The Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops may have two openings this year. Bishop Jeremiah Park (Susquehanna Conference) and Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar (New England Conference) are retiring, effective Aug. 31, 2020. However, proposed plans for the future of the denomination may affect the number of episcopal areas in the Jurisdiction.
But amidst the current uncertainty, church leaders are planning to ensure that candidates are available to fill the openings the retirements bring.
In preparation, the delegation of Baltimore-Washington Conference to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences heard from three candidates who shared their calls to the episcopacy in The United Methodist Church at the delegation’s Jan. 11 meeting.
The Revs. Giovanni Arroyo of the General Commission on Religion and Race; Ianther Mills, senior pastor of Asbury UMC in Washington, D.C.; and Melissa Rudolph, senior pastor of North Carroll Cooperative Parish, each met with the delegation.
Following a day-long process of interviews, prayer, discernment, and discussion, the delegation took a series of ballots.
Given the significant role that bishops serve in the church, the Baltimore-Washington Conference rules stipulate a two-thirds majority for the delegation’s endorsement of an episcopal candidate. None of the nominees met the threshold necessary for an endorsement.
As a result, the delegation will not present an endorsed nominee to the Annual Conference Session, which meets May 27-29 in Baltimore.
According to the Baltimore-Washington Conference rules, which spell out the endorsement process in detail, nominations for candidates for the episcopacy can be accepted from the floor of the Annual Conference Session in May. If any nominations are received, lay and clergy members of the session will vote on whether to endorse that person to be considered by the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
The Northeastern Jurisdiction, which is made up of 10 annual conferences, meets July 13-17 in Hunt Valley, Md.
Statements compiled by Arroyo, Mills, and Rudolph and submitted to the delegates before the January meeting are below.
Rev. Ianther Mills
After prayerful discernment and with the encouragement of colleagues in ministry, I am humbled and pleased to offer myself as a candidate for the episcopacy in the United Methodist Church. The offering of myself does not come lightly but after much deliberation regarding God’s calling on my life, my family, my gifts and graces, and how I might best serve the church in this season.
Beginning with my appointment as a district superintendent and over the years, clergy colleagues as well as laity have offered words of affirmation of my gifts and encouragement to consider that God may be calling me to the episcopacy. This affirmation has come from diverse voices–theologically and with respect to gender, sexual orientation, and racial-ethnic identity. While I have considered these insights with prayer, it was only in the last quadrennium that the call became increasingly clear. I was encouraged to submit my name in 2016 and promised support by two colleagues who worked closely with me and sensed my gifts and graces for the episcopacy. However, for me, certainty of the call came months later during the 2016 General Conference. I was present, not as a delegate, but as the Interim President for GBHEM. During a worship moment led by Bishop Marcus Matthews recognizing retiring bishops, he spoke these words: “you are here because you have the gift of spiritual oversight”. The anointing of the Holy Spirit fell upon me. Words not meant for me became words meant for me. It was like an Elijah and Elisha experience with the mantle being passed to me right there.
But then there was the reality of timing. The health of my mother-in-law had taken a significant turn and I prayerfully could not see how I could respond faithfully to the call at that time. Yet, the overwhelming sense of calling has never left me and I am now fully prepared to answer and follow the call wherever it takes me.
As a candidate, I bring the following qualities and characteristics:
- My core principles for ministry are grounded in the Great Commandment, the Great Mandate, and the Great Commission. I have gifts and graces in spiritual leadership in diverse settings, spiritual direction, preaching, teaching, conflict transformation, and coaching; and strong administrative and financial management skills.
- Prophetic leadership is evident in my preaching on a plethora of social issues as they arise and are before us (e.g., white supremacy, racism, immigration, voter disenfranchisement, full inclusion of LGBTQ persons) as well as leading my former district in an action in response to the racially motivated burning of homes in Charles County and my present congregation in the Women’s March, Stop Modern Slavery, and Voter Empowerment. As a district superintendent, I worked with churches in rural and suburban communities. I have served effectively cross-racially. And, I am presently leading my congregation in re-envisioning ministry in a gentrifying urban context.
- My commitment to removing systemic oppression has been lived out in my ministry in honoring inclusive leadership in my congregation; serving as Vice-President of BOOM and being part of the initial conversation on full inclusion; speaking in the Clergy Executive Session in support of inclusion and fair examination; hosting BWARM; supporting BMCR; signing on to the recent appeal for a moratorium on trials; supporting the UMC witness in the Washington Post after GC2019 and BWARM prayer vigil; working cooperatively with Foundry UMC and John Wesley AMEZ as we seek to heal the wounds of past racism and find wholeness through racial reconciliation.
- During my tenure as a district superintendent, I led the formation of a model multi-site ministry which still flourishes today; congregations moved from missional status; and the apportionment collection rate improved. As a pastor, I have led two congregations in building projects and my present congregation launched a multi-ethnic alternative worship service.
- I have training in conflict transformation and coaching and have engaged in numerous consultations as a district superintendent.
- I have the executive-level management experience of having served as a district superintendent and dean of the cabinet under two bishops; Interim President for GBHEM; and Vice-Chair of BOOM. My ministry experience and training is further complemented by an MBA degree and leadership experience in engineering management.
