LAKELAND – Florida’s new bishop got his start in Methodist Christianity as a child of divorce, when he and his mother were welcomed into a United Methodist Church in his home state of Georgia.
That early transforming experience shaped his life and ministry. And the retelling of that personal history was among the things about Rev. Dr. Ken Carter that impressed Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Florida’s lead clergy delegate who sat on the Episcopacy Committee that made bishop appointments at the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Conference.
|New Florida Bishop Ken Carter hugs his daughter Abby after his election in Lake Junaluska, N.C.|
“He’s not only a declarer of grace, he has experienced it profoundly in his life,” Acevedo said Friday in a telephone interview from Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Carter, 54, was elected bishop July 18 on the third ballot and assigned to Florida late Thursday. He was consecrated, along with four other newly elected bishops, in a ceremony this morning. He is expected to start work in Florida on Sept. 1.
Carter was nominated by the Western North Carolina (WNC) Conference, where he has been serving as superintendent of the seven-county, 69-church 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. More information is available at the bishop's website, http://revkencarter.org.
Bishop Larry Goodpaster, who was reappointed July 19 to another four-year term at the WNC Conference, offered a written statement praising the selection of Carter to lead the Florida Conference. He noted that Carter led one of the largest membership churches in the WNC Conference and successfully planted a church before becoming a district superintendent.
"His commitment to the mission of Christ in the world will be visible as he leads the Florida Conference," Goodpaster predicted.
"I am very pleased that he has been assigned to the Florida Conference, and I believe that in the years to come, our sisters and brothers across that area will be truly blessed by his spirit, his passion and his leadership."
During Carter's speech to all SEJ delegates on July 17, before the episcopal elections began, he listed some of his accomplishments, including initiating new worship services, increasing church memberships and involvement in missions in Africa and Haiti.
“I know it is a gift,” Carter told the crowd. “I do not take it for granted or do it in my own strength.”
The bishop’s biography on the SEJ website, www.sejumc.org, notes that he is the author of eight books, including reflections on the power of prayer, stewardship, spiritual gifts and the Wesleyan means of grace.
He is a graduate of Columbus College in his hometown of Columbus, Ga., as well as of Duke Divinity School, the University of Virginia and Princeton Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the United Methodist University of Liberia, where he serves on the board of trustees.
Acevedo and Florida Conference treasurer Mickey Wilson said they believe Carter will continue much of the work begun by Bishop Timothy Whitaker, who retired this summer after 11 years here.
|New bishops greet the crowd after their consecration June 20. In the front row, left to right, they are Young Jin Cho, Debra Wallace-Padgett, Bill McAlilly, Ken Carter and Jonathan Holston.|
“Bishop Carter is a very godly man, a very centered man,” Acevedo said. “He’s deeply rooted in our Wesleyan Methodist tradition.”
He added that Carter has been an effective leader at every level of the church, including service to the General Church.
“He’s a collaborative leader,” Acevedo said. “He works very hard, and he enjoys doing his work.”
He and Wilson said they also were impressed with Carter’s wife and two adult daughters. Pam Carter has a deep interest in Haiti, which makes the family a good match for the Florida Conference, Acevedo said.
He said Carter also is a good choice to implement the Strategic Leadership Plan adopted at the 2012 Annual Conference in June. He said Carter already has experience in a Methodist approach to realigning staff to meet the church’s mission.
Wilson said he spent some time with Carter during the General Conference in Tampa in May.
“I think this is a terrific appointment for us,” Wilson said. “He is unassuming and affable and has a wonderful family. … He’s obviously a brilliant man, and he’s got such a love for the church. He will be an outstanding leader for us.”