A little over 12 years ago, Bishop Ann Sherer said that as Bishop, she had less influence over where she was appointed than she did at any other time in her career as a United Methodist itinerant pastor. A month later, when she was sent to Nebraska, I believed her.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s not that I’m down on Nebraska. Put me in a canoe on the Niobrara River, and I couldn’t be happier. But I knew Bishop Sherer was a Texan at heart. She was ordained there and serving churches there when she was elected Bishop. She had kids and grandkids in Texas. There are multiple Episcopal areas in Texas in which she could serve. She was going to get assigned somewhere in the South Central Jurisdiction. In the South Central Jurisdiction, you can’t get farther away from Texas than Nebraska. Yet, when jurisdictional conference concluded, it was decided that Nebraska was where she needed to go.
The story ends well. Bishop Sherer did great things in Nebraska. She used her merging Missouri experience to prepare Nebraska to merge with Kansas. She even feel in love and got married while there (she is now Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson) and stayed there after she retired. How’s that for a story book itinerant pastor ending?
This year was just as surprising but in the complete opposite way. Bishop Robert Schnase is off to his home area of Rio Texas, and Rev. Bob Farr is returning to Missouri as Bishop Bob Farr.
Several times during jurisdictional conference, I was approached by someone from a different Conference who said, “Hey, you’re from Missouri. What do you think of Bob Farr?” I said that in working with him I’d witnessed his relentless work ethic, passion for church renewal and love of God and the church. I always ended with, “He’s a great guy. I’d be excited and happy to have him as my bishop.” At no time when I was saying those words did I ever consider that there was any possibility that he would ever actually be my bishop, certainly not the next day. But hours after this election, just before midnight, it was announced that Bishop Farr was assigned to Missouri.
The next day as I left the celebratory meet-the-bishop breakfast, I saw Rev. David Wilson coming in off a run on the river walk. He was the runner-up who had been locked in a dead heat for the lead for many ballots. He’d decided to skip his area breakfast with his Conference and get in some solitude and exercise instead. I told him thank you for stepping up to be a candidate and participating in the process, and he warmly appreciated it, seeming happy and at peace.
Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke was as gracious as ever after she withdrew. Anyone who has ever spent 10 minutes in conversation with her would have a hard time imagining how she could not be elected bishop. She was consistently and solidly among the top five candidates. Unfortunately we only elected three. Consider that number for a moment – we elected three people to become bishops out of 10 Annual Conferences. That’s several thousand available clergy eligible to be elected, and she was among the very top few being considered. That speaks volumes about her witness. It’s selfish, but we’re lucky to have her coming back to Missouri.
I’m glad the election is over, and if you put that to a vote, I’m pretty sure you would get more than 60 percent approval in one ballot. And as I said before, I’m excited and happy to have Bishop Farr as my bishop.