This week, the five U.S. jurisdictional conferences will elect a total of 15 bishops. The gatherings also will finalize the next assignments for a number of already active episcopal leaders. According to United Methodist News Service stories, the newly elected bishops are:
• The Rev. Sharma Lewis: In a historic election, Lewis of the North Georgia Annual Conference was elected bishop by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. She was elected on the first ballot at the jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Lewis is the first African-American woman elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. (To read more, click HERE.)
“I was called by God and I made myself available, not just to a position, but to follow God’s will,” said Lewis. “I am excited, and I am really humbled. At 52 years old, I am excited that my next phase of life will be as an episcopal leader.I am humbled to the fact that this is historic.”
• The Rev. David Graves, senior pastor of Church Street United Methodist Church in the Holston Conference, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Graves, 58, was elected at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, on the fourth ballot. He received 221 votes out of 345 valid ballots cast. He needed 207 to be elected. (To read more, click HERE.)
“I want to thank you, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, for putting your faith in me,” Graves said after his election. “So we go forth to win people to Christ, see the unseen, transform lives, and help The United Methodist Church change the world.”
• The Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, a district superintendent of the Florida Annual Conference, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Haupert-Johnson, 54, was elected at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. On the 10th ballot, she received 230 of 375 votes cast. In her introduction address on Tuesday, Haupert-Johnson stressed the need for the church to have room for everyone at God’s table. “I hope you will go and spread a table ‘with a sumptuous gospel feast,’” she bid the delegates. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Robert Lawson Bryan, of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, has been elected a bishop by the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church. Bryan, who serves as senior pastor at Montgomery (Alabama) First United Methodist Church, was elected on the 10th ballot, taken on July 13. “It is an honor to be elected by colleagues in our jurisdiction and to see God at work,” he said. ”For the past year, I have referenced Ephesians 2:5, ‘alive together in Christ,’ and ask for your prayers as I seek God’s will as a leader in our SEJ Conference.” (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Leonard Fairley, Capital District superintendent in the North Carolina Conference, was elected a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Fairley, 59, was elected July 13 at Lake Junaluska. On the seventh ballot, he received 246 of 375 votes cast.
“My request for you, my brothers and sisters, is to pray for me that I might live into the fruit of the Spirit,” he told the delegates. He added that he believes The United Methodist Church’s best days are still ahead. Fairley has been the superintendent of the Capital District since 2015. As the Capital District superintendent, Fairley serves as the chief missional strategist and spiritual and administrative leader to 96 churches and 134 pastors in a geographic area that includes Raleigh, Cary, Garner, Clayton, Smithfield, Benson, Goldsboro, Knightdale and Wendell. The North Carolina Conference includes churches in 56 eastern North Carolina counties. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi of the Baltimore-Washington Conference was elected as a bishop in The United Methodist Church on the 11th ballot of the 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Moore-Koikoi was elected with 108 votes on July 13. The new bishop served as superintendent of the Baltimore-Metropolitan District immediately before her election. She played a pivotal spiritual role in the city following the unrest in 2015 around the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
“My heart is so full,” said the bishop-elect as she stood at the podium. “I don’t have the words. All I can say is glory, hallelujah!” Holding her husband’s hand – the Rev. Rafael Koikoi serves Sharp Street Memorial in Baltimore – Moore-Koikoi said that she knows being elected is a sacred trust. “I’m gonna need your prayers so that I can fulfill that trust,” she said. “I give each of you permission to pull me aside when I might be going astray. God spoke through you tonight, and that’s gonna continue.” (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. David Bard: The third time was the charm for Bard. He was an episcopal nominee in both 2004 and 2008, but this year the North Central Jurisdiction elected him as a bishop for The United Methodist Church. He was also the third bishop elected by the jurisdiction on July 13. Bard was elected during the 10th round of voting with 117 votes; 108 were needed for election. He’s the first bishop to be elected from Minnesota in more than four decades.
Addressing delegates from the podium immediately after his election, Bard gave thanks to God, whose love in Jesus Christ he said touched a 13-year-old in a United Methodist church in Duluth, Minnesota — the same place he now serves. “I pledge with God’s grace and the help of God’s spirit and all of your help to work to make The United Methodist Church the best it can be, for us to be a church that indeed offers hope and healing in a broken and battered world,” he said. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Tracy Smith Malone of the Northern Illinois Conference was the first bishop elected by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference on July 13. “To God be the glory. Friends, I stand before you as one who feels very blessed. Blessed for the journey, by your prayers and confidence in my leadership. I am a child of a church. You raised me and formed me. I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve the church,” said Smith Malone after being introduced as a bishop of The United Methodist Church.
Malone, who has been serving as the Chicago Southern district superintendent since 2011, was elected on the sixth ballot with 120 votes. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Frank Beard, pastor of Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Beard was elected July 13 at the jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting in Peoria, Illinois. On the sixth ballot, he received 109 votes, one more than the 108 needed for election.
