New wave of United Methodist bishops elected

Nov 7, 2022

United Methodist News –

After electing 13 new bishops during their November 2-5 meetings, the denomination’s five U.S. jurisdictional conferences announced episcopal assignments effective January 1.

Jurisdictional leaders recommended electing 14 new bishops; however, the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference voted to suspend its rules and delay the election of a second bishop until the 2024 jurisdictional conference.

The elections bring the number of active U.S. bishops to 39, but the U.S. currently has 46 episcopal areas. Twenty United Methodist bishops in the U.S. will have retired between 2021 and the end of this year.

Each jurisdiction’s college of bishops and committee on the episcopacy arrange coverage of the remaining episcopal areas, with some assigning bishops to serve more than one episcopal area as 16 bishops have done over the last two years with General Conference postponed by the pandemic.

 Southeastern Jurisdiction

The Rev. Tom Berlin speaks to delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C. Photo by Ben Smith.

The Rev. Thomas M. Berlin, lead pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia. He has been assigned to Florida.

Berlin was the endorsed candidate of the Virginia Conference. He grew up at Braddock Street United Methodist Church in Winchester, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he earned his Master of Divinity degree from United Methodist Candler School of Theology in Atlanta and entered ordained ministry in Virginia in 1988. He subsequently was appointed pastor of the Brucetown-Welltown Charge in Frederick County, followed by appointment as pastor of Toms Brook United Methodist Church in Toms Brook.

Since 1997, he has been lead pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in suburban Washington. The congregation has grown from an average worship attendance of 400 when he began his appointment to 1,200 before the pandemic. Under Berlin’s leadership, the church also launched two satellite campuses: Restoration Reston and Restoration Loudon. The congregation’s combined online and in-person attendance is now around 1,000. The church also has been in partnership with the Sierra Leone Conference since 2000.

The Rev. Robin Dease thanks the delegates of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference upon her election as a bishop. Photo by Matt Brodie.

The Rev. Robin Dease, a pastor and former district superintendent in the South Carolina Conference. She has been assigned to North Georgia.

Dease has served as senior pastor of St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, since 2021. She joined the South Carolina Conference in 1992 and was ordained an elder in 2001. She has served as pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Johns Island, John Wesley United Methodist Church in Greenville, and St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church in Hilton Head. She also has served as superintendent of the Hartsville District, and in 2012, was interim chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Claflin.

Her appointment as senior pastor at St. Andrew By-The-Sea made her the first African-American woman to serve as lead pastor of a historically white United Methodist church in South Carolina.

The Rev. Connie Shelton thanks the delegates of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference Her husband, the Rev. Joey Shelton, stands behind her. Photo by Ben Smith, UM News.

The Rev. Connie Mitchell Shelton, district superintendent in the Mississippi Conference. She has been assigned to North Carolina.

Raised in the Southern Baptist tradition in her native Mississippi, she later found that Methodist theology resonated in her life. She subsequently joined Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she and her husband, Joey, served as volunteer lay youth directors. Eventually, both she and her husband discerned a call to full-time ordained ministry.

She has a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film and a master’s in public relations, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. She and her husband moved to Durham, North Carolina, to study at Duke Divinity School.

Since 2015, she has been superintendent and missional strategist of the East Jackson District in the Mississippi Conference. Since July, she also has served on a team of four superintendents overseeing the Hattiesburg District.

She previously served as director of connectional ministries and communications for the Mississippi Conference. Before that, she served in appointments at both rural and urban United Methodist churches. She also was executive director of “The United Methodist Hour” television and radio broadcast, which reached across the Southeastern United States.


North Central Jurisdiction

The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai (right) and her husband, Kee, greet delegates at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference following her election as bishop. Photo courtesy of NCJ Communications.

The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, chief connectional ministries officer for the Connectional Table. She has been assigned to Iowa.

Since 2018, Bigham-Tsai has served as the chief connectional ministries officer for the Connectional Table, which discerns and articulates the vision of The United Methodist Church and helps determine how finances are used for worldwide connectional mission. She has been a member of the Connectional Table since 2012.

