During July, the five U.S. jurisdictional conferences elected 15 new bishops. 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 on the first ballot. She is the first African-American woman elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
“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.” With degrees from Mercer University, The University of West Georgia, and Gammon Theological Seminary, Lewis will lead the Virginia Annual Conference.
• The Rev. David Graves, senior pastor of Church Street United Methodist Church in the Holston Conference, was elected by delegates of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Graves, 58, was elected on the fourth ballot.
“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.” With degrees from University of Tennessee and Candler School of Theology, Graves will lead the Alabama- West Florida Annual Conferences.
• The Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, a district superintendent of the Florida Annual Conference, was elected by delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Haupert-Johnson, 54, was elected on the 10th ballot. 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. With degrees from University of Florida and Candler, Haupert-Johnson will lead the North Georgia Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Robert Lawson Bryan, of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, was elected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Bryan, who serves as senior pastor at Montgomery (Alabama) First United Methodist Church, was elected on the 10th ballot. “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.” With degrees from Tulane
University and Emory University, Bryan will lead the South Georgia Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Leonard Fairley, district superintendent in the North Carolina Conference, was elected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Fairly, 59, was elected on the seventh ballot. “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 served as the chief missional strategist and spiritual and administrative leader to 96 churches and 134 pastors in 56 eastern North Carolina counties. With degrees from Pfeiffer College and Duke University’s School of Divinity, Fairley will lead the Kentucky and Red Bird Missionary Annual Conferences.
• The Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, district superintendent of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, was elected as a bishop on the 11th ballot at the Northeastern Jurisdiction. 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 Moore-Koikoi 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.” With degrees from Loyola College and the University of Maryland, Moore-Koikoi will lead the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Frank Beard, pastor of Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, was elected by delegates at the North Central Jurisdiction. He was elected on the sixth ballot. 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 a United Methodist 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.
With degrees from Taylor University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and Christian Theological Seminary, Beard will lead the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.
• The Rev. David Bard, the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Duluth, Minnesota, was elected by the North Central Jurisdiction. Bard was elected during the 10th round. 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.
With degrees from University of Minnesota, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Southern Methodist University, Bard will lead the Michigan Area Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Tracy Smith Malone, district superintendent in the Northern Illinois Conference, was elected by the North Central Jurisdiction. “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.
With degrees from North Central College, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and United Theological Seminary, Malone will lead the East Ohio Annual Conference.
• The Rev. LaTrelle Easterling, a district superintendent in the New England Annual Conference, was elected by delegates at the Northeastern Jurisdiction on the 17th ballot. Easterling told the member conferences of the Northeastern, “I always, always, always stand on the side of justice, but I draw the circle wide enough for all of us to be there – and when I say all, I mean all.”
With degrees from Indiana University, Indiana School of Law, and Boston University School of Theology, Easterling will lead the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz Jr., director of Connectional Ministries and executive director of Mission Vitality Center of the Rio
Texas Conference, was elected 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.” 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. With degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University and Perkins School of Theology, Saenz will lead the Great Plains Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Laurie Haller, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Michigan, was elected 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.” With degrees from Yale University Divinity School and Wittenberg University, Haller will lead the Iowa Annual Conference.
• The Rev. James “Jimmy” Nunn, the director of mission and administration for the Northwest Texas Conference, was elected by
the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Nunn, 59, was selected on the 21st ballot. “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. With degrees from McMurry University and Asbury Theological Seminary, Nunn will lead the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Annual Conferences.
• The Rev. Robert “Bob” Farr, director of of congregational development for the Missouri Conference, was elected by the South Central Jurisdiction. Farr, 56, 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.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Farr said of the extended ballots. “It meant a lot to have the support from the conference, the clergy, and the lay people here.” With a degree from Perkins School of Theology, Farr will lead the Missouri Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, senior minister of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, was elected by the Western. With degrees from Drew University and Pacific School of Religion, Oliveto will lead the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Annual Conferences. (See pages 8-12.)
Profiles adapted from United Methodist News Service reports. Special thanks to contributing news writers Sybil Davidson, Annette Spence, Mary Catherine Phillips, LeeAnne Thornton, Melissa Lauber, Erik Alsgaard, Christa Meland, Joey Butler, Beth DiCocco, David Burke, and Kathy L. Gilbert.
Oliveto’s election and consecration to the office of bishop in the United Methodist Church as a practicing homosexual puts a damper on the whole leadership selection process for me. Normally a very joyous time, it’s a sad day for all United Methodists who stand for the truth as it is in Jesus. And just to think that we have to wait years before there will be any word of biblical justice on this poke in the United Methodist Church’s eye is almost more than I can bear.