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Former Florida Area Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr., church 'giant,' dies at age 86

Former Florida Area Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr., church 'giant,' dies at age 86

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Former Florida Area Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr., church 'giant,' dies at age 86

April 8, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0274}

An e-Review Feature
By Dawn Hand**

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — United Methodist Bishop Earl Gladstone Hunt Jr., 86, a leader in the church and in world Methodism, died March 26 at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C.

Elected to the episcopacy in 1964, he led annual (regional) conferences in the church for 24 years before retiring in 1988.

Hunt served as leader of the Florida Area from 1980 until his retirement. While in Florida, he led the denomination's Committee on Our Theological Task. The committee spent nearly eight years perfecting a document addressing the church's theological task in the world. In 1988, the General Conference adopted the document, which is still contained in the denomination's Book of Discipline.

During his 46-year career, Hunt served at all levels of the United Methodist Church and was active in the World Methodist Council. He also was widely respected as an evangelist, earning the top awards given for outstanding evangelism in the denomination.

"He was a strong, articulate, passionate voice for the spread of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," said the Rev. H. Eddie Fox, director of world evangelism for the World Methodist Council in Nashville, Tenn. " ... When he stood to speak, everyone listened."

Fox, a fellow Holston Annual Conference native, knew Hunt for almost 50 years. "Whether it was on the world scene (or) whether it was in the Council of Bishops, he was certainly a giant."

Hunt was born in Johnson City, Tenn., on Sept. 14, 1918, the son of Earl Gladstone and Tommie Mae DeVault Hunt. He earned a bachelor's degree from East Tennessee State University in 1941 and a divinity degree from Candler School of Theology in 1946. He was ordained a deacon in 1944 and an elder the following year.

He began his pastoral ministry at Sardis Methodist Church in Atlanta as a student pastor.  Returning to his home conference in 1944, he served churches in Kingsport, Chattanooga and Morristown, Tenn. In 1956, he was elected president of Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va., where he served for eight years.

He became a bishop at age 46, when the Southeastern Jurisdiction elected him and assigned him to lead the Charlotte (N.C.) Area. During his 12 years there, he appointed the first black pastor to serve as a district superintendent in the Southeastern Jurisdiction and organized a lay advisory council.

In 1976, Hunt was assigned to the church's Nashville (Tenn.) Area. There, he began his writing ministry, producing several books on theology and evangelism. At the time of his death, he was working on his last book, "An Open Door."

Hunt was the keynote speaker for the 1976 World Methodist Conference in Dublin, Ireland. He served 10 years on the council's executive committee and was awarded the World Methodist Chair of Honor in 1988.

Upon retiring, he moved to Lake Junaluska, N.C. There he served as president of the Foundation for Evangelism, an affiliate ministry of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. In 2002, the foundation honored him as a Lifetime Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, a rare honor. Other recognition included the Philip Award, given by the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists.

"Bishop Hunt was larger than life in so many ways," said Bishop Richard Looney, president of the Foundation for Evangelism.

Hunt's arrival at the foundation in 1988 came at a critical time, Looney said. "He brought real strength and credibility in moving the foundation forward. ... He gave so much energy, and that helped to renew the foundation's vitality."

Hunt gave his energy to numerous other organizations during his career, including the General Council on Ministries and the governing board of the National Council of Churches. He led the United Methodist Bicentennial Planning Committee, the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and the Council of Bishops and served as a trustee for 10 colleges and universities.

Hunt is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Kyker Hunt; son, Dr. Earl Stephen "Steve" Hunt; and daughter-in-law, Edeltraut Hunt, of Bethesda, Md.

Funeral services were held March 30 at Long's Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska. Principal speakers included Bishop Ken Carder and James C. Logan. Bishops Looney, Charlene P. Kammerer and J. Lawrence McCleskey also participated. Looney led a committal service later that day in Johnson City.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Foundation for Evangelism, P.O. Box 985, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745; Given Estates Resident Supplementary Assistance Fund, 2360 Sweeten Creek Road, Asheville, NC 28803; or Emory & Henry College, P.O. Box 947, Emory, VA 24327.


This article was originally produced for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., and distributed March 29, 2005.

This article relates to the Episcopacy.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Hand is director of communication for the United Methodist Church's Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Some information used in this obituary was obtained from the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times newspaper.