News and Views

Episcopal Nominees Announced

Posted by on

After a period of discernment, the Revs. Giovanni Arroyo, Tony Love, Amy McCullough, and Sarah Schlieckert have put their names forth to be considered as candidates for the ministry of bishop in The United Methodist Church.

Statements from these candidates to the delegation are below.

Their nomination will be considered by the BWC’s General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation in January and an endorsement of none, one or more of the nominees will be made to the Annual Conference when it meets in May. The election of bishop(s) to serve in the Northeastern Jurisdiction will be held in July at the Jurisdictional Conference July 8-12 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Other Elders from the BWC can become official nominees if they are endorsed by an official UMC caucus groups such as MARCHA, BMCR, and others, or if they are nominated from the floor of the Annual Conference Session and endorsed by the body.

Rev. Giovanni Arroyo

Arroyo serves as General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race.

 1. Describe the process that led you to discern the call to the office of bishop.

 The community plays a vital role in our discernment process. For years, the community has invited me to explore the call to the episcopacy. The season of 2019 – 2022 was one of prayer, discernment, and deep conversation with leaders in exploring the call of God upon my life to the episcopacy. The support of the MARCHA caucus as a candidate in the 2022 Jurisdictional Conference was one of more profound prayer and discernment as I engaged in the interview process. I left the jurisdictional conference, convinced God was not done with me. I left the 2022 jurisdictional conference with a web of complex feelings due to the political process that transpired but affirmed by the people to stay faithful to my calling to the episcopacy. Since November 2022, I have been praying, doing scriptural reflection, and seeking God’s affirmation to offer myself as a candidate. This discernment has not been in isolation, but my spouse has been critical in my discernment as we will walk together in this process to be faithful to God.

Despite my fears and concerns about being a gay candidate for the episcopacy, my prayer has been for God’s will to be done and not mine. My constant conversation has been to show me signs if this is where you seek me to serve you and the Church. Within the last three months, numerous encounters with people have affirmed and validated my call to the episcopacy. These have been individuals that I have worked with and who I have never encountered in our connectional Church but have claimed the call upon my life and leadership to the episcopacy. God is calling me to serve the Church in the office of the episcopacy to bring the gifts of unity, healing, bridge building, and accountability of creating space at the table for all of God’s children where diversity, inclusion, and equity are lived out. I surrender to the calling with my whole identity (Latino, gay, Christian, pastor, etc.) to lead the Church in this time of transition to establish the fundamental elements of who we will be as we restructure our institutional Church from an ethnocentric to ethno-relative framework.

2. What spiritual and missional gifts would you bring to the role of bishop?

The spiritual and missional gifts that continue to shape my leadership as a general secretary and I would continue to offer the Church as a bishop. My gift of administration will permit me to guide and help the Church toward the successful execution of God-given goals with my planning, organizing, and supervising skills. In this transitional moment, we need episcopal leadership to be agile administrators as we navigate denominational shifts that maintain their focus on mission and ministry. My leadership gifts will permit me to stand before the Church with a deep love for God and the people as I direct the Church with care and attention and motivate them toward living out our mission contextually. The gift of discernment and exhortation are core in my leadership as we engage in prayerful praxis to seek Divine wisdom and offer encouragement, comfort, and support to help individuals and communities under my leadership be all God wants them to be. The continual practice and call of intercessory prayer and scriptural reflection as part of the discernment spiritual practice will be core to how I would lead.

My servant leadership style is grounded in serving with and assisting in identifying tasks needed for the body of Christ to live into our mission and ministry by using available resources to ensure we are faithful to God in our service to the world. The teaching ministry is one of my strengths to help the Church grow in understanding and knowledge of the Word. I utilize different modalities for engagement in the growth process of the Church.

