LAKELAND - Members of the Florida Conferenceís
delegation to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference (SEJ) voted by a majority that
Florida would not name a nominee from the conference for bishop.
That decision was made Feb. 10 at meeting of the delegation at First
United Methodist Church here. It was one agenda item delegates considered in preparation
for the SEJ special session Feb. 26-28 in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Delegates to the special session will elect a bishop to fill the
vacancy created by the death of Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson, who was serving in his
second appointment as bishop of the Florida Conference. Henderson died Dec. 7 after a
two-year battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells.
The Rev. Dick Wills led Floridaís delegates in a time of discussion
and prayer before making their decision. Wills is senior pastor of Christ Church United
Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale and a member of the SEJ episcopacy committee with Mary Alice
Massey, leader of Floridaís delegation. After discussing the issue, delegates went to the
churchís chapel to pray and submit index cards on which they either named a nominee or
said no nominee was needed.
Three names were submitted, but delegates voted by a majority not to
name a nominee, according to Massey.
"I believe if we have someone with gifts and gracesÖthat we
also have an obligation [to name a nominee]," Massey said during the discussion
before the vote."Itís not just about Florida; itís about the Southeastern
Massey reminded delegates that each of the jurisdictionís bishops
will be available to be reassigned and that the newly elected bishop will not necessarily
be appointed to Florida.
The Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin expressed appreciation for the
jurisdictionís support of the Florida Conference and willingness to hold a special
session, despite its estimated $250,000 cost. He felt Florida should not name a nominee.
"Let us receive, rather than attempt to try and give," he said.
Several delegates agreed, while others suggested supporting a
nominee submitted by another conference.
A letter from Massey, Wills and Kathy Rydell, chair of the Florida
Conferenceís episcopacy committee, was sent in early January to the SEJ episcopacy
committee on behalf of the Florida Conference. It explained the skills and abilities
needed in a bishop assigned to Florida and the dynamics of the conference. Massey and
Wills promised to reiterate the points made in the letter with members of the SEJ
episcopacy committee when the appointments for bishop are made.
Four men and two women have been nominated for bishop by their
annual conference delegations. One of the men is a Native American, and one is
African-American. The nominees are Martha H. Forrest, 61, superintendent of the
Atlanta-College Park District in the North Georgia Conference; Alfred (Al) Wesley Gwinn
Jr., 57, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky.; Charles L.
Johnson Sr., 56, an African-American and conference director working with the South
Carolina Conference Council on Ministries; Jerry Hilton Mayo, 55, pastor of First United
Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Nancy Burgin Rankin, 49, superintendent of the
Statesville District in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference; and Sam Wynn, 47, a
Native American and member of the Lumbee tribe and superintendent of New Bern District in
the North Carolina Conference.
of this page
© 2001 Florida United Methodist Review Online