Delegation taps Tim McClendon as episcopal nominee
By Jessica Brodie
Dr. Tim McClendon has again been elected as the South Carolina episcopacy nominee for the 2016 General and Jurisdictional conferences. And again, he is willing to accept the call.
McClendon will be among those considered for the role of bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction’s 15 annual conferences when the next Jurisdictional Conference is held beginning July 13, 2016.
The first clergy delegate elected at South Carolina’s Annual Conference 2015 and chair of the delegation to the 2016 conferences, McClendon was elected during a delegation meeting held in Columbia Aug. 29.
This is the third time McClendon has been elected as an episcopal nominee; he has come close to being elected twice. Last time, in 2012, he narrowly missed election as a bishop despite being the top vote-getter on 14 ballots. This time around, the delegation hopes he’ll see election.
“I went to annual conference this year just wanting to be a part of the General Conference delegation because we’re at a critical juncture as a denomination,” said McClendon, who identifies both as Native American and multiracial. “Being elected first was a surprise, and for a day or two I resisted thinking about the implications that it had for considering again a call to the episcopacy. Then, on Wednesday I preached in the Memorial Service about the saints who have gone before us, those who have done the hard work of ministry, and the call hit me. It was as if the Lord said to me, ‘This could be difficult, and you’ve been wounded before, but I want you to take up this call.’ My words caught in my throat as I preached because I felt it. Narcie, on the way to the Candler Alumni dinner afterward, said, ‘Dad, when you were preaching I saw you get your theophany and you said it would take a theophany to begin contemplating whether to pursue this path again. You got it.’ She was right. So here I am again.”
McClendon has 36 years of ministry. Currently, he pastors St. John’s UMC, Aiken, and prior to that, he served as the Columbia District superintendent for eight years. He was the first clergy elected for three consecutive quadrennia in South Carolina.
McClendon considers the role of bishop as a collegial superintending ministry.
“Throughout my 36 years of ministry, this has been my call,” McClendon said. “Whether elected or not, I will seek to fulfill the same call.”
Barbara Ware, conference lay leader and vice chairperson of the South Carolina Delegation, said the team is excited to have McClendon as their nominee.
“Tim McClendon has a genuine passion for The United Methodist Church,” Ware said. “You sense this whenever you engage him in a conversation around the local church, the district or the annual conference. He is one who wants to see the United Methodist church continue to be a strong voice in this world. Tim is known for his energetic personality and his love for the laity and clergy.”
Delegation member and Conference Secretary the Rev. Ken Nelson said the delegation gave careful prayer to their election of McClendon as nominee and they are “really committed” to seeing McClendon elected as bishop.
“The depth of his experience, his vast knowledge of The United Methodist Church on all levels from the local church to jurisdictional to the General Conference level and his own spiritual journey and commitment to excellence and the unity of the church are the reasons why the delegation elected him—and the fact that he is willing to offer himself to this position,” Nelson said. “We think it would be really good for The United Methodist Church as a whole. He would serve well.”
Five episcopal openings are expected as bishops currently serving in Virginia, South Georgia, Kentucky, Western North Carolina and North Georgia conferences shift into retirement.
About Jurisdictional Conference
Jurisdictional Conference, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, is held every four years primarily to elect bishops for the 15 SEJ conferences: South Carolina, as well as Alabama/West Florida, Florida, Holston, Kentucky, Memphis, Mississippi, North Alabama, North Carolina, North Georgia, Red Bird Missionary, South Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Western North Carolina.
Thirty-two delegates will represent South Carolina as delegates to this conference. Clergy delegates: Dr. Tim McClendon, Rev. Ken Nelson, Rev. Tim Rogers, Dr. Robin Dease, Rev. Tiffany Knowlin, Rev. Narcie Jeter, Rev. Mel Arant Jr., Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray, Rev. Telley Gadson, Rev. Michael Turner, Rev. Kathy James, Rev. George Ashford, Rev. James Friday, Rev. Sara White, Rev. Emily Sutton and Rev. Jeff Kersey (alternates: Rev. Connie Barnes and Rev. Cathy Joens). Lay delegates: Barbara Ware, James Salley, Dr. Joseph Heyward, Herman Lightsey, Jackie Jenkins, Michael Cheatham, Martha Thompson, Dr. David Braddon, Lollie Haselden, Emily Rogers Evans, Donald Love, Jennifer Price, Chris Lynch, Dr. Carolyn Briscoe, Linda DuRant and Lou Jordan (alternates: Cynthia Williams and Marilyn Murphy).
McClendon is senior pastor of St. John’s UMC, Aiken, and a member of the General Commission on the Religion and Race and the South Eastern Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy. He is the recipient of the Candler School of Theology Distinguished Alumni Award, the SEJ United Methodist Men’s St. James Award and the Denman Evangelism Award. He has been elected as a delegate to the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 General Conferences, and is the 2016 nominee for bishop from the South Carolina Annual Conference.
