The Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston, director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop of the Great Plains Conference, has been elected as bishop in The United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
She is the first Black female bishop for the jurisdiction. Williamston was elected on the first ballot, receiving 141 votes out of 151 valid ballots cast. Ninety-one votes were required for the 60% benchmark.
The Rev. Laura Merrill and the Rev. David Wilson also were elected on the first ballot.
The delegates and audience at First United Methodist Church Westchase broke into an extended standing ovation when the vote totals were read.
The three were elected by the 160 delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity, from the eight states forming the South Central Jurisdiction. The assignments of bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction for the next two years will be announced later in the week. In the United States, bishops are elected to serve for life.
Williamston, 57, has been assistant to the bishop and director of clergy excellence at the Great Plains Conference since 2021.
Prior to that, she spent seven years as a district superintendent in the Great Plains.
She has a bachelor of science in management and Christian ethics from Manhattan Christian College; a master of divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology, with a specialization in evangelism and Black church studies; and is scheduled to receive a doctor of ministry degree in transformational leadership in improvisational ministry from Phillips Theological Seminary in May 2023.
Williamston is a 22-year veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, rising to sergeant first class, and has also worked for the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, State of Kansas food stamp department, American Federation for Television and Radio Artists, and a New York law firm.
She has one son and seven grandchildren.
Williamston noted the historic nature of her election.
“God showed up through the South Central Jurisdiction to elect their first African
American woman bishop,” she said. “It means a lot to stand here and represent and finally say we are here and we are not done.”
Williamston added: “A lot of people have sacrificed for me to be here in this moment. It means we are moving forward ever so slowly, but we are moving.”
She also promised she would not shrink from leadership challenges.
“I’ve got gumption,” Williamston said. “Don’t forget I have gumption. I want people to know that.”
In The United Methodist Church, bishops are ordained elders who are called to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church.” Bishops, in consultation with district superintendents, are responsible for appointing clergy. They also preside at annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.
Burke serves as the content specialist for the Great Plains Conference. Sam Hodges contributed to this report.
Find all of UM News’s coverage of the 2022 episcopal elections of The United Methodist Church on our landing page.
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