LAKELAND – Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson is the Florida Conference candidate for the Office of Bishop.
Haupert-Johnson, superintendent of the conference’s North Central District and clergy leader for the 50-member Florida delegation, was the endorsed choice of the delegation, which gathered Friday and Saturday at First UMC, Lakeland.
“I am honored to be elected first to the clergy side of the delegation and to be an episcopal nominee from an annual conference as large, complex and diverse as the Florida Annual Conference,” Haupert-Johnson said Monday.
“I am humbled that my annual conference has seen fit to offer my gifts to the General Church and the Southeastern Jurisdiction. I pray that God’s will be done and that all we do in preparation for this election will glorify and honor Jesus Christ.”
If elected, Haupert-Johnson, 53, would serve at a United Methodist conference in the southeastern U.S. but not in Florida. She said Monday she and her family – husband Allen, also a Florida Conference elder, and daughter Samantha – are ready for the challenge.
“I think all of us sense this calling on our lives,” she said. “I think we’re all open to the will of God in calling us to this.”
Molly McEntire, associate director of children’s ministries at First UMC, Lakeland, and lay delegation leader, said Haupert-Johnson’s nomination followed a discernment process in which “Sue was able to share her heart.”
“We’re really, really excited about Sue,” McEntire said. “She just has this passion for the Methodist Church – you can just feel it. She is someone who wants to see the church stay united. She has a love not only for the church but everyone in the church.”
Rev. David Dodge, assistant to Florida Bishop Ken Carter and a clergy delegate who has represented the Florida Conference at jurisdictional proceedings since the 1980s, said he also was pleased with the delegation’s choice.
“I really feel Sue brings gifts and graces that are needed for the episcopacy,” he said, describing the candidate as “smart, perceptive and well-grounded” with a “deep passion for the church."
The bishop also praised the nominee’s gifts.
"Sue Haupert-Johnson is a very gifted leader, pastor and district superintendent in our annual conference,” Carter said in an email. “I will be praying for her, her family and the church in this season of discernment."
Haupert-Johnson has served as North Central District superintendent since July 2013, overseeing a church landscape of large and small congregations in a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities. The district’s demographics are diverse as well, including African-American, Haitian, Hispanic and Native American worshipers.
Before that, she served as pastor of churches in Tampa, Cape Coral and Ocala, and was an associate pastor at First UMC, Lakeland. She holds a law degree from the University of Florida and was a litigator with a Tampa law firm before answering the call to ministry and graduating summa cum laude from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She was ordained a deacon in 1996 and an elder in 1998.
Haupert-Johnson has had numerous leadership roles in the Florida Conference and has represented the Florida UMC twice at General Conference – serving as Judicial Administration Legislative Committee chairperson in 2012 – and three times at jurisdictional conference.
Participation in electing bishops has given her insight into the gifts needed for the job, Haupert-Johnson said.
“It is something people need to be called to do,” she said.
To see Haupert-Johnson’s complete bio, click here. To see her Statement of Call, click here.
The last Florida nominee to be elected to the episcopacy was Bishop Richard “Dick” Wills in 2004. The Florida Conference has the distinction of being home to the first African American elected to the episcopacy in the SEJ, Bishop Ernie Newman, now deceased, elected in 1984; and the first woman bishop in the SEJ, Bishop Charlene Kammerer, elected in 1996.
The number of nominees and open episcopal slots for 2016 have not been finalized.
The Florida delegation comprises 18 delegates headed to General Conference in May 2016, as well as 18 jurisdictional delegates and 14 alternates. At last week’s meeting, the delegation also completed committee appointments for General Conference, to be held in May in Portland, Oregon. Click here for the list.
The delegation’s next meeting will be Oct. 3, when members will turn their attention to reviewing petitions and other matters expected to be before The United Methodist Church at General Conference, McEntire said.