FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)––The bishops of The United Methodist Church have chosen a Mississippi native as their president-designate.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, 59, leader of the Alabama-West Florida Conference,was unanimously elected April 19 to lead the council in two years.
His tenure will begin in 2010 at the conclusion of the presidency of Iowa Bishop Gregory Palmer, who will assume the presidency from Bishop Janice Riggle Huie during the 2008 General Conference this spring. Palmer was elected last November to a two-year term.
"I'm grateful to my colleagues, and I know that it is a lot of work, but we are going to pray and we will support each another and we will make it through," Goodpaster said after his election.
Goodpaster was chosen by a discernment team of bishops from the five U.S jurisdictions and from the central conferences -- regions in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
"I am humbled," Goodpaster said. He added that he looks forward to continuing the collegial atmosphere that has permeated the council in recent years.
Goodpaster equated his election as president-designate to when he was elected bishop during the 2000 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
"I have no why or how, but I depend on God's grace, and that redemptive and transformative love and mercy that keeps all of us where we need to be headed," he said. "I hope that by working together with the council, we find a way to build the kind of collaboration around these four areas and really focus the church and make it possible for everybody to be at the table."
United Methodist leaders are focusing the denomination's work around four focus areas--leadership development, congregational renewal and growth, engaging in ministry with the poor, and stamping out killer diseases by improving global health––in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Changes and reflections
Huie, the council's outgoing president, said the unanimous vote for Goodpaster is a testament to his leadership. "Bishop Goodpaster has a vision and he has experience, and he has the trust of this council and of the church to lead it, and we are excited about that happening," she said.
Goodpaster is a graduate of Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss., and Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, both United Methodist-related schools. He was ordained elder in the former North Mississippi Annual Conference and served as a pastor and district superintendent in the Mississippi Conference before his 2000 election as bishop.
The council, with offices in Washington, represents 11.5 million United Methodists in the United States, Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. It includes 69 active and 87 retired bishops.
The council's leadership will change before the conclusion of the churchwide General Conference legislative meeting April 22-May 2. Its membership will change before the council meets again in the fall. In July, new bishops will be elected and 16 bishops will retire.