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Responding to the Push


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Rev. David Gilmore is unsettled by how things are going in the church. The rhetoric and divisiveness are doing harm. That troubles him. He has been approached by people considered far right, far left and right down the middle, asking him if he would consider putting his name forward to be elected Bishop. So he started asking trusted friends two, two-part questions.

1. Do you think I would make a good Bishop? Why do you think that?
2. Do you think I’m electable? Why?

Because he was asking his friends, he received the expected affirmations to the first question, but he was most interested in the why. He kept asking and kept getting consistent feedback that mostly fell into four broad responses.
  1. You have a less-anxious presence.
  2. You meet people where they are.
  3. You make room for all voices.
  4. You set a clear direction.
At a time when people are going their separate ways, Gilmore wants there to be room at the table for everyone to stay with us as United Methodists. But he’s also grace-filled enough to want to allow people to move to wherever the spirit is calling them to go – even if that is outside the United Methodist Church.
Gilmore had a different path to ministry than most. It is unusual for someone to serve 20 years in the military, retire and then become an ordained elder. But it didn’t feel that unusual when he did it, because it is exactly the same path that his father took.
“I was in the Navy 20 years and 15 days, and my father was in the Army 20 years and six months,” Gilmore said, noting that his father never let him forget that he had served in the armed services longer than his son.

Gilmore credits his time in the Navy with setting him on the right course.

“I was a bit of a wild child,” he said. “I rebelled, and struggled with authority.”

The Navy instilled in him a sense of discipline and focus.

“A gained an appreciation for effective policy, rules, regulations, discipline and order,” he said.  “I learned how important it is to be clear in what you are asking of people as their supervisor, and to treat others with discipline and respect.”

Gilmore’s father had warned him that serving in the military gives you an up-close Microcosm of society at large. He found that to be true.

“There were times when I had a black nationalist working on one side of me and a KKK member on the other side, and I needed both of them to do their jobs,” he said. It was through experiences like that in he learned he could be an effective leader.

“I try to see the glass as half full. That helps my prayer life and strengthens my faith,” Gilmore said.

When Gilmore put his name forward to the Missouri Conference delegation to ask for their endorsement, he didn’t know who else might be doing so, but he felt it was his responsibility to do so, and after that it was out of his hands.

“I was being true to the push I felt, and I was ok with whatever they decided,” Gilmore said. “I feel the same way about the election. I feel God has prepared me for this moment, and I have a deep love for the church, but I recognize that eight other people feel the same way, and only three will be elected.”

A typical run-up to an Episcopal election means candidates spend a lot of time in airports, often running into each other as they are traveling to all 12 conferences in the jurisdiction for what basically amounts to a job interview before a room full of delegates. But 2022 is still far from typical. The election wasn’t set until the end of May, and begins November 2. Gilmore has been meeting with delegations, but primarily via zoom. Several delegations have reached out to him.

“They want to get to know me because I’m an unknown quantity,” he said.

Gilmore has formed a lot of great relationships outside of the Missouri Conference, but the people he worked with in the Northeast Jurisdiction while serving as Director of Congregational Development for the New York Conference, and those he met while recruiting from seminaries in the Southeast Jurisdiction, have wished him well, but they won’t be able to vote for him in the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Gilmore has had a very well-rounded career since entering vocational ministry. He served as senior pastor of three churches before being asked to move to New York and serve as Director of Congregational Development there. While there he spent a lot of time walking neighborhoods in the New York Conference, which runs from the Catskills to Connecticut.

“Every area was quite different. The five boroughs of New York were very different from each other. A community that speaks Cantonese is different from a community that speaks Mandarin. Spanish speakers who are Domincan are different from Spanish speakers who are Puerto Rican, and new Puerto Rican immigrants are different than Puerto Ricans who have been here for generations,” he said. “I have a great appreciation for our diversity. There are no cookie-cutter answers to church development and revitalization.”

He was then later asked to return to Missouri to serve as a District Superintendent, initially for a district that was mostly Kansas City and the surrounding area, but now redistricting has expanded his district to include all of Northwest Missouri, to the Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa borders.

As District Superintendent, Gilmore has enjoyed getting to different areas, and meeting bi-vocational pastors and laity that was getting to meet through typical Conference-level meetings and activities.

“I was recently visiting a church where they didn’t have a single stop light in the entire county,” Gilmore said. “I enjoy preaching in different places, offering hope and the good news.”

He has appreciated forming trusting relationship with others on the Missouri Conference cabinet.

“It stretched me, and is stretching me,” he said. “As a director, I thought I knew what a DS was, but when you are in the role it’s different.”