By Heather Hahn
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., who leads theCalifornia-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference, will be the next president of the Council of Bishops.
Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, now the council president, said Brown “really sees church unity as very challenging but also very important as a sign of hope to the world.”
“He will help us to move on and journey together,” Wenner said. “He has a high sensitivity for the differences among people both in the U.S. and outside the U.S. I am very grateful he will succeed me.”
The late afternoon Nov. 13 brought a flurry of other elections. The council’s active bishops, by at least a two-thirds vote, also elected Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough as the president-designate and Louisiana Area Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey as secretary.
By majority vote, they also elected Ohio West Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer — a former Council of Bishops president — to deliver the episcopal address during the next General Conference. The denomination’s top lawmaking assembly will convene May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Ore.
Brown will take office in May 2014, and Ough will receive the gavel during the 2016 General Conference. Harvey will begin her two-year term next summer.
Brown expressed joy at his election.
“It is my prayer that the work of the council be a place of faithfulness to the work of our mission (to make disciples),” Brown told the bishops. “Doing this involves all of us.”
He called on his fellow bishops “to build trust, to work together for the health of our church, to lead in ways that inspire and not just confuse.”
What the council president does
The council president is responsible for presiding over the bishops’ executive committee and the twice-yearly council meetings.
“I think the president of the council is really a servant of this body to remind us of the Christian conferencing that is at the core of our work together,” Brown said. He added that he hopes to help his fellow bishops as they pray for and strive to help the church.
Only General Conference — the denomination’s lawmaking assembly — can speak officially for The United Methodist Church. However, the council president sometimes is asked to speak to journalists and others within and outside the denomination on behalf of the bishops and church teachings. The president also often takes a leading role in council initiatives.
Brown was elected bishop by the Western Jurisdiction in July 2000. He first served in the Denver Area, which encompasses theRocky Mountain and Yellowstone annual conferences. Since 2008, he has served the San Francisco Area, which encompasses the California-Nevada Conference.
Brown, a native of Baltimore, began preaching as a youth. He later served as a pastor in western Pennsylvania, a staff member for the California-Nevada Annual Conference, a pastor in Oakland and Bakersfield, Calif., and a district superintendent. He has a bachelor of arts in sociology from the University of Maryland and a master of divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. Brown and his wife, Minnie Jones Brown, have three children.
Central Congo Area Bishop David K. Yemba described Brown’s election as “good news.”
“I think Bishop Brown has been a strong leader so far as the president-designate,” Yemba said. “I am sure he will do a good job in leading the leadership team of the Council of Bishops.”
Ough leads the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences and The United Methodist Church missions in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. For the next four years, he also serves as chair of the 59-member Connectional Table, which coordinates The United Methodist Church’s mission, ministry and resources.
“I did not see this coming,” Ough told the bishops after his election.
Ough told his colleagues that he has been saying “yes” to God’s ever since his paternal grandmother encouraged him to become ordained.
In his ministry, he said he has learned some things in addressing God’s call.
“Every time Christ calls us to take another step of faith or to take a step on the way, it is the way of the Cross,” he said. “It is a way to fully participate in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And, folks, if we keep saying yes, we will be transformed.
“I’ve also learned that we don’t travel on the way alone. This is not a singular journey. It is a journey of the community.”
He was born in Williston, N.D., the oldest of four children. He graduated from North Dakota State University and was for two years a school counselor on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. He later earned his master of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
He was as a staff member of the Dakotas Conference, the former North Indiana Conference and the Iowa Conference. He also served as district superintendent of the Cedar Rapids District in Iowa for five years and later senior pastor of the 2,800-member St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From that appointment, he was elected to the episcopacy by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in 2000 and assigned to lead West Ohio Conference. After 12 years in West Ohio, he was assigned to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area in July 2012.
He also has served as the president of the Ohio Council of Churches. He and his wife, Charlene, have three sons and three grandsons.
Harvey has served as bishop of the Louisiana Conference since September 2012. She will be taking on the role as a parliamentarian and as an organizer who helps keep Council of Bishops gatherings on course. She succeeds Oklahoma Area Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr., who served three terms as the council’s secretary.
Before being elected bishop, Harvey led the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s relief agency. She previously was the director of missional excellence for the Texas Annual (regional) Conference. In that role, she initiated a partnership with the Côte d’Ivoire Annual Conference. She is fluent in Spanish as well as English.
She also has previously served as executive associate pastor of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston and associate pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Houston. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.
Upon her election, she joked that as new a bishop, she felt like she was still at the kids’ table.
“I am honored to be coming from the kids’ table to serve on this leadership team,” she said. “I know there are times when we look back and wish we were still at the kids’ table. But I know that this is an incredible council, and its time is ripe for opportunity.”
She said she looks forward to the creativity that comes from the council “as we are just simply followers of Jesus Christ.”
“We are not here to save the church, friends,” she told her colleagues. “We are here to save souls.”
*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].