Beard told delegates that in 1968, he was a “snotty-nosed” kid playing around a United Methodist church when its members invited him for cookies and Kool-Aid — and then provided a scholarship so he could attend United Methodist Church camp. “That little Methodist Church took me under their wing,” he said. “In 1968, it wasn’t popular for white churches to invite little black boys to be part of their congregation.” Beard said that church blessed him and God called him to the glorious task of preaching the good news. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. LaTrelle Easterling, a district superintendent in the New England Annual Conference, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the Northeastern Jurisdiction on the 17th ballot. Easterling told the member conferences of the Northeastern Jurisdiction that no matter where it is, “If God sends me there, I will never look back.”
“I always, always, always stand on the side of justice,” she said, “but I draw the circle wide enough for all of us to be there – and when I say all, I mean all.” (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz Jr., director of Connectional Ministries and executive director of Mission Vitality Center of the Rio Texas Conference, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the South Central Jurisdiction on the third ballot. Saenz said he didn’t set out to be an episcopal leader, but over the years, people have talked to him about the possibility of putting his gifts to use as a bishop. “I think of it as drops in a sponge,” he said. “The first 100 drops are insignificant but after a while, it gets heavy and saturated. It was the affirmation of many people I’ve been associated with over the years.
“It has been a long season of discernment.” Saenz said he looks forward to serving wherever he is sent. He said he didn’t want to be elected just because he is Hispanic but because delegates discerned that he would serve effectively as an episcopal leader. “We are leaders for all peoples,” he said. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Laurie Haller, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Michigan, was elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the North Central Jurisdiction on the 13 ballot.
“I am the first bishop ever to be elected with a visible black eye,” she said, addressing the body after election. “I got it from a stray piece of airplane luggage and decided not to cover it up. It reminds me that I offer myself in utter transparency, honesty and vulnerability. It reminds me of all who live under oppression and those with wounds so deep that no one knows they exist.” (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. James “Jimmy” Nunn was elected a bishop by delegates at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Wichita, Kansas. Nunn, 59, the director of mission and administration for the Northwest Texas Conference, was selected on the 21st ballot with 126 of the 418 votes cast by the delegates. “This is where I need to be, where I need to invest my life,” Nunn said of his call to the position.
Nunn has been mission and administration director of the Lubbock, Texas-based conference since 2011, serving for two years before that as the Northwest Texas Conference’s director of church development. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Robert “Bob” Farr was elected as the third of three bishops chosen during the 2016 South Central Jurisdiction gathering. Farr, 56, the director of congregational development for the Missouri Conference, received 138 of the 212 votes of the delegates. Farr has served as the director of the Center for Congregational Excellence since 2007, guiding 35 church starts and overseeing more than 150 Healthy Church consultations in the Missouri Conference. He also has led 128 individual church consults in 29 conferences across the connection. (To read more, click HERE.)
• The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, senior minister of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, was elected as a bishop by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. After two other candidates withdrew concluding the 16th ballot, Oliveto’s name was the lone candidate choice on the screen before the delegates.
She was one of three openly gay candidates running for bishop within The United Methodist Church. Gathering in Phoenix, the Western Jurisdiction delegates sent a provocative message to the worldwide 12-million member United Methodist Church – a denomination with over 5 million members in Africa and the Philippines. (To read more, click HERE.)
I certainly hope they will be. Held accountable and uphold the discipline of the Methodist church!
Great stories, each and every one. I pray for the work of these new bishops, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit as they seek first the Kingdom of
God and His righteousness in all they do and say. Bob Brooke, LLP, Oklahoma
So, this means that any UM Elder could for whatever reason, call it a justice issue, disobey the book of discipline and doctrine of the church? I am a retired elder and retired Navy Chaplain who was appointed beyond the local church, but served in a church prior for five years. I was held to the discipline for many things which I had agreed to do. But, now, it seems under the name of justice we can ignore the discipline?
This is not about sexual orientation – it is about anarchy and a violation of ordination vows which specifically ask the prospective ordinand if they have studied our doctrine and find it in agreement with the Scripture. If a change of heart has taken place – fine – surrender your credentials and affiliate with another theological body whose doctrine you can affirm and support. There should be little debate about this matter. The UMC should not be taken hostage by renegade clergy or laity leaving the remainder wondering what course of action is left to us. I, for one, am seriously considering bringing suit against the UMC for a violation of its by-laws (Discipline). If the UMC cannot find the mettle to hold itself accountable it is time to consider civil action for bad-faith business practices. And yes, dear reader, the church, in our culture and world, must operate according to its processes and procedures or else it is breaking faith with its shareholders – both clergy and laity alike.
I am hoping that all 15 of these new bishops will help us find a faithful way forward as a church. I’m excited about the ‘firsts’ represented in the above, but more excited that they all seem open to the work of the Holy Spirit as they guide us into God’s future.