Arkansas-Louisiana Conference President, 2001-2018
His Early Years
Stephen Orian was born on December 30, 1950, in Oakland, California, to immigrant Ukrainian parents, Peter and Katherine Orian. He had one brother, Nicholas, who was eighteen months older. The family belonged to the Catholic Church, but Stephen’s father, who had lived in Germany, had become acquainted there with the truth about the Sabbath, from his friend’s mother. Years later when his father and mother were invited to attend a series of evangelistic meetings, they accepted not only the Sabbath, but chose to become members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Stephen was only three years old at that time but remembered well the teachings of the Catholic Church through the influence of his grandmother who remained loyal to the Catholic Church.
His School Years
When he turned five, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where Stephen began his education, attending public school for the first four years, then for the rest of his elementary schooling attending the Phoenix Central Elementary Church School. It was under the influence of the godly teachers at the church school that the seed was planted in Stephen’s mind that he wanted to do ministry of some kind for his life work. At the age of eleven, Stephen made his own decision to be baptized and become a part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When it came time for high school, Stephen attended Thunderbird Academy for all four years. Once again, Adventist education left an indelible mark on his mind when at the age of sixteen, he sensed clearly a calling to ministry.
Two weeks after graduating from Thunderbird Academy, the family moved to Lincoln, Arkansas, where Stephen’s dad started raising chickens and cattle and Stephen got a real education about country living. With all the family assets going into the purchase of the farm, there was nothing left for college, so Stephen attended the University of Arkansas for his first two years of college, while living at home and helping with the farm work. Realizing that he would never earn a theology degree at U of A, he secured a loan and completed his college education with a theology degree at Southwestern Adventist University, at that time Southwestern Union College (SUC), in Keene, Texas.
When Stephen and his family moved to Arkansas, they attended the Fayetteville Church where he met Micki Icenogle, who along with her family, was a recent convert to the Adventist Church. After several years of dating, Stephen and Micki were married on September 15, 1974, at the Lincoln, Arkansas, church. Micki had already graduated from SUC and completed one year of teaching at the Fort Smith Church School while Stephen was attending Andrews University Seminary.
Years of Ministry
Upon completion of his seminary work and earning his MDiv degree in December 1974, Stephen and Micki moved from Berrien Springs, Michigan, to Fort Worth, Texas, where on January 2, 1975, they began their ministry together. Stephen served as assistant pastor for ten months at the Fort Worth First Church before being assigned to his own three-church district of Rosenberg, Richwood, and El Campo, Texas. While serving there, the Orians were blessed with their first son, Benjamin. Two years later while pastoring the Arlington and the newly organized Duncanville Church, the Orians were once again blessed with their second son, Matthew. During the Texas Conference Camp Meeting in Keene, Texas, Stephen was ordained to the gospel ministry on June 9, 1979.
A few weeks after ordination, Stephen was assigned to the Weslaco Valley Grand Academy and Mercedes Church District. While there, he had the privilege of leading out in the planting and organization of the Donna Church. The last five years in the Texas Conference were spent as pastor of the Laurel Heights San Antonio Church.
Ministry In The Arkansas-Louisiana Conference
In June 1987, Stephen accepted a call from the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference to pastor the Little Rock, Arkansas, church. During the five years that he pastored in Little Rock, one year was spent assisting in covering the Pine Bluff Church. In the summer of 1992, Stephen and Micki, along with their two sons, were asked to conduct evangelistic meetings in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. A few days after returning home, they were called to pastor the Bentonville and Decatur Church District where Stephen served as pastor for the next two years. Once again, during the summer of 1993, the Orians were requested to return to Ukraine where they held another full four-week evangelistic series of meetings in the city of Kremenchuk and then held a ten-day mini-series once again in Bila Tserkva.
During the September 25, 1994, Conference Constituency meeting, Stephen was elected Conference Secretary and Ministerial Secretary. After serving for two and a half years, he was called by the Dakota Conference to serve as Conference President. In March 1997, Stephen made his way to the conference office in Pierre, South Dakota, where for the next four years he served as President of the two-state area of North and South Dakota. For a short period of time, he also served as Director of Education.
Arkansas-Louisiana Conference President
On May 17, 2001, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference once again gave Stephen a call, this time to serve as Conference President. After a week of struggling with the decision, he accepted the call and began serving in July 2001. During his nearly seventeen years as President, the conference continued to see a strong priority emphasis on evangelism. The financial base of the conference was strengthened to the strongest it had been since its inception. Strong financial support was given to Ozark Adventist Academy to help keep it operating year by year in the black.
Also, during his years of service, Stephen lead out in several major building projects in the conference. The first building project was called for just a few months after he became President when the Academy cafeteria was destroyed by fire. With strong support from Adventist Risk Management, a beautiful new cafeteria was constructed in a new location between the boys’ and girls’ dormitories. The site of the old cafeteria was transformed into needed parking. The South Louisiana Convention Center was built on the property just east of Hammond that had been donated to the Conference by the Southern Sanitarium Board. At Camp Yorktown Bay, all the old wood cabins were torn down, and in their place ten new block cabins were built with restrooms, heating and air conditioning. A new ranger home was constructed. The cafeteria was remodeled after a minor kitchen fire; the Lodge was completely gutted out and redone on the inside; the Whispering Pines Motel was also completely gutted out and redone with new plumbing, electrical wiring, two units made to accommodate those with physical disabilities, and all new furnishings. The Town Hall was also totally redone with the addition of much needed restroom facilities. Finally, with a little more fund raising, the road leading down to the camp was completely repaved, with parking areas paved in front of the motel and the gym. All these building projects were completed debt free with God’s blessings.
While serving the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference Stephen had the privilege of leading the conference into a partnership with the North American Division Hope for Humanity and the Inter-American Division to help fund literacy programs in Nicaragua and El Salvador through Hope for Humanity. The first Ozark Adventist Academy mission trip where students conducted their own evangelistic meetings was held in the Philippines in March 2011. A Reformation Tour hosted by former ARKLA Conference President, Don Schneider, with his wife Marti, was held in January 2013, for pastors to visit cities in Germany where Martin Luther was instrumental in laying building blocks for the Protestant Reformation. Also, ShareHim evangelistic meetings were organized where young adults were sponsored by the conference and in partnership with the General Conference were given opportunity to hold their own meetings in Zimbabwe and Romania.
After announcing at the end of 2017 that he would retire, Stephen closed his official service on March 31, 2018, after forty-three years of ministry to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and nearly seventeen years as President of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference. During his presidency, Stephen was a kind, considerate, and friendly person, who was approachable and open to work with. He has become a lifelong friend to many of the pastors that have worked under his leadership. He and Micki continue to reside in Shreveport, enjoying a slower pace of life, but still serving needs for the Church as requests are made (Orian, 2019).
(2011, Dec. 2). Katherine Orian. Retrieved from Luginbuel Chapel in Prairie Grove.
Ancestry.com (2010). U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Orian, Stephen. (2019, Oct. 30). Email to Rebecca Burton.