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Jurisdictional delegates remember Florida Conference ‘saints’

Jurisdictional delegates remember Florida Conference ‘saints’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Jurisdictional delegates remember Florida Conference ‘saints’

July 18, 2008   News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0884}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — The main focus of the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference was the election of a bishop to serve the jurisdiction and episcopal assignments.

It was also a time to recognize the lives and ministries of bishops who have died since the last jurisdictional conference.

Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr. Photo #08-0931.

One of those bishops was retired Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr., who served the Florida Conference as its episcopal leader from 1980 to 1988. He was one of five bishops whose lives were celebrated. Edith Knox, wife of retired Bishop J. Lloyd Knox, who resides in Lakeland, was one of six bishops’ spouses remembered.

“We have gathered here to celebrate those who have faithfully served through the years,” said Bishop Michael Watson, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Area, July 17 during the morning session. “Today, we pray for those who have shared ministry with us, who have run with patience the race and now reside with you (God).”

Following the reading of each name, retired and active bishops offered a tribute for each bishop celebrated.

Speaking in memory of Hunt, who died March 26, 2005, retired Bishop Richard C. Looney said Hunt “was larger than life.”

Looney said the bishop’s voice, vocation, mind and spirit spoke of the “extraordinary” and his exceptional leadership began during his youth in Johnson City, Tenn., where he was born Sept. 14, 1918.

Retired Bishop Richard C. Looney, episcopal director of the Foundation for Evangelism, pays tribute to Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr., former bishop of the Florida Area, during the service of remembrance July 17 at the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Tim McDaniel. Photo #08-0932. For longer description see photo gallery.

Looney said Hunt, who was admitted on trial in the Holston Conference in 1942 and ordained elder in full connection in 1945, became a “very efficient pastor.” Looney said Hunt was known for his “incessant pastoral visiting.”

“It was reported,” Looney said, that Hunt made typically “no less than 2,000 pastoral calls” each year.

Looney said Hunt was elected a bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction in 1964 at the age of 46, one of the youngest bishops in Methodism. He served the episcopacy for 24 years in the Charlotte, Nashville and Florida areas. 

During his ministry Hunt appointed the first African-American district superintendent in the Southeastern Jurisdiction and served as both president of the Council of Bishops and the Foundation for Evangelism, where Looney serves as episcopal director. Hunt was also chairman of Our Theological Task, a doctrinal statement adopted by the General Conference in 1988 and included in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Looney said Hunt was “one of those rare people who could bridge the ideological and theological divisions in the church.”

While serving as bishop in Florida, Hunt appointed Bishop Charlene Kammerer, now epsicopal leader of the Virginia Annual Conference, as the first woman district superintendent in the Florida Conference.

Of all Hunt’s characteristics, Looney said, the bishop was best known as a preacher and teacher. Looney said he told Hunt “it would be worth dying early” if Hunt would do his eulogy.

Concluding his tribute, Looney said, “We give thanks for this big man of large heart and significant persona.”

Partner in ministry

Recognizing that bishops need the support and ministry of their spouses for the ministry to which they are called, delegates also remembered the spouses of bishops who have died during the quadrennium.

Edith Laney Strawn Knox, wife of retired Bishop J. Lloyd Knox, elected bishop in 1984, was among them. She died May 20 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Knox served with her husband in Cuba and Argentina as a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries, during his episcopal leadership of the Birmingham and (former) Atlanta areas, and while he served as interim bishop of the Florida Area during the illness of Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson and bishop after Henderson’s death in 2000. The couple also served churches in West Palm Beach, Tampa, DeLand, Miami and St. Petersburg, Fla., and the former Miami District where the bishop served as superintendent.

Following the service or remembrance, delegates were urged by Watson to “go forth and be the saints of God.”

New bishop elected

Bishops in The United Methodist Church in the United States are elected and assigned every four years at five concurrent Jurisdictional Conferences. At the morning session the jurisdiction elected the Rev. Dr. Paul Leeland from the North Carolina Annual Conference as bishop to replace Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey of the Western North Carolina Conference, who is retiring at the end of this quadrennium.

Following the election, the jurisdictional episcopal committee began its work to determine episcopal assignments, which will be announced in the evening July 18.

The Southeastern Jurisdiction runs from Kentucky and Virginia, then east of the Mississippi River to include Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. There are 13 annual conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction with 13 bishops. In the United States, there are 50 active bishops; worldwide, there are 69.

A full listing of episcopal assignments in the Southeastern Jurisdiction is available at by clicking on the SEJ button.

Diana Herchig contributed to this report.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.