She has been actively involved as a delegate from the Michigan Conference at General Conference and North Central Jurisdictional Conference since 2012. She was co-chair of the 2022 delegation as a clergy delegate. She also serves as secretary of the North Central Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy.

As superintendent of the Lansing District of the Michigan Conference for five years, from 2013 to 2018. Ordained as a United Methodist elder in 2009, Bigham-Tsai served congregations in Portage and East Lansing, Michigan.

The Rev. Lanette Plambeck receives her episcopal pin following her election to at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Kaitlyn Winders Photography.

The Rev. Lanette Plambeck, assistant to the bishop and director of clergy and leadership excellence in the Iowa Conference. She has been assigned to Dakotas-Minnesota.

Ordained an elder in the Iowa Conference in 2005, Plambeck earned her B.A. from Morningside University in religious studies and political science. After serving as an intelligence analyst in the Army, she worked as an executive and therapist for person-centered agencies. In 2001 she completed her master of divinity degree with an emphasis on evangelism at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, then received a doctor of ministry in church leadership excellence in 2013 from Wesley Theological Seminary.

Before being on staff at the Iowa Conference, Plambeck was the lead pastor for Broadway United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs, First United Methodist in Atlantic, Manning United Methodist Church in Manning and Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Granger, all in Iowa. She also served as the chaplain at Morningside University.

The Rev. Dan Schwerin reacts to being elected bishop Nov. 3 at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Lisa Wink.

The Rev. Dan Schwerin, assistant to the bishop for the Wisconsin Conference. He has been assigned to North Illinois.

Schwerin has enjoyed many contexts for pastoral ministry, including urban and rural churches; a new church plant; and a multi-staff downtown setting that became a Reconciling Congregation. He launched non-profits to benefit persons with disabilities, children dealing with grief, persons wanting to help battle generational poverty, and children who desired instruments and music lessons.

In the Wisconsin Conference, he served as the superintendent of two districts. Bishop Jung selected Schwerin to lead a collaborative effort with conference partners to increase racial justice and radical inclusion.

He was elected in 2019 as a delegate to General Conference and the North Central Jurisdiction. He has served on the General Conference Task Force on Funding Patterns in The United Methodist Church and the North Central Jurisdiction’s Episcopacy Committee.


Northeastern Jurisdiction

The Rev. Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez addresses the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference after being elected bishop. His wife, Jazelis Burgos, is at his side. Photo by the Rev. Thomas Kim, UM News.

The Rev. Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez, the superintendent of the Central District in the Greater New Jersey Conference. He has been assigned to Upper New York.

With his election, he became the first Hispanic/Latino bishop elected in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. Burgos was the endorsed candidate of MARCHA, the Hispanic/Latino caucus of The United Methodist Church.

Burgos has served as superintendent of the Central District since 2019. Prior to that, he served as director of connectional ministries from 2015 to 2019.

He also served as interim executive director, NextGen Ministries, in the Greater New Jersey Conference; director of worship and urban ministries in Greater New Jersey; lead pastor at Oasis United Methodist Church in Pleasantville, New Jersey, from 2009 to 2014, and as associate pastor, First United Methodist Church in Tuckerton and assistant pastor at West Creek United Methodist Church, both in New Jersey.


Western Jurisdiction

The Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut greets delegates at the United Methodist Western Jurisdictional Conference, after he was elected to the episcopacy. Photo by Patrick Scriven of the Pacific Northwest Conference.

The Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, assistant to the bishop in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. He has been assigned to Desert Southwest.

Rapanut is the first Filipino American bishop in The United Methodist Church, and the first U.S. bishop who was ordained in a central conference – a United Methodist region outside the U.S.

Rapanut is an elder in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Since 2014 until May this year, he served as co-dean of the Greater Northwest Area bishop’s cabinet and conference superintendent of the Alaska United Methodist Conference. He also was the Alaska Conference’s director of connectional ministries from 2014 until becoming assistant to the bishop. He previously served as pastor of United Methodist Church of Chugiak in Chugiak, Alaska.

Rapanut grew up in Baguio City, Philippines. Before moving to the U.S., he was senior pastor of Baguio City First United Methodist Church and later assistant to now-retired Bishop Benjamin A. Justo.

The Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth addresses the delegates, guests and his new episcopal colleagues, shortly after his election. His husband, Christopher Hucks-Ortiz, stands at his side. Photo by Patrick Scriven of the Pacific Northwest Conference .

The Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, director of innovation and communication in the California-Pacific Conference. He has been assigned to Greater Northwest.

Bridgeforth becomes the first openly gay African-American man to be elected a bishop in The United Methodist Church.

An elder in the California-Pacific Conference, he has directed its office of innovation and communications since 2021. He previously has served as lead pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, a historically Black congregation in Los Angeles, and before that as lead pastor of Santa Ana United Methodist Church, a multi-ethnic congregation. During that time, he was also director of academic programs and outreach for the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies at the University of La Verne.

He also served as a district superintendent in the California-Pacific Conference from 2008 to 2015 and cabinet dean from 2011 to 2015.

Bridgeforth has written books on leadership and prayer. In 2021, he published his memoir, “Alabama Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding.”

A native of Decatur, Alabama, Bridgeforth is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, a United Methodist elder in the Desert Southwest Conference, is accompanied to the podium by young people from MARCHA West, honoring her roots in the Hispanic/Latino community. Photo by Patrick Scriven of the Pacific Northwest Conference.

The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, senior pastor of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona. She has been assigned to California-Pacific.

Escobedo-Frank will be the Western jurisdiction’s third Hispanic bishop,

Escobedo-Frank, an elder in the Desert Southwest Conference, she has served appointments as pastor to churches ranging from the small and rural to the big and urban. For three years, she also was an associate pastor at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America megachurch in Glendale, Arizona.

She also has experience as a district superintendent based in Tucson and dean of the bishop’s cabinet. She served twice as Hispanic Ministries chair in the Desert Southwest Conference.

She also is a prolific writer, publishing seven books about church life and church seasons with Abingdon Press, an imprint of the United Methodist Publishing House.


South Central Jurisdiction

The Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston acknowledges applause after her election to the United Methodist Episcopacy at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

The Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston, director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop of the Great Plains Conference. She has been assigned to Louisiana.

Williamston is the first Black female bishop for the South Central Jurisdiction. She has been assistant to the bishop and director of clergy excellence at the Great Plains Conference since 2021. Prior to that, she spent seven years as a district superintendent in the Great Plains.

She has a bachelor of science in management and Christian ethics from Manhattan Christian College; a master of divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology, with a specialization in evangelism and Black church studies; and is scheduled to receive a doctor of ministry degree in transformational leadership in improvisational ministry from Phillips Theological Seminary in May 2023.

Williamston is a 22-year veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, rising to sergeant first class, and has also worked for the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, State of Kansas food stamp department, American Federation for Television and Radio Artists, and a New York law firm.

The Rev. David Wilson, the first Native American United Methodist bishop, accepts congratulations after his election to the episcopacy at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

The Rev. David Wilson, assistant to the bishop of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. He has been assigned to Great Plains.

Wilson became the denomination’s first Native American bishop.

Wilson has been the assistant to the bishop for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference since 2021, following 19 years as a conference superintendent. He was lead coordinator for the North Oklahoma City Native American Ministry for eight years, following eight years as a pastor of a church in Norman, Oklahoma. He served seven years as director of promotions/interpretations for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, after being pastor of a church in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and campus minister for the Native American Campus Ministry program at Northeastern State University.

He received an undergraduate degree in mass communications from Oklahoma City University, a master’s degree in divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

The Rev. Laura Merrill accepts congratulations from delegates at the Nov. 2 United Methodist South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

The Rev. Laura Merrill, Central District superintendent for the Rio Texas Conference. She has been assigned to Arkansas.

Prior to her current position, she was assistant to the bishop and director of clergy excellence for Rio Texas. A former church secretary, she served as assistant to the dean and director of communications for Candler School of Theology at Emory University before becoming associate pastor at a church in Victoria, then pastor of churches in Los Fresnos and Wimberley.

Merrill also served as a missionary in Chile for the Desert Southwest Conference.