Furthermore, I am gifted in rooting myself in diverse ministry contexts, learning, seeing the various perspectives, and maximizing their strengths. I come with a heart to love God and neighbor by ensuring that we are a church that speaks truth and love and lives it out in their action. My missional focus will challenge the leadership to expand our binary mindset towards a faithful multicultural ministry that goes beyond race/ethnicity and acknowledges and honors our diverse identities. It is time for self-determination among communities of color to experience relevant and contextual ministry that would decenter the historical white normative ministry approach. I will bring an anti-racist and intercultural competent lens to our work throughout the jurisdiction. I will continue the work of dismantling systems, policies, and practices that have excluded my LGBTQIA++ siblings and me. We will live out a welcoming spirit of God's children that will make the Church a place of healing, restoration, and liberation. We are at a crossroads for dreaming, innovation and creating new pathways to being a Church contextually responsive to our realities in rural, suburban, urban, transient, and other communities.

3. In light of your experiences, address the four seasons outlined in the invitation. (Discernment, uncertainty, individual and corporate identity, and pruning for growth)

The beauty and challenge of the order of the Church is how we honor and respect the diverse expressions of God's Image in each of us. As a Latinx, gay married servant leader, I continue to claim my space at the table amid the divergent views we have. The 2022 Jurisdictional interview process was critical for my integrity to be upfront that my candidacy came with institutional challenges. My episcopal leadership will not undermine who God created me to be in my multiple identities, and I will not discount the identities of others. As a denominational leader leading an agency with the mandate of institutional equity, I have worked a theological framing for the Church around Imago Dei – An image of diversity, an Image of equity, and an Image of inclusion.

Furthermore, due to my current role, I continue to be involved in the confidential process of racial/ethnic/tribal discrimination cases our conferences face. As a fair justice advocate, I recognize the policies, practices, and systems unaddressed that continue to oppress siblings in the body of Christ. These perspectives will allow me to serve the Church in areas that need immediate attention if we are to live out our simple rules.

These past years have placed me in spaces and conversations that have been conflictual and harmful for some. My role has been one that engages people with a pastoral care heart that understands that people's experiences need to be heard, held, and recognized so that healing and momentum to resolution can emerge. My candidacy in 2022 was a space of much disagreement with siblings whose views on human sexuality conflict with God's Image in me. Throughout the process, I had to engage in authentic and holy conversations with them, allowing us to be heard and understand our perspectives. I welcome the conversation, knowing that I am called to be in a relationship with my sibling because the love of God abides in me. The discussion was important for building mutual respect as we could still agree to disagree. This has been my approach as I am called to be part of conversations with leaders and congregations experiencing different expressions of oppression within their communities. As a bridge builder across diverse views, I seek ways for us to create 

Rev. Antoine "Tony" Carlton Love 

Love serves as Assistant to the Bishop.

1. Describe the process that led you to discern the call to the office of bishop.

Over the years, many persons have offered words of affirmation of my gifts and graces. Some have been bold enough to speak what they see in me and that has included service to the larger church as a bishop. Humbled, honored and with some hesitancy, I have prayerfully engaged in listening and discerning. I have been reminded that my opportunities to serve in leadership as a pastor, conference director of congregational development, an interim pastor in cross cultural/cross racial settings, national chairperson of BMCR - a denominational caucus, and as assistant to the bishop have all help to shape me.

In faith, I offer myself to be considered as an episcopal servant leader. My response to God’s calling on my life, to include episcopal servant leadership, rests upon my willingness to participate with God in whatever God desires for me. I am saying that I am available. I am trusting the Spirit.

2. What spiritual and missional gifts would you bring to the role of bishop?

First and foremost, I own that I’m a worshipper. I believe worship is the lifeline to my walk of faith as a disciple. Authentic, true worship is empowering and liberating. It opens me to experience God more fully and fuels me to journey farther with God. It is from the place of worship I have learned to order the life of the church to become God’s beloved community. Worship makes me rich in hospitality with a desire to serve that extends beyond the church walls. It energizes me to teach and share God’s Word with joy and creativity, to inspire faith and a mature walk with God. It compels me to stretch myself for the Kin-dom to reach all persons standing in need of belonging.

