The Free Methodist Church – USA Board of Administration, on April 6 as part of its semiannual meeting, accepted the recommendation of the Bishop Search Committee to present five nominees for bishop to the delegation of General Conference 2019. Three will be elected to the office of bishop.
The Bishop Search Committee diligently, thoughtfully and prayerfully worked an intentional process for more than 13 months including receiving and interviewing nominees nominated among the elders of annual conferences that comprise the FMCUSA. The Board of Administration and the Board of Bishops earnestly considered and discussed several factors and expressions of concern before accepting the committee’s recommendation through a unanimous vote.
The five nominees for bishop are Linda Adams, director of International Child Care Ministries; Pam Braman, superintendent of the Genesis Conference; Brad Button, superintendent of the East Michigan Conference; Keith Cowart, superintendent of the Southeast Region (Alabama-Georgia Conference and South Atlantic Conference); and Matt Whitehead, superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference.
The Board of Administration gratefully acknowledges the prayerful and diligent work of the Bishop Search Committee and expresses gratitude for committee members’ service to the church.
The election of the next three bishops of the Free Methodist Church – USA will take place Wednesday, July 17, the second day of General Conference 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
Here is more information about the nominees in their own words:
I’m grateful to be among the global leaders of the Free Methodist Church – USA at this opportune moment. The winds of change are blowing, and I believe the wind of the Spirit is also blowing.
As director of International Child Care Ministries, I’ve visited 39 of the countries where our Free Methodist family shines the light of the gospel, including broad exposure here in the United States. Wherever we press on to love God passionately and love people practically, beautiful things happen. Lost people experience God’s love and power; walls are broken down through the reconciling work of the cross; marginalized people are enfolded into the community of faith; children are welcomed and developed; leaders are empowered and raised up; and the mission of God becomes a life-giving, transforming force, both locally and globally.
Since 1977, my heartbeat has been for racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ. I know in the depths of my being that if we want God’s favor in its fullest manifestation, we will find it in oneness. The Beloved Community heals its own members while spilling over to bring shalom to the surrounding city or town and region and extending the love and salvation of God to the ends of the earth. Let us be that community!
As I have been praying about the future of the Free Methodist Church, and about the possibility of serving as a bishop, I find much of my prayer for the FMC is similar to my prayer for the Genesis Conference, where I currently serve as superintendent. The Lord reminds me that what I am focusing on in Genesis is what I would continue to focus on if I were to become a bishop. My leadership calling includes:
• Raising and developing new fruitful servant leaders, particularly focusing upon the next generation.
• Empowering and networking already fruitful servant leaders to lead and train.
• Moving each church toward being fruitful (seeing new people coming to faith and being transformed by the gospel) and multiplying.
• Encouraging and resourcing churches in launching new ministries, campuses, and churches.
• Orienting denominational structures toward serving each local church, since it is the collective health of local churches that determines the health of the denomination.
• Communicating and clarifying our identity, enfolding a new generation.
• Being a purveyor of hope in a cynical culture.
I asked people in Genesis to describe me. Words they used include: visionary, passionate, apostolic, strategic, faith-filled, creative, out-of-the-box problem solver, collaborative, change agent.
My walk with God has been a transformative journey with joyful, exhilarating and difficult moments. I grew up in a non-Christian home and gave my life to Jesus as a student attending Roberts Wesleyan College. The passion I have for Jesus and sense of calling to serve the church has been formed and refined in both nontraditional and traditional environments, small and large congregations, and within rural, urban and international contexts. In each of the leadership roles I have served, the organizational culture shifted, a collaborative approach to leadership produced systemic change, and engagement in kingdom mission increased.
As we align our hearts with God’s desires, I envision the Free Methodist Church continuing to expand globally and gaining a renewed sense of dedication and purpose that leads to exponential growth within the U.S. I see a diverse representation of leadership empowered to lead with an emphasis on seeking, listening and responding to the Lord’s voice. I imagine the lives of individuals, families and entire communities transformed by the power of Jesus! I believe we can achieve this by making a radical commitment to pursuing the kingdom of God, leveraging our connectional system to engage leaders, implementing strategic decision-making processes, and intensifying our focus on leadership development at all levels.
My life scripture is John 15:1–8. After 28 years of ministry in a wide variety of settings, I am deeply aware that apart from Him I can do nothing. Yet I can say with equal conviction that God has been so faithful to provide everything needed to “bear much fruit” as I abide in Him.
I pray fervently for our delegates as they choose our next bishops. We are living in a time of unprecedented challenges: pervasive secularism, rapidly changing social values, widespread divisiveness and polarization, and distrust of institutions — including the church.
Those who lead us must have the wisdom to discern the inherent opportunities created by these challenges. With our unwavering commitment to the authority of God’s Word, our Wesleyan heritage of personal and social holiness, and our long history of courageously confronting systemic evil, our tribe has the right message for the times.
Embracing lean and flexible structures, eliminating institutional impediments, and cultivating a passion for spiritual vitality, relational health, and leadership development, I envision a Spirit-fueled movement that unleashes the creativity of a new generation of Free Methodists and empowers every member of our tribe to take the light and life of Jesus Christ everywhere we go.
I understand leadership as both a spiritual gift and a sacred trust. Melanie and I have prioritized our personal commitments to Jesus and our marriage as the beginning points of our leadership influence.
After the model of Jesus, I further understand leadership to be servant-oriented. Our goal in the Pacific Northwest Conference has been to serve churches and leaders catalyzing a vision that together we are able to do more than in isolation. Care for pastors and members, stewardship of resources, and risking for mission have characterized the teams that I have led.
A responsible, Spirit-filled understanding of Jesus’ dual priorities of the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment requires of us regular evaluation of systems, structures and strategies. Our Wesleyan worldview contributes a special emphasis of holistic love and reconciling hope. I am confident that the Free Methodist Church still offers a unique gospel witness in the world as we live courageously into our calling.
Leadership is a privilege, and I am honored to be considered a nominee for bishop alongside four outstanding candidates. Melanie and I are at peace and in prayer as God’s will is revealed in this important process.3