She received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Southwestern University in 1984, and a master’s in divinity from Candler in 1995.

A third-generation United Methodist pastor, she has two children.

This story was adapted from the UM News reporting. To read UM News’ full coverage, click HERE. Top photo: Newly elected United Methodist bishops David Wilson (third from left, wearing blue jacket), Laura Merrill (wearing green print jacket) and Delores “Dee” Williamston (second from right) are joined by other bishops and church leaders as they pray after being elected during the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Photo courtesy of the Great Plains Conference.



Here are the assignments, by conference.

North Central Jurisdiction 

Dakotas-Minnesota: Bishop Lanette Plambeck

Ohio East: Bishop Tracy S. Malone

Illinois Great Rivers: Bishop Frank J. Beard

Indiana: Bishop Julius C. Trimble

Iowa Area: Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai

Michigan Area: Bishop David A. Bard

Northern Illinois: Bishop Dan Schwerin

Ohio West: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

Wisconsin: Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

The North Central Jurisdiction includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Northeastern Jurisdiction

Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware: Bishop LaTrelle Easterling

Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey: Bishop John R. Schol

New York: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton

Susquehanna: Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball and Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

Upper New York:  Bishop Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez

West Virginia: Bishop Sandra L. Steiner Ball

Western Pennsylvania: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

*New England: A new servant leadership coverage model will be revealed later, covered by the college of bishops.

The Northeastern Jurisdiction includes the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

South Central Jurisdiction

Arkansas: Bishop Laura Merrill

Areas of North Texas and Central Texas: Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.

Great Plains: Bishop David Wilson

Louisiana: Bishop Delores “Dee” Williamston

Missouri: Bishop Robert “Bob” Farr

Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary: Bishop James G. “Jimmy” Nunn

Rio Texas: Bishop Robert C. Schnase

Texas: Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey

*Schnase will provide coverage for the New Mexico Conference and Nunn for the Northwest Texas Conference, as they have been doing.

The South Central Jurisdiction includes the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Southeastern Jurisdiction

Alabama-West Florida and South Georgia: Bishop David Graves

Florida: Bishop Thomas M. “Tom” Berlin

Holston and North Alabama: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett

Kentucky and Central Appalachian Missionary: Bishop Leonard Fairley

Mississippi: Bishop Sharma Lewis

North Carolina: Bishop Connie Mitchell Shelton

North Georgia: Bishop Robin Dease

South Carolina: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

Tennessee-Western Kentucky: Bishop William “Bill” McAlilly

Virginia: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson

Western North Carolina: Bishop Kenneth Carter

The Southeastern Jurisdiction includes the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Western Jurisdiction

California-Nevada: Bishop Minerva Carcaño

California-Pacific: Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank

Desert Southwest: Bishop Carlo A. Rapanut

Greater Northwest: Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth

Mountain Sky: Bishop Karen Oliveto

The Western Jurisdiction includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.


  1. Please, please help me here. As a traditional Methodist in suburban Atlanta — where my local UMC has come out liberal — I am working overtime to flee the UMC and pray that a UMC congregation in my area will affiliate with the Global Methodist Church so I can still have a real Methodist home. I can find no interest in reading about these new UMC bishops — unless I can read about at least one of the thirteen being a true traditional-orthodox Methodist who is committed to standing against the liberal seizure of the UMC. However, with the election of another bishop who is in a same-sex marriage and the profiles of the other twelve, I am unable to even see a resemblance of a traditional-orthodox Methodist in that group. Please correct me here if I am wrong.

  2. How do we know if the newly elected bishops are liberal or conservative?

  3. The song “Who do I have to hate to be your friend?” by Bret Martin would be a great way to start to answer the question; ‘How do we know if the newly elected bishops are liberal or conservative?’

  4. Rebecca,
    None of the thirteen elected bishops support the current teachings of the United Methodist Church on marriage and human sexuality.

  5. If the Bishops who are leaders of the United Methodist Church do not follow the Discipline (based on Scripture) on human sexuality, how can they require members of the UMC to follow the requirements of the church ? These Bishops are no longer leaders but they are false teachers. Check out what God says about human sexuality in the Bible. Betsy

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