneers."
Paul attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he majored in business administration. He early felt a calling to Christian ministry, and as a college student served as pastor of two small churches...

.Paul Duaine Eppinger
May 7, 1933 - November 10, 2016
Paul Duaine Eppinger was born in Norton, Kansas on May 7, 1933 to Theodore and Gertrude (Anderson) Eppinger. During his childhood the family moved to Rocky Ford, Colorado, where his father owned a hardware store. As a teenager Paul played on the Rocky Ford High School football team, the "Meloneers."
Paul attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he majored in business administration. He early felt a calling to Christian ministry, and as a college student served as pastor of two small churches in rural Missouri. He was ordained when a young man of twenty-one.
Following his graduation from college Paul offered himself for overseas mission service. It was during the six weeks of missionary orientation that he met Sybil Casbeer and quickly fell in love. Having both signed contracts as single missionaries, the couple chose to fulfill their mission assignments before getting married.
Paul was initially appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society to mission service in Burma, but due to political events in that country he was denied a visa to Burma, and his assignment was switched to Japan. He travelled to Japan via the Philippines, where Sybil had been appointed to serve with the Methodist Church. Paul spent 2-1/2 years in Japan teaching English. In his free time there he learned to speak Japanese, sang in the Yokohama Christian Choir, led a weekly Bible study, and made a study of other religions. It was a visit to the ruins of Hiroshima that persuaded him to a lifetime of pacifism and working for peace and justice.
Shortly after returning from the mission field, Paul and Sybil married. The newlyweds moved to New Jersey where Paul began seminary studies at Princeton Theological Seminary while serving as pastor of the Ardena Baptist Church outside of Freehold, New Jersey. After earning a B.D. from Princeton Paul accepted a call to the pastorate of Preakness Baptist Church in Wayne, New Jersey. As pastor he was alerted to the lack of religious opportunities for developmentally disabled people, so he organized a Sunday School class for mentally retarded children. One highlight of that era of his life was participating in the March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While Paul and Sybil lived in Wayne they started a family.
Seven years later Paul was called to pastor Calvary Baptist Church, and he and Sybil with their four daughters moved to Norristown, Pennsylvania. There, he noticed the lack of safe space for teenagers and young adults, some of them runaways and drug users who were no longer welcome in their parents' homes. He repurposed the church parsonage to be a youth house for "hippies." One form his ongoing concern for civil rights and race relations took was an annual pulpit exchange with the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, one of the African-American churches in Norristown. He also taught homiletics as an adjunct instructor at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in St. David's, Pennsylvania. While pastor in Norristown Paul earned a D.Min. from San Francisco Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on marriage and divorce among American Baptist pastors.
In 1974 Paul was called to First Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and the family made a cross-country move. In Topeka Paul continued the radio ministry he had begun in New Jersey, delivering a weekly message for "Life in a time of Crisis." He and Sybil, a marriage and family counselor, also hosted and produced a weekly television show called, "Today's Growing, Intimate Family." When a newly-divorced church member expressed consternation that divorced people felt out-of-place in churches, Paul started a ministry with single adults. From a group of half-a-dozen the SASS class (Single Adult Sunday School) grew into a thrice-weekly ministry with an average attendance of 75 people and national conferences for single adults. Appreciated as an engaging preacher, Paul also served as adjunct professor of homiletics at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.
After eleven fruitful years of ministry in Kansas, Paul was called as pastor of First Baptist Church of Phoenix, Arizona. This was the 1980s, the height of the AIDS epidemic when being diagnosed as HIV+ was a virtual death sentence. Recognizing the stigma associated with having HIV/AIDS, Paul began the Joshua Tree ministry, hosting a weekly lunch for people living with AIDS. In Phoenix he also soon became aware that when homeless people who had needed hospital care were released to go "home," they had nowhere to go. Paul initiated a respite shelter on the campus of First Baptist Church, offering a place for recuperation for homeless men just out of hospital.
When Arizona was one of only two states without a holiday acknowledging Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Eppinger accepted the call to leadership in the Victory Together campaign. As executive director he worked closely with campaign chair Rev. Dr. Warren Stewart. Victory Together was instrumental in establishing a statewide holiday on the 3rd Monday in January honoring Martin Luther King and civil rights.
His desire for unity among Christians was manifested in Paul's taking up the position of Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. His vision next expanded to inviting people from other religious faiths to join together in respect, understanding, and support for one another. Out of this gathering emerged the Arizona Interfaith Movement, an organization he led for 20 years following his retirement from the Arizona Ecumenical Council. As Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement Paul encouraged the legislature and governor of Arizona to enact legislation to adopt the Golden Rule, a variation of which is taught in every religious tradition. His interfaith work extended into participation in the American Baptist Churches' Baptist-Muslim dialogue, presentations at the Parliament of the World's Religions meetings in Barcelona, Spain (2004), Melbourne, Australia (2009), and Salt Lake City, Utah (2015), and service on the Board of Directors of the Parliament of the World's Religions.
Paul Eppinger dedicated his life to peacemaking and reaching out to the marginalized. However serious the issues, though, he made his way lightly through life. He enjoyed traveling the world, and with Sybil led numerous tour groups to the Holy Land and Europe. He attended Baptist World Alliance congresses in Seoul, Korea and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He had tremendous love for his family and was happiest when he had all of "his girls" with him. He adored his grandsons, and delighted in taking them to the Fiesta Bowl football game every year.
Upon receiving a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), Paul Eppinger prepared to die as well as he had lived. He planned his memorial service and eagerly anticipated the moment when he would learn through personal experience just what happens after death. Through 18 months of physical deterioration he kept his optimism and sense of humor. He died on November 10, 2016, leaving behind his beloved wife of 58 years, Sybil, daughters Damaris Cooksey (Jerry), Priscilla, Stephanie (Lehan Crane), and Monica (David Menninger), two grandsons, Lyle Cooksey and Paul Cooksey, a sister, Osa Marie Wittenmyer, and nieces Leslie Eppinger and Jerri Trammel, nephews Bruce Wittenmyer and Terry Wittenmyer, and their families.
A memorial service celebrating Paul Eppinger's life will take place in Phoenix at First Institutional Baptist Church on Saturday, December 3, at 1:00pm. The family asks that memorial gifts be directed to either the Arizona Interfaith Movement, the last of Paul's visionary ministries, or the American Baptist Historical Society, where his personal papers will be deposited.