The next three bishops of the Free Methodist Church – USA will be Linda Adams, Keith Cowart and Matt Whitehead who were elected Wednesday (July 17) by General Conference 2019 delegates in a historic election. Adams will be the first woman to serve as a Free Methodist bishop.
Adams has served as the director of International Child Care Ministries since 2008, and previously served as a pastor for churches in Michigan, Illinois and New York. Cowart became the superintendent of the Southeast Region, which includes the Alabama-Georgia and South Atlantic conferences, on Jan. 1 after serving in Columbus, Georgia, as the lead pastor of Christ Community Church that he planted in 1997. Whitehead has served for the last 20 years as the superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference after 17 years as a local church pastor in the Pacific Northwest.
The newly elected bishops will take office Oct. 1 when Bishops Matthew Thomas, David Kendall and David Roller retire from their bishop duties although Thomas noted the previous day, “We’re not stopping ministry. We’re stepping out of this particular role. You can never stop your calling.”
The voting occurred on the first ballot, and all three of the newly elected bishops came within three percentage points of each other in the delegates’ voting at the Caribe Royale Convention Center in Orlando, and all easily exceeded the needed majority. Other nominees in the election included John Wesley Free Methodist Church (Indianapolis) Lead Pastor E. Kenneth Martin, Genesis Conference Superintendent Pam Braman and Pacific Coast Japanese Conference Superintendent Jason Garcia.
After the election, Thomas told the delegates, “You didn’t just elect three bishops. You elected a team.” He then led the session in prayer and asked God for His presence to be on them. “We all know there’s transition ahead in very short order, and I pray, Lord, your blessing upon the ministries that they depart and your blessing upon the church as they move going forward in these coming four years.”