By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—South Carolina’s episcopal nominee Dr. Tim McClendon had the opportunity to speak before Southeastern Jurisdiction delegates at General Conference May 18.
McClendon, along with several others hoping to be elected as bishop at the SEJ Conference July 13-15, took to the podium at lunchtime to help colleagues understand more about him and why he feels called to the episcopacy.
“It was an honor to have the opportunity to speak to the SEJ delegates,” McClendon said following his remarks. “The prayerful support of the South Carolina delegation humbles me and is an encouragement in this process. I am grateful to God.”
McClendon is chair of the South Carolina delegation to General Conference, and the delegation was there to cheer him on. They said he did a great job.
McClendon began his remarks expressing appreciation and lifting up his family; married for 40 years, he has three children, two of whom are United Methodist elders and one of whom is also a delegate to this year’s General Conference.
“We believe in the connection, that we can do more together than apart,” McClendon said, then launched into a story about a man pulling a single horse, Jack, up a steep hill. The man was observed shouting out various names as he urged the horse up the hill. When questioned why he would use so many names for just one horse, the man turned to the observer.
“If Jack thought he was pulling the whole thing himself, he’d never get it up the hill!” McClendon said to laughter.
That story illuminates how it works in The United Methodist Church, McClendon said. Alone we can do some, but together, we can do more.
McClendon talked about his work as the Columbia District superintendent and Annual Conference parliamentarian, noting that he loved the work and knows how difficult it can be to “make things fit” whether it is new church starts or cross-racial appointments.
“I try to be a bridge-builder across all lines,” McClendon said, explaining that he believes there are two types of people in the world: balcony people (who lift others up and encourage them) and basement people (who drag people down).
He does all he can to be a “balcony person” and said he had two phenomenal examples growing up: his mother, who welcomed an African-American homeless man into the family and legally adopted him, and his father, a mixed-blood Chickasaw with an eighth-grade education who came up the hard way, who showed love in so many ways. Every night his father would knock on the wall three times, and McClendon was expected to knock back. Those knocks represented the words “I love you.”
“That’s a part of who I am—to be an encourager, to be a balcony person—and I am so glad for my parents,” McClendon said. “Relationships, I believe, are what makes the Gospel work.”
He said he could reel off a bunch of statistics about his fruitfulness in ministry, such as 20 years of being conference parliamentarian or being the recipient of the Candler Distinguished Alumni Award or the Denman Evangelism Award.
“But the main thing that I would tell you is my passion is to be a balcony person, to lift others up, to encourage others, to build relationships,” McClendon said. “My passion is to connect to Jesus and each other in effective, fruitful, accountable ways.”
Resounding applause followed his remarks.
For more on SEJ Conference and the other nominees, visit www.sejumc.org.