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Two new District Superintendents are ready for the challenge

Two new District Superintendents are ready for the challenge

Rev. Emily Hotho and Dr. David Allen have a charge to keep as they step into their roles.

Conference News Leadership

District superintendents play a vital role in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.

They are the liaison between the local churches and the Conference office. They are encouragers, sounding boards, and visionaries. They must be problem-solvers and innovators, and in the era of COVID-19, they help guide churches and pastors through uncharted waters.

It is not a job for the meek.

On Jan. 1, two new people took over District leadership roles. Rev. Emily Hotho, long-time pastor at Skycrest UMC in Clearwater, succeeds Rev. Dr. Candace as DS of the Gulf Central District. Dr. Lewis last March was named President-Dean at Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

In the North Central District, Dr. David Allen takes over for Rev. June Edwards, who is taking time for renewal and family responsibilities.

“Dr. David Allen is a transformational leader who has served faithfully in local churches and on a university campus,” Bishop Ken Carter said.

“He has been instrumental in a major Lilly Endowment grant that will strengthen the local church, and he has completed a doctorate in leadership. David has experience in the North Central District, and I am excited about the ministry he will give to the laity and clergy of that area.”

Both new superintendents spent nearly six months preparing for their new roles.

"It's been a very eye-opening experience, getting to journey with the Cabinet for how appointments are made, including my replacement at Skycrest. That was a real interesting part of it, being on the inside of the process," Rev. Hotho said as she assumes leadership of a District that includes 77 churches.

"The good thing is that I've lived in the Gulf Central District—here in Clearwater and in Lakeland—for the last 13-14 years. I really love this area. I am familiar with the churches and the people."

It's a different story for Dr. Allen, who served as faculty in the School of Religion at Bethune Cookman University and pastor of Stewart Memorial UMC in Daytona Beach. While he had experience in the North Central District, he hadn't been there in eight years.

"I conducted a listening tour three months ago. Every Wednesday from 8 to 3, I listened to pastors tell their stories," he said. "You know, relations make the world go around. I told them I wanted to be
in relationship with them, work heart-in-heart and hand-in-hand.

"They look for win-win scenarios throughout the partnership system, so the load is not so heavy on one pastor or one church."

Path Changed At SMU

Rev. Hotho grew up in Jacksonville and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, majoring in music performance and religious studies. She also earned a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School.

SMU is where her career path changed. 

Rev. Emily Hotho

"I was a musician and went to SMU to study music," she said. "I wound up in a religion class that I didn't really want to be in, but it turned out to be great. In that class, the professor said it was OK to ask questions about religion and the Bible instead of just saying taking someone else's word for it."

Her energy, drive, and passion for God and people impressed Rev. Dr. Sharon Austin and Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans of the Conference Cabinet. They shared interim duties as co-superintendents of the Gulf Central District during the transition period, during which they also mentored Rev. Hotho.

Dr. Austin called her "thoughtful and decisive in her leadership" and noted she is encouraging and works well with others to enhance their growth.

"Emily is a team player and will bring a fresh perspective to the role of missional strategist," she said. "She is a role model for young clergy and clergy with young families. I wish her all the best and am proud that she is my district superintendent!"

Rev. Campbell-Evans noted that Rev. Hotho possesses "an amazing constellation of gifts for the work of a District Superintendent."

"She is very strong on Administration, well organized and extremely relational.  Her time with the Office of Clergy Excellence gave her a view of clergy throughout the Conference that not many people have which will be a tremendous asset during appointment-making," he said.

"Emily is also a lot of fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with her as she ramped up to take the helm in the Gulf Central District."

Wesleyan Inspiration

A charge to keep I have,

A God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save,

And fit it for the sky.

Dr. David Allen

In 1792, Charles Wesley wrote those words to open the hymn "A Charge To Keep I Have."

Dr. Allen uses those words for inspiration every day.

"I can't tell you how many times I told my covenant group that I never wanted to be a district superintendent," he said with a chuckle.

But when the call to move into that role came, he knew God had prepared him to lead. He also uses Wesley's words to "remind the leaders they have a charge to keep and a God to glorify."

Part of that charge is to help the smaller churches in his district adapt to today's technological needs. About 50% of his churches fit that category.

"With so many churches forced to adapt to streaming services, what we've found is that many of the smaller congregations don't have the resources they need to do this," he said. "We have to fix that technology chasm. It's vital.

"As a DS, I have to ask what mountain are we climbing? How are we going to climb it? My role is a missional strategist. That doesn't mean I have all the answers, but we're part of a connectional

Meeting The Challenge
COVID-19 and technology forced church leaders to adapt and innovate. Both of the new superintendents say they're ready for the challenge. 

They'll bring different styles of leadership, of course, but it's all geared toward the same thing.

"Progress would be churches in the district working together to support each other and resource each other. I picture churches with more technological resources helping those who need assistance with that," Rev. Hotho said.

Dr. Allen said he began the year with a 21-day fast to prepare for the job ahead and to "make sure I'm in alignment with God's will."

"My goal the first year is to visit every pastor and campus in the district," he said. "Maybe just meet for coffee and drop off a gift. I want to listen to them, learn what's important to them, and let them know I'm there for them.

"June gave me great advice. Treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. Don't try to respond with a quick fix. Take your time and learn the pastors."

A marathon?

Rev. Hotho is familiar with those, having competed in several as a dedicated runner. But she notes, "I'm retired from those now."

Maybe. In many ways though, both she and Dr. Allen are in the most important race of their lives.

They have a charge they have to keep.

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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