My earnest prayer is that the UMC would remain one church, fulfilling the biblical mandate to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I believe God has prepared me with the spiritual leadership, administrative, and financial management skills to navigate the waters of our present challenges—decline, relevance, and disagreement over our theology of humanity. God has prepared me to seek new strategies for ministry while navigating limited resources, conflict, and uncertainty in uncharted territory. Regardless of whether the church splits or ultimately stays together, we now live in a new reality where generally our world has moved from convergent values to divergent ones. Thus, I envision the UMC reinventing itself—redirecting our greatest asset, people; repurposing another great asset, space; and re-envisioning sanctuary and proclamation. We must do this to reach new people, in old and new places, for the cause of Christ. I am honored to be considered for this sacred responsibility. May all that proceeds hereafter be to the glory of God!
Rev. Melissa Rudolph
Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ our Risen Lord!
One of the most formational experiences in my journey was participating in a covenant discipleship group at Wesley Theological Seminary. I do not remember all of the items that were part of our groups covenant, save for one: I will obey the promptings and the warnings of
the Holy Spirit. It was some time in the last five years when I found myself washing dishes one evening. We have a large family, so there are always lots of dishes to be washed. As I scrubbed, I felt the overwhelming need to go and pray. I immediately went into the study and fell to my knees in prayer. I knew that I needed to write a message to myself in my journal. I wrote the vision, which began with the words: “you are going to be Bishop and it will be sooner than you think. You must prepare in these next years. Pray. Pray for the Church Universal and local. Pray for the leaders. Write….pray some more. Play with language….pray some more…Know the Discipline forward and backward. Know our history and polity….Listen. I have chosen you for such a time as this. You must speak the words you are given, you must listen to me more than
anyone. It will be hard. But, it is you calling…to revive my church.”
I have tried to faithfully adhere to these words. In nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry, I have found myself serving the global church in a variety of ways from coaching Christian educators in a GBOD pilot program to representing the BWC at the West Virginia Council of Churches,
leading the NEJ delegation to the first Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly and lecturing at pastor schools in places as far apart as Iowa and Zimbabwe.
But, I have also served those who support the ministry of the local church, teaching basic lay servant ministry and being my district’s CLM registrar. I have valued being part of the District Committee on Ordained Ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry as Chair of the Order of
Elders. It is holy work to shepherd people into living their vocations at all stages of ministry. It is also heartbreaking work to know the pain that so many experience in and through the church.
For the last eight years, I have been the lead pastor of a large three-church cooperative parish. This requires the ability to navigate complex realities that more and more of our congregations throughout the United Methodist Church have experienced and will undergo even more in the coming years. My ministry within the local church has had many elements of creativity and collaboration because the Church is strongest when we are at work following Christ’s leading to go beyond ourselves and work in unity.
There are many reasons why I could continue working in this parish vineyard, knowing that the Lord is just beginning to transform hearts and lives. But, in recent weeks, I have had many of those Jonah moments trying to avoid writing this letter. As I say, “why not just wait another
quadrennium?” I hear the words, “I didn’t call you for then, I called you for now.”
With this, I humbly offer myself as a candidate for the episcopacy at the 2020 Conference of the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
Rev. Giovanni Arroyo
The United Methodist Church and the world are more globally focused, more multi-cultural, multi-textured and complex than any point in our history. We as a denomination are in the crossroads of new horizons, which deems an episcopal leadership that is able to lead in the intersectionality of diverse lived experiences with creativity and enthusiasm in the years ahead.
My years of experience and leadership in the denomination at all levels — local church, alongside annual conferences, jurisdictionally, nationally, central conferences, general agencies, theological schools, and racial/ethnic caucuses — enables me to offer the church multiple perspectives that would enrich how ministry is lived out in annual conferences and the connectional church as an episcopal leader.
As a local pastor since 2001, I led congregations in the New York and Baltimore-Washington Conferences. The fifteen years of pastoral experience in the local church context provided me the opportunity to be prophetic as well as visionary as I work in church and community reconciliation, re-visioning and reimagining multi-lingual and multi-cultural ministry in both urban and suburban contexts. I have navigated difficult ministry challenges that have allowed me to grow in my pastoral leadership: financial fraud by pastoral leadership, unifying congregations of different languages and culture to be one church, shared facility ministry, 9/11 chaplaincy in New York, community organizing, and immigration to just name a few.
For the past 9.5 years, I have served the denomination in an executive level management position as Assistant General Secretary of The General Commission on Religion and Race. Through this ministry setting I work towards the elimination of institutional inequities that allow for diverse oppressions to be experienced by clergy and lay. My work interfaces with the official UM racial/ethnic Caucuses, bishops, annual conference leaders and a cross-section of denominational leaders around the world to address the various oppressions in the church. I have ample experience in leading consultations, trainings, and interventions in the areas of intercultural competency, cross-racial/cross-cultural ministry, institutional equity, and vital conversations in regard to culture, diversity, …isms, and discriminatory practices. Also, I administer and provide oversight of grants worldwide totaling over 2.9 million dollars in the last seven years. In addition, I oversee the development of programmatic work in the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines, along with the agency’s budget. I have experience in restructuring process of a general agency and the hiring practices of staff.
Lastly, my education has helped form my leadership abilities. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from City College of New York; Master of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary; Master of Science in Management from University of Maryland with a specialty in Project Management, a Pastoral Care Skills certificate from Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute of Mental Health and Religion and Qualified IDI Administrator. Currently, I’m in the project phase of the Doctor of Ministry Program focusing on Transformational Leadership in the Wesleyan Perspective through a joint partnership with Wesley Theological Seminary and Cambridge University: Methodist House of Studies in Cambridge. The conferring of the Doctor of Ministry degree is in May 2020.