I wholeheartedly affirm that that I have the gift of prayer that connects Creator and creation in a faith relationship that hopes, dreams, believes and acts. And it is in prayer, I have been made ready to do spiritual warfare for the advancement of the Kin-dom. Also, from my days in the funeral industry and hospital, I possess the gift of compassion and care to journey with persons/families in challenging seasons, as well as a respect for protocol and decorum.

I am a relational individual who builds bridges and relationships that bring people together across divides. I am able to cast a vision that is God-ordained because of time spent in prayer, discernment and among God’s people. And, I can design a plan and organize people to accomplish the vision.

Lastly, I unapologetically have the gift of humor. I can create lightness in a place and certainly have no problem laughing at myself. Humor often can unite as well as bless the weary soul

3. In light of your experiences, address the four seasons outlined in the invitation. (Discernment, uncertainty, individual and corporate identity, and pruning for growth) 

Each of the four seasons – discernment, uncertainty, individual and corporate identity and pruning for growth – provides the faithful with opportunity to be who we say we are and to become who we need to be by the Spirit’s guidance.

Throughout my calling, I believe I have had moments to participate in each season, some more successfully than others. When I went to my first appointment as a part-time student local pastor, I received a congregation that had been a full-time station church that was having to return to less than full-time. It was an “opportunity,” as we say in United Methodism. I soon learned that I needed to discern what God wanted me to do in this setting and what God wanted for the people I was called to serve.

I made a significant investment of time and energy to access where they were and where their hearts’ desire was. It didn’t take long to realize that this faithful few responded well to being celebrated for their gifts and graces while facing a difficult moment. The more I celebrated them and invited them to trust God, the more they leaned into God for a brighter future. A congregation that I went into with financial concerns and low membership soon began to blossom and flourish as they were led by God’s Word as I preached, taught and modeled it as their servant leader. This congregation was able to return to full-time appointment status in three years. They started to repay their conference loan back and entered into a capital campaign to renovate their entire sanctuary.

Creating the space to celebrate them and to share their narratives of hope, faith and vision moved them forward. Part of the success story of this congregation was putting the right people in the right seats for positive change. Once that challenging but necessary effort was accomplished, the church bore fruit. As excitement returned to the church, they began to become their own best advertisement for persons returning to the fellowship and new persons uniting with the church. I remember well a moment when even the young ladies who danced in a local bar at night started to attend the church regularly. While people in the church “knew” who they were, space was made for them to find a place for belonging for as long as they wanted. When I left my first appointment, the church was well poised to continue growing and thriving because they had rediscovered their purpose for Kin-dom building.

My second appointment placed me in a new church start that met in a storefront in a shopping center. I went from a stand-alone church to a building next door to a credit union, an alley and around the corner from a CVS. This opportunity caused me and the worshippers to redefine what church meant and how church functioned when the traditional trimmings are not in place. It also taught us how to wrestle with receiving conference support that would end in three years. We learned quickly how to introduce ourselves to the community and how to make difficult decisions. When the conference funding ended, the people and I made decision to cut staff appropriately as we raised up persons who would begin to use their gifts and graces to step up. We refocused our stewardship to support the church ministry and to repay a conference build-out loan so that the monthly note would become ministry money. A 60-month loan was repaid in 36 months because I casted a God-given vision and proceeded to organize and work the plan. Eventually, the new church start was given an opportunity to become a cooperative parish. A predominantly African-American church and a predominantly Caucasian church were to unite in ministry with me as the Lead Pastor.

I worked extremely hard to accommodate a positive working relationship and ministry opportunity between both churches. At times, I felt like I wasn’t necessarily liked by either but God was being faithful. In short order, the churches merged to form one congregation. Unfortunately, “white flight” occurred steadily and surely. Despite my efforts to want to hold everyone together, the more mature discipleship culture remained. So, with a remnant of members of the Caucasian church, the merged church pressed forward to find its new identity and to make disciples.

