Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel was an ordained Church of God minister (Anderson, Indiana) who was a powerful preacher, inspiring teacher and dedicated community activist. He served as Senior Pastor at Maranatha Church in Portland, Oregon from 1994 until his retirement in 2020. He previously pastored churches in Boston, Massachusetts and Kansas City, Kansas.
Tony Allen Bethel was born January 31, 1953 in Columbia, South Carolina to Beatrice and Clarence Bethel Sr. He was the youngest of 9 children, 3 girls and 6 boys who enjoyed watching cartoons and cowboy pictures on their black and white television.
During his high school years he passed the bus driver course and was hired as a school bus driver. He also worked at McDonald’s and did yard work on the weekends. During his junior and senior high years he was on the track team participating in shot put and discus.
In June, 1971 he graduated from Eau Claire High School. He had plans to join the United States Air Force and become a chaplain but when those plans fell through he decided to attend college instead. In August 1971 he left Columbia for Kendleton, TX to attend Bayridge Christian College. He later graduated Cum Laude from Kansas City College and Bible School with a BA of Theology, a Masters of Religious Education from Gordon Conwell, South Hamilton, Massachusetts and honorary Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southern California School of Ministry and Warner Pacific College, Portland Oregon.
At an Interstate Youth Rally in 1972 he preached and befriended a young woman named Daphne Davis. They remained friends until Tony moved to Kansas City in 1975 at the invitation of Dr. Sethard Beverly, the pastor of Third Street Church of God. Tony and Daphne began dating and were married on New Years Eve, 1977. By 1978 Tony had become the interim pastor of Third Street Church of God and later became the Associate Pastor from 1980 until 1984. While serving the church Tony also worked at D&H Tire Company. He was proud that it was a black owned business and he worked his way up from the warehouse to a supervisory position. During this time he and Daphne welcomed their son, Allen in 1981 and their daughter Monica in 1984.
In August of 1984 the family moved to Boston to shepherd the Shawmut Community Church of God. During this time Tony became active in civic affairs and community development while also pursuing his Masters degree and working part time jobs to supplement the family’s income. He was proud to have worked under then Governor Michael Dukakis on the Parcel 8 Developmental Task Force. The task force, which Tony eventually chaired, was charged with overseeing the redevelopment of several large parcels of land taken through eminent domain to complete Highway I-95. He goes on to oversee other urban development projects including the relocation of the Orange Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority which brought housing and jobs to an area previously closed off by transportation infrastructure. The development wasn’t only the home of the Orange Line but also to Roxbury Community College, the Reggie Lewis Track Center and an open park space. He also served as a Protestant Chaplain for the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston.
In 1994 Tony moved to Portland, OR to serve as Senior Pastor of Maranatha Church until his retirement in 2020. With this move Tony began using the name T. Allen Bethel because people assumed Tony stood for Anthony. T. Allen’s vision for Maranatha Church was to create divine unity in the community through teaching, preaching and fellowship.
Building on his public advocacy experience in Boston, T. Allen starts becoming involved in the Portland Community. He saw a need for African American clergy to influence the direction of Portland’s future. This need facilitated T. Allen’s joining of the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA), serving first as financial officer and later being elected as President. In 2003 following the shooting of Kendra James by a Portland Police Officer, AMA shifted their focus from education, child care and health care to reforming the use of lethal weapons by the police department. T. Allen along with Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes brought together a number of organizations to form the AMA Coalition on Justice and Police Reform. Throughout the years they organized rallies and marches for African Americans and people with mental health challenges that were harmed or killed by the police.
In addition to working with AMA he served on many boards including the American Red Cross, Oregon League of Minority Voters, Portland Parks & Recreation, TriMet, Warner Pacific College, the International Institute of Christian Communication and was a member of the Portland African American Leadership Forum. T. Allen served as an adjunct professor at North Portland Bible College and Warner Pacific College (Now Warner Pacific University). In a 2012 speech he challenged the WPC community to be “in the city and for the city”. WPC takes on this challenge and later adopts the saying as their new motto.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Beatrice and Clarence Bethel Sr, his sister Mattie Lee Williams, and brothers Clarence Bethel Jr. and Eddie Jones. He is survived by his wife of over 42 years, Daphne, his son Allen, daughter Monica; his sisters Mary Smith, Columbia, SC, Patricia Joyner, Brooklyn NY, brothers William Jones, Brooklyn, NY, Samuel Jones (Agnes), Orlando, FL, Jack Jones (Pauline), Queens Village, NY and many nieces, nephews, cousins and godchildren.
To quote Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes, “Dr. Bethel is a comprehensive pastor--a local pastor in a church, and a pastor to our community in Portland”. T. Allen often said, “May the life that I’ve lived speak for me” and indeed his life has spoken to many.
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