Bishop Says Octuple Bigamy Due to “Misunderstanding”

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Bishop Anthony Owens of Memphis, Tennessee, is back in jail on bigamy charges again after a woman said he proposed to her not long after being released from serving his previous sentence.

He had apparently proposed to three other women over the last year as well, which is not in itself illegal but does cause authorities some concern, given that he does not seem to have divorced any of his existing eight wives.

Bishop Owens, who is not in fact a bishop but rather a "traveling minister" who happens to be named "Bishop," married for the first time in 1990, when he was 18. Young love, perhaps, although his bride was 43. According to Owens, that marriage was troubled from the start, and two years later he married a younger woman (she was 41). Owens didn't bother to divorce his first wife, which he said was due to a "misunderstanding" of Mormon teachings.

It's not clear from the report whether Bishop was a Mormon, so his misunderstanding may be understandable.

The misunderstanding confused Owens into marrying six other women in four different states between 1995 and 2002. Wife number eight somehow learned about the others, and called police.  Owens was convicted of bigamy and served two years in prison. He got out sometime in 2004 or 2005, and in March 2005 encountered Betty Dixon in a Memphis casino. "He was a slick talker," Dixon said.  "He told me God had sent him to me and I needed help."

The Lord works in casinos in mysterious ways. Sometimes He works through the tumbling of the dice, and sometimes through a traveling minister named "Bishop" who already has eight wives. All is according to His will.

Dixon does not seem to have married Owens, whose way with women may have atrophied a bit after a couple years in the joint. Within six months, he had proposed to another woman, and another a month after that. Then he received another message from the Lord apparently saying that the first eleven were a good start, but that he should propose to Karen Ward too. "He said God gave him a message that he was going to move my family to California for a better life. . . . He said he is a real man of the Lord. But he is just a mess. I hate the day that I met him."  Ward did not say which day was responsible for the attempted bigamy or if it was to blame for the previous eleven attempts too, but hopefully whoever turned Owens in this time told the police about it. Owens is in the county jail awaiting a hearing on whether he will be sent back to prison (I assume on a probation violation—there doesn't seem to be any harm in asking).

Owens did not comment for today's report, but in the past he has maintained that he did divorce at least some of the eight women he actually married. He just can't remember which ones.

Update: According to this more extensive report from the Tuscaloosa News, Owens was a Pentecostal Christian, not a Mormon, so as I suggested above that might explain his "misunderstanding" of Mormon teachings about plural marriage.

Update II: It turns out that "Bishop" was not in fact Anthony Owens's first name, just a title he had given himself. Also, please do not confuse the octagamist "'Bishop' Anthony Owens" with Bishop Tony Owens, who operates House of David Ministries in Apopka, Florida, and had to put up a disclaimer a while back to assure his flock that he was not the "Anthony G. Owens" who had married eight women. These are two very different people.