Mississippi’s Connie Shelton Elected Bishop


By Jasmine Haynes, Communications Specialist

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.

Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton gives post-election remarks. Photo courtesy of Ben Smith.
Rev. Dr. Connie Mitchell Shelton, district superintendent in the Mississippi Conference, has been elected as bishop in The United Methodist Church’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

Delegates elected Shelton, 58, on Wednesday, November 2 at the jurisdiction’s meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, on the 12th ballot. She received 213 votes out of 350 valid ballots cast. She needed 210 to be elected.

Shelton was the second bishop elected at the November 2-4 meeting, after Rev. Tom Berlin of the Virginia Conference.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God and the love and support of the SEJ Clergy Women and the Mississippi Delegation. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for all the SEJ delegates discerning work that continued late into Wednesday evening,” said Shelton. “I am humbled and overjoyed for the opportunity to companion clergy and laity toward God’s preferred future for local churches and communities.”

Shelton was elected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction’s United Methodist clergy and laity, from the nine states forming the Southeastern Jurisdiction. She will be the episcopal leader of the North Carolina Conference beginning January 1.

Her two-year term of service begins January 1, 2023. In the United States, bishops are elected to serve for life.

Bishop Connie Shelton kneeling during consecration service at the 2022 SEJ Conference. Photo courtesy of Ben Smith
Shelton was the endorsed candidate of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Clergywomen’s Caucus, and was supported by the Mississippi delegation to General Conference and the jurisdictional conference. Raised in the Southern Baptist tradition in her native Mississippi, she later found that Methodist theology resonated in her life. She subsequently joined Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she and her husband, Joey, served as volunteer lay youth directors. Eventually, both she and her husband discerned a call to full-time ordained ministry.

When asked about what she is hopeful for in this next chapter in ministry, Shelton shared, “I see the opportunity for the connection to take risks and fail forward. From general agencies to local churches, it’s time for us to take bold change steps instead of fear-filled incremental changes of self-protection and preservation.”

She has a bachelor’s in radio, television and film and master’s in public relations, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. After accepting the call, she and her husband sold everything and moved to Durham, North Carolina to study at Duke Divinity School, where she obtained her Master of Divinity. Shelton also has a Ph.D. in ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.

Since 2015, she has been superintendent and missional strategist of the East Jackson District in the Mississippi Conference. Since July, she also has served on a team of four superintendents overseeing the Hattiesburg District.

Shelton with children at Greenwood First UMC in Miss. in 2015. 
She previously served as director of connectional ministries and communications for the Mississippi Conference. Before that, she served in appointments at both rural and urban United Methodist churches. She also was executive director of The United Methodist Hour television and radio broadcast which reached across the Southeastern United States.

Her husband is the dean of the chapel and director of church relations at United Methodist-related Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. The two have two adult daughters, Bailey and Jessica.

"We are happy for Connie and so proud of her and glad that others saw the leadership potential in her that was cultivated in Mississippi," said Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., episcopal leader of the Mississippi Area. "We wish her well and continue to pray for fruitfulness in her ministry."

Then Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton delivers the message for memorial service during the 2013 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. Photo courtesy of Greg Campbell Photography, Inc. 
In The United Methodist Church, bishops are ordained elders who are called to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church.” Bishops, in consultation with district superintendents, are responsible for appointing clergy. They also preside at annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.

She and other new bishops are coming aboard as the denomination deals with the continuing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising congregational disaffiliations amid a denominational splintering.

Click here to view Shelton's reaction and post-election remarks. 

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