McClendon is past member of the UMC Connectional Table, Worldwide UMC Study Committee and General Council on Ministries. He has also been chair of the SEJ Rules Committee and the Columbia District Superintendent. He has been elected Annual Conference Parliamentarian for 20 years; chair of Annual Conference Restructuring Committee, member of Committee on Native American Concerns, member of the Committee on the Annual Conference, chair of the District Committee on Congregational Development, chair of two District Committees on Ordained Ministry and served 10 years on the executive committee of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.
McClendon has been heavily involved in missions through short-term trips to the Philippines, Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Grand Bahama and Mozambique. He has also served as a district missions secretary and coordinated two district mission saturation events. He has been a member of the Killingsworth Home for Women Board of Trustees and the Epworth Children’s Home Board of Trustees.
He is past adjunct faculty member of Candler School of Theology in “UM Discipline and Polity,” Emory’s Course of Study School in “Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit” and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary’s “United Methodist History.”
He is known throughout the denomination as an expert on the Book of Discipline, and has written General Conference legislation for four general agencies of the UMC.
McClendon is married to Cindy Godwin McClendon of Lake City, and they have three children: Narcie Jeter (Mike), a United Methodist elder who is executive director and senior pastor of the Gator Wesley Foundation at the University of Florida; Josh (Karen) who is a United Methodist elder and associate pastor of Shandon UMC, Columbia; and Caleb, a recent USC graduate. They have four grandchildren and another due in February.
McClendon’s Talking Points on the Episcopacy
I went to annual conference this year just wanting to be a part of the General Conference delegation because we’re at a critical juncture as a denomination. Being elected first was a surprise, and for a day or two I resisted thinking about the implications that it had for considering again a call to the episcopacy. Then, on Wednesday I preached in the Memorial Service about the saints who have gone before us, those who have done the hard work of ministry, and the call hit me. It was as if the Lord said to me, “This could be difficult, and you’ve been wounded before, but I want you to take up this call.”
My words caught in my throat as I preached because I felt it. Narcie, on the way to the Candler Alumni dinner afterward, said, “Dad, when you were preaching I saw you get your theophany and you said it would take a theophany to begin contemplating whether to pursue this path again. You got it.”
She was right. So here I am again.
For some time now I’ve poured myself into serving the UMC not only at the local level but also in the general, worldwide church. I’ve done so by building countless relationships and working diligently in a vast multitude of roles across the Connection. These years of service not only leave me feeling affirmed in my call to ministry, but I believe they also equip me for service in the episcopacy.
To be the first clergy elected for three consecutive quadrennia in South Carolina has been an astounding honor in and of itself, and I am grateful. I am also grateful to have been nominated for the episcopacy three times by South Carolina and to have come close to being elected twice. Though not elected, I have still lived into the same call to superintend the people and churches in my stewardship. In my mind, being a bishop is doing a collegial superintending ministry. I am currently doing it as pastor at St. John’s UMC, Aiken, which is a superbly wonderful church. Before that, it was by being the Columbia District superintendent for eight years. Throughout my 36 years of ministry, this has been my call. Whether elected or not, I will seek to fulfill the same call.
A highlight of my strengths for this ministry begins with intentionally fulfilling the distinctive United Methodist means of grace called connectionalism: “Together we can do more!” I truly believe that. Certainly we cannot be a cookie-cutter denomination. We have differences of opinion on critical issues, but I believe through Jesus we can do more together. Therefore, a strength throughout my entire ministry is an ability to bridge divides wherever and however they exist culturally, racially, or theologically. I want to work for the unity of our denomination and help mobilize an annual conference to do more together for Jesus than we would ever dare to do alone.
I believe that one of our greatest strengths as a denomination is our ability to follow Wesley’s dictum: “In essentials, let there be unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” We have core doctrines that we must believe, but we are people who do theology best when we put it into practice. If I am elected a bishop, I promise to guard the faith, uphold our Wesleyan distinctives and make my first priority to offer Jesus to a needy world. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will be unleashed in a shared ministry between lay and clergy throughout our church. Indeed, “together we can do more!”
This shared ministry has been my ministry model. I seek to know churches, laity and clergy in every setting imaginable, taking every opportunity for understanding and collaboration. I love preaching, teaching and shared mission work. Being real and authentic as a leader instills confidence and the faith that through Christ we can do new and better things for the Kingdom.
We are not a denomination that’s on the way out. We have beliefs that are timeless and a way of being church that is second to none.
What we need are people, clergy (including bishops) and laity that are willing to do more than walk the talk in the usual United Methodist way, but also dare to talk the walk and let people know that the reason we do so many good things is because of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Too often we want to walk the talk without ever telling anyone about Jesus being the why.
You also need to know that I identify as Native American and multiracial. I’ve served on our conference CONAM (Committee on Native American Ministries) for years and have been a featured speaker at Native American events at Lake Junaluska and elsewhere. In 2012 I was not only nominated to the episcopacy by our conference, but also by SERNAC (South Eastern Regional Native American Caucus).
I believe I acted faithfully according to God’s call as a nominee in the 2008 and 2012 episcopal elections, and I offer myself to be used however and wherever God and the United Methodist Church decides. For those interested, my available years of service would be three quadrennia. Thank you.
—Dr. Tim McClendon