Editor's note: The Florida Conference welcomed several new staff members in July. Florida Conference Connection is taking a closer look at their backgrounds and ministry plans with profile stories over the next few weeks. This is the second in the series.
LAKELAND -- Like many pastors, Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans got started in ministry as a result of a youth mission trip. Since then, his journey has taken many a missional turn, leading most recently to his appointment as director of Missional Engagement for the Florida Conference.
|Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans|
His new role includes oversight of Global Missions, Disaster Recovery and Justice and Outreach ministries, as well as supporting the local work of district superintendents.
He said his life experiences, including being able to speak Spanish and English, helped prepare him for the newly created position of leading Missional Engagement, which includes service in the bishop’s cabinet.
“The world around us has changed, and we must figure out how we are going to serve in this diverse world,” Campbell-Evans said. “One of the big questions is how ready are we as a conference to address this.”
Campbell-Evans’ ministry has its initial roots in service as a tutor when he was part of a church youth group in Tampa. He then experienced campus ministry while studying at the University of South Florida, Tampa, followed by a mission internship focusing on the Dominican Republic.
After receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Union Seminary in New York, he served as a mission intern for the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), assigned to El Paso, Texas, to work with community organizations that helped the rural poor. He later held an executive position at the GBGM.
In addition, he has been pastor of a multicultural congregation in North Miami Beach and a district superintendent in the Miami area. He most recently led Saint Paul UMC, a 2,000-member church in Tallahassee.
His leadership of local churches has shaped some of the goals identified and being undertaken by his office.
“We’ll be thinking with the district superintendents about ways to develop models for churches which have financial struggles but at the same time wish to carry out vibrant and exciting missions,” said Campbell-Evans, whose experience at Fulford UMC, North Miami Beach, taught him about such challenges.
“We want to help them [churches] have a long-term presence without draining their resources. … Some churches get exhausted from financial problems, and it detracts from their zeal for missions.”
Campbell-Evans and his Missional Engagement team began last month on a mission to personally contact every church in the conference – nearly 700 congregations – by Thanksgiving.
|Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, right, helps package food for disadvantaged people in Haiti during a Stop Hunger Now event at Annual Conference 2013. Photo by Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr.|
“This is to let them know we’re ready to partner with them and their missions chairs, and learning what they want so we’re not coming up with things they don’t need,” Campbell-Evans said. Opportunities for service abound, he explained, from supporting a missionary, to packaging food for Stop Hunger Now to supporting Habitat for Humanity in local areas.
“But some churches are not doing much, and our office can help them,” he said. “We seek to ramp up Volunteers in Mission support so local churches can go organize teams or locate churches with existing teams and plans.”
Emphasis on historical partnerships, including those with Angola, Cuba and Haiti, will continue. Campbell-Evans is anticipating development of a preaching partnership whereby some Florida teams will go to Cuba to train local pastors.
He also is expecting to forge a formal partnership between the conference and Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist effort that focuses on preventing the deadly mosquito-borne disease in Africa.
Campbell-Evans’ service as president of the Florida Council of Churches for three years and as a board member of Florida Impact, a nonprofit advocacy organization in partnership with the Florida Conference, speak to his passion for stamping out childhood hunger and continuing work on immigration issues. He has also served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional conferences.
“Clarke is informed by different points of view, which will help him do this job,” said Charlie Guyton, who served as the chairman of the staff parish relations committee at Campbell-Evans’ last church.
“He has firsthand mission experience, and he has an administrative perspective from a local church,” Guyton said. “We wanted to hold onto him, but when the bishop explained to us what he wanted done, we said, ’Bishop, you’ve got the right person.’”
Campbell-Evans is married to Rev. Dr. Sally Campbell-Evans, who was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and recently became associate pastor at Hyde Park UMC, Tampa.
The Methodist half of the duo concedes that the influences of different denominations can lead to some rich theological conversations.
“I tell her all the time that she is predestined to be a United Methodist. … Sometimes we laugh until we cry,” he said.
The couple has a daughter, Abigail, a senior at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, and twin sons: Zachary, who attends Stetson University in DeLand, and Ben, who is at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
-- Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.