When I went on conference staff, I worked with existing and new congregations in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This position exposed me to some hard realities of how some of our churches were stuck and others were resistant to change. But the position gave me the determination to keep planting seeds of transformation among all while working diligently with the willing. And now serving alongside of the bishop, I had have a direct line of sight to the realities of the calling and have gained a greater respect for the office. This position has also allowed me to be a pastor to leaders whenever called upon or lead by the Spirit. 

No matter the season, the takeaway for me is that the steadiness of God helped bring steadiness into each church setting and to me as the pastor. As my foundational Scripture reminds me, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, [God’s] mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; Great is they faithfulness, O Lord unto me.” – Lamentations 3:22-23 

Rev. Amy Peed McCullough

McCullough is the lead pastor of Grace UMC in Baltimore and chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

1. Describe the process that led you to discern the call to the office of bishop.

My call into ordained ministry emerged during adolescence, as I felt drawn more deeply into the church's life and compelled by the witness of those serving in ministry. In these formative years, I learned to listen to the still, small voice within me inviting me to consider ordained ministry as my life's path. The call was nurtured by my home church, mentors, teachers, and family members. Each step of the journey, from certified candidacy onward, held joys and challenges and ultimately confirmed that calling voice. The process of discerning a call to the office of bishop has followed a similar path. An initial pull toward the role has been strengthened by prayer, reflection, and holy conversations.

While I have always gravitated to leadership roles in which one holds sacred responsibility for casting a vision and inspiring a community, my first inclination to the office of bishop came amid the 2019 Special General Conference. Watching the votes tally for the Traditional Plan solidified the enormity of the challenges facing our denomination. I sensed a desire to help our beloved church navigate this time of pain, loss, and refining its identity. I reflected on the enormous impact bishops have to shepherd pastors and congregations, set the ethos of an annual conference, and administer in ways that support life-giving ministry. The current challenges facing the United Methodist Church increased my sense of call to the role rather than dissuading it.

Over the past three years, I have prayed concretely for God to guide my next steps. I have sought the holy wisdom of my clergy covenant group. I have consulted trusted mentors and spoken at length with my spouse. The still, small voice inside of me has guided me to take this next step in the nominations process. In John's gospel, the first disciples to encounter Jesus ask him where he is staying, to which Jesus replies, "Come and See." As I continue to seek how best I abide in Jesus and allow Jesus to abide in me, I hear the Spirit's invitation to come and see if my sense of call matches the needs of the church in this season.

2. What spiritual and missional gifts would you bring to the role?

The spiritual gifts I would bring as a bishop of the church begin with a resilient faith in God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. God's incarnational presence and saving love ground my life. I trust in God's faithfulness and am sensitive to the Spirit's diverse activity in the world. Alongside my personal faith lives a persistent belief in the church as a vehicle for God's grace. Church, in all its ancient and emerging forms, serves as a container for encountering God, deepening faith, and discovering one's belonging in community. While also witnessing the church's sinful patterns of racism, sexism, and exclusion of persons deemed other, as well as its tendency toward unhealthy patterns and unwieldy bureaucracy, I still believe our attempts to embody Christ changes lives. Additional spiritual gifts I would name are an inclination toward mercy, empathy, and encouragement.

The gifts I would bring in service to the church's mission include preaching, teaching, and administration. I serve as an adjunct teacher at Wesley Theological Seminary and currently a chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry. In these two capacities, I help strengthen theological reflection, form pastors for service, and think systematically about how to support clergypersons across their lives. I possess strong administrative and organizational skills, yet never forget that, at its heart, ministry is about relationships. In my last two appointments, I have helped congregations increase their stewardship practices and initiate new ministries beyond the church walls. While grounded in the United Methodist Church, I am a flexible thinker who recognizes new wineskins are needed for the future.

