SEJ Day 2 wrap-up: Holston remains in S.C., other conferences get new bishops

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By Jessica Brodie

LAKE JUNALUSKA, North Carolina—Bishop Jonathan Holston will continue as South Carolina’s episcopal leader another four years, the Southeastern Jurisdiction is embracing a new missional initiative and several from South Carolina have the honor of serving on general and jurisdictional bodies of The United Methodist Church.

These were the biggest affirmations South Carolina United Methodists got July 14 as Day Two of the 2016 SEJ Conference came to a close.

The second day of business was slender on news, as the bulk of delegates’ work—passing the budget and electing five new bishops to lead annual conferences across the SEJ—was completed the day prior. But work was done, including the much-anticipated announcement of episcopal assignments.

Bishops get their assignments

SEJ learned episcopal assignments for the new quadrennium at the close of business Thursday night.

While Holston will remain in South Carolina for his second quadrennium, other conferences will get new bishops as some bishops retired, some moved and some were newly elected. Bishops, who are elected for life, typically serve an annual conference for two quadrennia (eight years).

SEJ bishop assignments are as follows:

  • Alabama-West Florida: Bishop David Graves
  • Florida: Bishop Ken Carter
  • Holston: Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
  • Kentucky/Red Bird Missionary: Bishop Leonard Fairley
  • Memphis/Tennessee: Bishop Bill McAlilly
  • Mississippi: Bishop James Swanson
  • North Alabama: Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett
  • North Carolina: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
  • North Georgia: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
  • South Carolina: Bishop Jonathan Holston
  • South Georgia: Bishop Lawson Bryan
  • Virginia: Bishop Sharma Lewis
  • Western North Carolina: Bishop Paul Leeland

New missional initiative approved

Also Thursday evening, the body unanimously approved a new missional initiative proposed by the SEJ College of Bishops. Bishop Bill McAlilly officially presented the initiative to the body on behalf of the COB, stating the proposal was the bishops’ effort at affirming a way forward for the church.

“As leaders of the church in the SEJ, we see a timely opportunity to increase our strategic thinking and action with regard to our context in the Southeast,” the initiative reads in part, noting it is the bishops’ hope to continue to focus on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The initiative specifically will focus on new forms of church beyond the walls; children and poverty; unity and human sexuality; making disciples; and structure, finance and the future church.

A sixth area, racism and white privilege—proposed from the floor by North Carolina delegate Laurie Hays Coffman—was included as a friendly amendment.

Nominations affirmed

Several South Carolinians were among a host of SEJ United Methodists elected to serve on UMC general agencies and SEJ committees, agencies and ministries.

For general agencies: The Rev. Ken Nelson on the Connectional Table; Dr. Robin Dease on the General Board of Church and Society (also on GBCS nominations committee); Herman Lightsey on the General Board Pension and Health Benefits; and the Rev. Cathy Mitchell on the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

For SEJ committees, agencies and ministries: The Rev. Tim Rogers on the Committee on Coordination and Accountability; Barbara Ware on Council on Finance and Administration; James Salley on the Gulfside Association Board of Directors; the Rev. Marion Crooks on the Hinton Rural Life Center Board; Bishop Holston and Ken Jenkins on the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center Board; the Rev. Roger Gramling and the Rev. A.V. Huff on the SEJ Commission on Archives and History and SEJ Heritage Center Board; and Bishop Holston on the Intentional Growth Center Board.

Retirement service

SEJ also honored five retiring bishops Thursday night: Bishop Lindsey Davis, Kentucky and Red Bird Missionary conferences; Bishop James King, South Georgia Conference; B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Conference; Bishop Young Jin Cho, Virginia Conference; and Larry Goodpaster, Western North Carolina Conference.

Service of remembrance

In a service preached by Bishop Cho Thursday morning, SEJ honored six bishops and five bishop spouses who died since the last quadrennium: bishops Mack Stokes, Robert Morgan, Lloyd Knox, Roy Clark, Charles Hancock and William Morris, as well as spouses Mariam Hancock, Mary Ann Minnick, Eva Eutsler, Mildred “Tuck” Jones and Louise Short.

Up Friday: Consecrating new bishops

SEJ Conference will end Friday morning with a consecration service for the five new bishops elected July 13: Sharma Lewis, David Graves, Leonard Fairley, Lawson Bryan and Sue Haupert-Johnson.

The front page of the August Advocate will have a full SEJ wrap-up article; check back at July 21 for the full overview. If you’re not an Advocate subscriber and wish to subscribe to the full print or online edition of the Advocate, visit

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