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Bishop elections end, new Florida bishop named

Bishop elections end, new Florida bishop named

The Florida Conference has a new bishop.

Bishop Ken Carter
Bishop-elect Ken Carter

Rev. Ken Carter, who was elected bishop Wednesday on the third ballot, was assigned to Florida and approved at 10:25 p.m. Thursday after deliberations by the Committee on the Episcopacy ran late at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Carter was nominated by the Western North Carolina Conference, where he has been serving as superintendent of the seven-county Waynesvllle district. His wife, Pam, is missions specialist with the WNC Conference and mission interpreter with Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean. The couple have two daughters. More information is available at the bishop-elect's website,

The announcement followed a celebration of five retiring bishops, including Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker and Bishop Charlene Kammerer, who grew up in Winter Garden and went on to become the first woman bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. She had most recently been serving the Virginia Conference.

A consecration ceremony for the five newly elected bishops is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday and may be viewed at Bishops are expected to begin working in their assigned conferences Sept. 1.

The late-night episcopal assignments followed a drama-filled morning session that included calls for expanded diversity in the denomination’s leadership.

Bishop Young Jin Cho
Rev. Young Jin Cho hears the announcement of his election to bishop at the SEJ Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Virginia Conference nominee Young Jin Cho, a South Korea native who had been barely attracting enough votes to stay in the running for most of the two-day election, pulled from behind to secure a bishop’s post on the 29th ballot. He attracted 287 votes.

“I know there are many kinds of resurrections,” the bishop-elect quipped after he was escorted to the stage to address the crowd.

He then became serious, saying, “From the beginning of this journey [it’s been], ‘Dear God, your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.’ … Without God’s help, I am nothing. Please pray for me.”

Cho joined a slate elected Wednesday consisting of, besides Carter, Jonathan Holston, North Georgia Conference; Bill McAlilly, Mississippi Conference; and Debra Wallace-Padgett, Kentucky Conference. The Committee on Episcopacy unanimously agreed to assign Cho to the Virginia Conference, an exception to the general rules that require bishops to serve outside their nominating conference.

Russ Graves, Florida Conference lay leader and a delegate at the Lake Junaluska conference, said after the election he was pleased with the election results, which included two ethnic minorities and a woman.

“I really felt like God had his hand in it,” Graves said.

Cho saw his fortunes dramatically improve after Rev. Sharma Lewis, a Black Clergy Women nominee who had been running second behind South Carolina nominee Tim McClendon, dropped behind Cho on the 22nd ballot. She withdrew from the race with an impassioned speech in which she said she had “wanted to make history of being the first African American woman” elected bishop in the SEJ.

“I will continue to take Jesus to the streets,” she said. “I will see you all, prayerfully, if God moves me, in four years.”

Florida delegate Geraldine McClellan addressed the crowd, blaming election tactics and charging that the denomination must address the prevalence of white faces in its ranks, a statement later echoed by Florida delegate Carlene Fogle-Miller.

“We are the most diverse jurisdiction in the U.S., but we’re not seeing this at all,” Fogle-Miller said, referring to elected leadership.

After a stalemate between Cho and McClendon for several ballots, with neither achieving the necessary 60 percent majority to win election, McClendon withdrew from the race and asked all delegates to support Cho.

“I know that we need to celebrate diversity,” McClendon told delegates. “Most of you don’t know that I’m not white. Nevertheless, it’s not about color. It’s about the Holy Spirit.”

McClendon’s candidate website indicates he has a Native American heritage.

Graves said after the election that he liked what he heard in interviews with Lewis and had voted for her. He said he didn’t think her color had anything to do with her failure to secure a seat and he thought some of the comments made had detracted from the proceedings.

He added, however, “Overall, I felt like the system worked very well.”