3. In light of your experiences, address the four seasons outlined in the invitation. (Discernment, uncertainty, individual and corporate identity, and pruning for growth)

I commend the delegation on the clear articulation of traits needed now in episcopal candidates. Key words I resonate with include "authenticity of character," "the both-and nature of this time," and "pruning for growth." It is an unsettling season and likely will continue to be so for years to come. Pain at disaffiliations, questions about how we best organize ourselves for the future, and fears that the declines in church involvement will only increase weigh on many. A non-anxious, spiritually robust, and intellectually curious bishop is a must.

I draw strength in this season by taking a broad, historical view of Christ's church, which displays how new life constantly emerges by God's power and grace. Resurrection happened for the disciples on Easter evening, for the muddled group on Pentecost morning, and for martyrs of the church whose sacrifice birthed another generation of Christians. Dying in order to rise happened for Martin Luther nailing his 93 theses and for John Wesley, compelled to push the gospel into the fields. While the church's life is aided by our human efforts, it's lifeforce is Jesus, who will continue to recreate us anew.

With this theological basis, I don't believe there is any singular fix to the church's present situation. Rather, trusting in the Spirit's leadings, I approach the challenges with openness, humility, and hope. The future requires cultivating the capacity for change and continuing to authentically welcome all. There exist many insightful analyses of the church's ills. There are many efforts already underway to adapt new systems, respond to historic injustices, address aging church buildings, and establish new patterns for being Christ's body. The bishop's role is to harness all of these good efforts and engage them with a discerning, compassionate heart. The bishop's role requires honest speech about the current times that also inspires. The symbol of a shepherd's crook is apt for the season for God provides for our needs and guides the way.

In the past twenty-three years, I have served three distinct congregations, attended school for doctoral studies, taught at the seminary level, and served within the Board of Ordained Ministry. These experiences inform how I approach this season of the church's life. As a local church pastor, I know the joys and heartaches of shepherding a congregation. As a scholar and teacher, I have learned to think broadly about how the church calls, forms, and trains pastors. Through my work on the Board, I have witnessed the intricacies of managing clergypersons' needs, and also brought particular attention to the systems of care needed for clergypersons to thrive in ministry. I believe I have the skills and the passion to serve as a bishop within the United Methodist Church at this juncture in the church's life.

Rev. Sarah Andrews Schlieckert

Schlieckert serves as superintendent of the Annapolis District

1. Describe the process that led you to discern the call to the office of bishop.

While I have received encouragement to run for bishop from both colleagues and laity for many years, that encouragement has increased recently, especially since I began serving as a district superintendent. I could not have imagined I would have considered standing as a candidate for the episcopacy at this point in my ministry, but through prayer, reflection and discussion with others, I do believe I am called to serve as a bishop in this season.

I never anticipated serving as a district superintendent at age 41. The first years of this position have been both wonderfully rewarding and deeply challenging. In the midst of the learning curve of serving as a district superintendent, seriously considering offering myself as a candidate for the episcopacy seemed quite far off.

However, Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is given, much will be required,” call to mind for me the many family, colleagues, mentors and church members who have poured into me. I feel an obligation to serve with commitment and faithfulness, and to do so with excellence.

We are in a season of great change, and how we navigate this season will impact generations. In such a season, it is important to have younger voices in leadership both within annual conferences and in the Council of Bishops. The denomination will benefit from making space for these younger voices by lifting up younger leaders and by electing bishops who will be able to provide continuity and forward momentum through the length of their service in the episcopacy.

Though my husband and I had discussed the possibility of the episcopacy—and the myriad of things that would mean both for him professionally and our family as a whole—the beginning of my intentional discernment was significantly impacted by the trial of Bishop Carcaño. The variety of issues on display in the trial had a chilling effect on me, including the ways that it highlighted the spotlight on bishops, the confining nature of their role, and some of the painful impacts the role can have on their families. I spent most of October, to be honest, trying to talk myself out of offering myself as a candidate. I could not find peace in that intention. However, when I then opened myself to truly reflect on the invitation to discernment from our delegation, and as I reviewed each of the seasons, I felt God’s affirmation in each described season as needs to which I could bring my gifts, experiences and potential for continued growth as a leader.

