By Jessica Connor
Delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional conferences have unanimously selected Dr. Tim McClendon as their episcopal nominee.
“I have a strong personal call to be a bishop, and also a church call,” McClendon told the Advocate.
McClendon, who serves as Columbia District superintendent and S.C. conference parliamentarian, has been a delegate to five General Conferences consecutively since 1996. He narrowly missed being elected bishop at the 2008 Jurisdictional Conference, garnering the second-most votes in episcopal elections.
In a statement he released to the delegation, McClendon said he has three distinct visions for the United Methodist Church that he hopes to help the denomination achieve: that the church be real, relevant and relational.
“We have to be real in a world of young people and all of every age hoping, yearning for meaning beyond themselves,” McClendon said in the statement. “Inauthentic Christians and tired thinking that longs for the good old days has to be replaced with active engagement with our culture as real people, no faking and no presumptions – lots of love.”
He said the UMC must be relevant in a world that sees Christianity and the institutional church as very irrelevant, and be relational in a world that seeks community.
“Christians and churches behind walls and acronyms that are foreign to people won’t cut it,” McClendon said. “We have to meet people where they are, and that has to include all kinds of people. If we can’t relate to people, then our efforts at being like Christ are a sham.”
McClendon told the Advocate that connectionalism is the best vehicle for ministry that he can imagine.
If elected bishop, McClendon said his priorities are to be accessible, be on-site and offer forward-thinking leadership through relationships with people, while understanding the pulse of the Annual Conference – including its financial conditions and the health of its local churches.
He said a good bishop must know the cultural landscape of the Annual Conference, promote clergy and lay excellence by being present in churches across an annual conference, lead teaching days for laity and clergy that promote faithful discipleship and Wesleyan theology, be in the forefront of clergy recruitment, retain those who excel and effectively make appointments so that local churches thrive.
“The United Methodist Church is at a critical juncture that needs decisive action,” McClendon said.
McClendon has served in a variety of settings, from a three-point charge to a county seat church to a turn-around city church to district superintendent. While senior pastor at St. John’s UMC in Rock Hill, he received the Denman Evangelism Award for his leadership in receiving more than 1,200 members in nine years.
He has taught Disciple I 26 times, as well as taught Disciple II, Disciple III, Disciple IV, Christian Believer, and Jesus and the Gospels numerous times each. He also taught Sunday school for nine consecutive years, seeker’s classes and a weekly United Methodist Men’s Class based on John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” for six years with an average attendance of 65.
Known throughout the connection as an expert on the Book of Discipline, McClendon has represented the UMC and missions in the Philippines, Bulgaria, Mozambique and on Grand Bahama Island after Hurricane Rita. As parliamentarian for the S.C. Conference for the past 17 years, he has advised bishops and helped faithfully guide the proceedings of the Annual Conference.
McClendon also vice-chaired the 2004 General Conference Task force that formulated the Connectional Table. He was a member of the GCOM/Connectional Table Transition Team, and has served on the Connectional Table for the past two quadrennia, bringing together a vision for the denomination.
He is a current member of the 20-person Worldwide Nature of the UMC Study Committee, using his understanding of United Methodist polity and ecclesiology to guide the UMC’s global nature and make sure that connectionalism thrives in the denomination.
He is also a member of the S.C. Committee on Episcopacy and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he was just selected in April as the recipient of the Candler School of Theology’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to the Church.
An avid potter, McClendon has been married to Cindy Godwin for 35 years. They have three children, two of whom are elders in the UMC (the Revs. Narcie Jeter and Josh McClendon).