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Wills says, 'We will work as community' (Sept. 10, 2004)

Wills says, 'We will work as community' (Sept. 10, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Wills says, 'We will work as community'

Sept. 10, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0160}

An e-Review Feature
By Cathy Farmer**

JACKSON, Tenn. — The Memphis and Tennessee conferences will have a new bishop Sept. 1. He's the Rev. Dick wills, an episcopal nominee from the Florida Conference who was elected a bishop on the 11th ballot by delegates to the Southeastern Jurisdiction meeting at Lake Junaluska last July and assigned to the Nashville Area.

"I'm excited about coming to the Nashville Area," Wills said in a phone interview. "It's too early to say what I'll be doing once I get there. I hope to see where God is already at work and join God at that work."

Wills said he hopes to find people like Caleb-the Caleb of Numbers 14:24-who saw what could be and would be by trusting God. "I don't have to bring anything," he said. "It's already there. And I plan to be there a while. We'll pray a lot, and I'll listen to a lot of people.

"What we do, we will do as a community," he continued. "Not in isolation. I can't sit here in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and make any comments on Tennessee or on the Memphis Conference.

"What I can say," he added, "is that I met the Memphis delegates at Jurisdictional Conference, and I found them to be spirit-led."

Anita Kay Archer, co-leader of the Memphis Conference delegation, is tremendously impressed by Wills. "He is a person who will be a spiritual leader for the conference and one who brings special gifts in church growth, new church development and creative ideas," Archer said. "And his wife Eileen, a professional educator, is his true partner. She will have her own ministry with special needs and under-privileged children."

Dick, Eileen and their family served 18 years at Christ Church in Fort Lauderdale. Before that, he served small, medium and large churches and was an associate council director for the conference for three years, specializing in youth and camping ministries.

Wills was chair of the Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry from 1984-1988, on the Large Church Initiative Steering Committee for the Board of Discipleship for 12 years, and elected to Jurisdictional and General Conference in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. He's the chair of the Order of Elders in the Florida Conference and the Florida Conference Camps Task Force.

He's also the author of many articles on spiritual leadership and published a book titled "Waking to God's Dream" in 2000.

According to a biography about Wills, when he was appointed to Christ Church 18 years ago, it was a very different church than it is today. It was a declining, white, upper middle-class church with worship on Sundays, a small day school and little else happening.

Today, Christ Church is a multicultural congregation with growing numbers of African-Americans, Caribbean peoples, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Africans.

While the church has grown poorer in the socio-economic groups that make up the congregation, more people are giving and giving more as the church grows into being a tithing church. Wills attributes some of the change to an experience he had in South Africa in 1991 where he experienced the faith and joy of South African Methodists. He said that led him to search for a more personal relationship with Jesus.

"The spiritual renewal wrought by God in Dick's heart radically transformed his life and leadership," according to a biography supplied by the Florida delegation.

Today, Wills leads a full- and part-time staff of 84, 45 teachers and administrators, and 130 lay leaders.

Dick Wills is a graduate of Florida Southern College and Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Eileen, his wife, is the principal of Wilton Manors Elementary School in Broward County. They have four grown children.

One more thing about Bishop Wills: he's proud to ride a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. Some morning he might be found on his Harley at a local coffee shop.


This article relates to the Episcopacy.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Farmer is communications director of the Memphis Annual Conference.