As a United Methodist, I affirm that a call to ministry—and further a call to the episcopacy—must not only be a result of personal discernment but also of the affirmation of the Christian community. I do discern myself a call to the role of bishop in the UMC in this season and I have received the encouragement and support of others. I now look forward to the discernment of the delegation.

2. What spiritual and missional gifts would you bring to the role of bishop?

I would bring gifts of discernment and administration to the role of bishop. I have demonstrated the ability to identify and share a vision or goal and determine the steps needed to make that vision a reality. I would bring gifts around being grounded in my own identity as a leader, and our shared denominational identity and legacy, to serve as the foundation moving into the future. I am able to help take theory to implementation, and to do so using systems and methods that, along the way, reflect our values (the means drive the end rather than the end justifying the means). Finally, asking good questions is a spiritual and missional gift that I would also be able to offer. 

3. In light of your experiences, address the four seasons outlined in the invitation. (Discernment, uncertainty, individual and corporate identity, and pruning for growth)

DISCERNMENT: I affirm our shared work of discernment, and I am grateful for this initial attention to the authenticity and spiritual maturity of candidates for the episcopacy. I have sought to live my life with authenticity and transparency, both in sharing my struggles as well as taking seriously that as a pastor, I am a role model. In an email my father sent me after seeing me preach on my second Sunday in my very first appointment, he wrote, “Know that the greatest gift you can give your people is a balanced and dedicated life. You will be blessing your people in ways you can barely imagine in your willingness to live before them and God as a loving vessel who understands and lives within mature boundaries.” I have and will always strive to follow this guidance.

UNCERTAINTY: I am able, as I listen deeply, to help find disconnects between mission and vision on the one hand and processes and systems on the other. This is greatly needed in a time of uncertainty, when there is a strong temptation to simply do something that might ease our anxiety in that uncertainty, even if it may not actually help move us forward. I have deep frustration with systems that would rather check boxes than be healthy and fruitful. I am grateful that I was exposed to family systems theory early in my ministry—even before I entered ministry, really. I have found this field to be helpful in assessing conflicts as well as navigating seasons of uncertainty, and in helping me identify the most effective and healthy ways to lead in such systems and seasons.

INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY AND CORPORATE IDENTITY: I have been fortunate to have learned, and to continue to learn, from clergy and lay colleagues from across a wide spectrum of experiences and backgrounds. Indeed, one of the great blessings of my current position as a district superintendent has been the opportunity to see others’ ministries more directly and clearly than I had been able to when I was in local church ministry. This experience has reinforced my appreciation for the vast and varied gifts we all bring to our shared ministry. It has also helped me clarify and celebrate my own unique gifts and the areas where I benefit greatly from the ministry and support of others. I feel deeply rooted in the rich history of our United Methodist tradition. Indeed, that legacy is one that intertwines with my personal and family history. Rather than giving me a closed view of our future, this foundation constantly pushes me forward to make space for others, especially younger persons coming into our churches and into ministry.

PRUNING FOR GROWTH: The United Methodist Church, especially in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, is built for a culture, habits and practices that no longer exist. Maintenance of congregations has often become synonymous with maintenance of buildings. Our care of property is often layered with generational support, anxiety around changing communities, and the appreciation of consistency in the midst of rapid change and uncertainty. However, we cannot maintain our core values as United Methodists and also live as though keeping doors open is our mission. We must find ways to creatively, and yes, sometimes painfully, restructure appointments, congregational ministry and connectional bodies and ministries. One such method has been and will increasingly be building wide cooperative parish ministries. Leading as a non-anxious presence will be vital in this season, and guidance such as that found in Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve will be especially vital for bishops and all leaders.

One of the foundational scripture texts in my life is Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” I believe this speaks to the season we are in and which lies ahead, and I feel particularly called to lead in such a season.