The United Methodist Church Chooses Its First Native American Bishop

The United Methodist Church Chooses Its First Native American Bishop
The United Methodist Church Chooses Its First Native American Bishop

The United Methodist Church has chosen its first Native American bishop.

The United Methodist Church’s regional body has chosen the first Native American bishop in the denomination’s history.

The Rev. David Wilson, assistant to the bishop of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, was chosen as a bishop in the United Methodist South Central Jurisdictional Conference on Wednesday.

Delegates convening in Houston, Texas, picked Wilson on the first ballot, with 92 votes out of 151 valid ballots cast, exceeding the minimal threshold of 77 votes, or 60%, according to UM News.

Wilson had previously served as a conference superintendent for 19 years, lead coordinator for the North Oklahoma City Native American Ministry for eight years, and director of promotions and interpretations for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference for seven years. He also served as a pastor of a couple of churches in Oklahoma, and as campus minister for the Native American Campus Ministry program at Northeastern State University.

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The United Methodist Church Chooses Its First Native American Bishop

At a press conference held shortly after his election, Wilson spoke about the history of his people coming to Christianity and in gradually entering ministry roles in the Methodist Church.

“People ask often ‘why would Native people want to be part of the Methodist Church or Christianity given what’s happened in this history?’” Wilson said.

“When we look at Christianity, when we talk to our elders, the premise of that is so much like our spirituality. You take care of each other, you love one another, and in essence, that’s what Christianity is.”

Wilson went on to explain that after his ancestors were forcibly moved out West, “one of the very first things our people did was to recreate the Methodist churches.

“We’re proud of being United Methodists. We’re proud of the work we do in Oklahoma,” he added.

In addition to Wilson, other bishops elected by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference included the Rev. Laura Merrill, capital district superintendent for the UMC Rio Texas Conference, and the Rev. Dee Williamston, assistant to the bishop and director of Clergy Excellence for the UMC Great Plains Annual Conference.

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Williamston’s election was also historic, as she became the first female African American bishop in the history of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

According to Williamston, who was quoted by UM News, “God showed up via the South Central Jurisdiction to elect their first African American woman bishop.” It means a lot to be able to stand here and declare that we are still not done.

“Many individuals gave up a lot so that I might be in this place right now.” It suggests that, although we advance very slowly, we are progressing.

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