By Jessica Connor
Key changes in conference leadership will mean new faces across the state for the coming year, and perhaps new growth.
The S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church Extended Cabinet will have a new director of Connectional Ministries, two new district superintendents as two step down, and three DS reassignments, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor has announced.
The Rev. Thomas J. Pearson Jr. will be the new Walterboro DS, replacing the Rev. Ernest Etheredge, who will be stepping down after eight years.
Dr. Frederick N. Yebuah (known by most as Brother Fred ) will be the new Orangeburg DS, replacing the Rev. John Hipp, who will become the new Florence DS.
Three other DSs will remain in their positions but for different districts.
Dr. Charles Johnson will retire after eight years as Greenville DS. In his place will come the Rev. Mary V. Teasley, who is currently Greenwood DS.
Replacing Teasley in Greenwood will be the Rev. James L. Friday, who is currently Florence DS.
And replacing Friday in Florence will be Hipp.
Rounding out the Extended Cabinet changes will be the appointment of the Rev. Kathy James as director of Connectional Ministries, replacing the Rev. Willie Teague, who retires at the end of June.
Etheredge praised the opportunity that comes with change, which he likens to spring cleaning.
Every once in a while you need to do some things that kind of refresh and bring a new vision, new insights, new direction, and I think it s good for us, Etheredge said. I think it s going to make for a better Cabinet and a better Annual Conference.
It provides the opportunity for our churches to experience a different style of leadership, and that can be beneficial to churches, Johnson said.
New district superintendents reveal goals
Yebuah called his appointment humbling and a great honor.
I am so shocked because it s a position I never wanted, never aspired to “ I feel my calling is with the people, and I m happiest in the parish, Yebuah said, stating he wanted to be in the background away from the radar.
But when the bishop phoned him, he realized God was actually calling him through this appointment. He had been fervently praying for some time for God to use his life to fulfill His sovereign will. And even though he personally had no aspiration to be a district leader, Yebuah knew he needed to follow the will of God.
I had to honor my prayer, so I said, ˜Yes, ma am. Then I thought, ˜What am I getting myself into? Yebuah said, laughing. But I think the best thing in life is to be in God s will.
Yebuah said a top priority is to identify those churches in the Orangeburg District that did not pay any of their apportionments, because he said they are not invested beyond themselves.
Church is dead when it is not in mission. If a church is not reaching out, it does not see the importance of making a contribution in people s life, Yebuah said, noting that he wants to teach them the importance of existing for other people. What we give for apportionment is indication of what we can give to the rest of the world: passion for God and compassion for people.
Pearson said he is extremely excited about the opportunity to serve the Walterboro District. With a previous successful career in management, he feels he can do the job well but for the highest calling: Jesus.
It means a lot to me that the bishop selected me, Pearson said. It was an immediate ˜yes after I got out of shock.
He hopes to jump into the position with an eye on immediate visibility, calling the new pastors and welcoming them, visiting churches and generally doing all he can to establish a strong relationship between clergy and laity.
I hope my face will be be visible across the district, for all the churches if they see me to know me, Pearson said, noting he wants above all to do what he can to bring people in closer connection with Jesus, the one we want to praise.
Pearson also hopes to keep Walterboro District an attractive place for clergy, so when they receive an appointment there they are excited about being in a thriving and active district.
On the horizon
Other changes are also possibly on the horizon. Bishop Taylor completes the end of her second quadrennial this summer, so there is a strong possibility she will be moved to another Annual Conference. If she does, it is expected her husband, Director of Congregational Development the Rev. Rusty Taylor, would go also. As well, Dr. Tim McClendon, Columbia DS, is the episcopal nominee of the S.C. Delegation to General and Jurisdictional conferences, and if he is elected bishop, then his cabinet position would also need to be filled.
New and Re-Assigned District Superintendents
CHANGE: Florence DS: The Rev. John Hipp
Hipp, who has served as Orangeburg DS since 2010, will be the new Florence DS, as the Rev. James L. Friday will be the Greenwood DS. Hipp served as a chaplain in the S.C. Army National Guard for 28 years before retiring in 2008 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was ordained a deacon in 1976 and an elder in 1979. He holds a bachelor s degree in history from Wofford College and Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College.
CHANGE: Greenville DS: The Rev. Mary V. Teasley
Teasley, who has served as Greenwood DS since 2006, will be the new Greenville DS, as Dr. Charles Johnson is stepping down. Teasley has served churches in the S.C. Conference for 33 years. She is a 1976 graduate of Lander College with a degree in elementary education, and a 1979 graduate of Emory University s Candler School of Theology. She serves on the Board of Ordained Ministry and has chaired the Conference Committee on Hispanic/Latino Ministries.
CHANGE: Greenwood DS: The Rev. James L. Friday
Friday, who has served as Florence DS since 2008, will be the new Greenwood DS, as the Rev. Mary V. Teasley will be the Greenville DS. Friday has had three appointments in the local church and continues to serve on various district- and conference-level committees and boards. He has served in the S.C. Conference for 20 years.
NEW: Orangeburg DS: Dr. Frederick N. Yebuah
Yebuah was born in Ghana, West Africa. He moved to the United States in 1973 to further his education at the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tenn., where he completed his undergraduate studies. Yebuah began his ministry in the UMC in 1975 as a student pastor in the Tennessee Annual Conference. In 1985, he earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He served the Summerville Parrish in the Charleston District for nine years, St. John Wesley-Chapel in the Hartsville District for 13 years, and has been serving the York-St. James Charge in the Rock Hil
l District since 2007.
NEW: Walterboro DS: The Rev. Thomas J. Pearson
Pearson comes from St. Mark UMC, North, where he has served for 14 years. He has been in the S.C. Conference for 20 years. Born and raised in Bennettsville, he is a member of the Committee on Standing Rules; Committee on Nominations; District Trustees; District Committee on Ordained Ministry; and Committee on Lay Speaking. He also serves on the Board of Visitors at First Citizens Bank in the North/Orangeburg area. Pearson is a graduate of Claflin University in Orangeburg with a degree in music. He received a Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center, Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.
District Superintendents Stepping Down
Two district superintendents are stepping down after eight years in the position.
Greenville DS Dr. Charles Johnson will retire after 45 years of service to the S.C. Conference, and Walterboro DS the Rev. Ernest Etheredge will take an appointment in a local church.
I m looking forward to it, Johnson said of his retirement. I have been in the conference for 45 years and I m looking for a change of pace, slow it down a little bit, looking forward to spending time with family and especially my grandkids.
Johnson said he plans to remain in the Upstate because two of his grandchildren live there, and the family expects a third in August.
However, he said he will miss the opportunity to be involved in the lives of the various congregations in the Greenville District, as well as the chance to serve the pastors of the district.
Etheredge said he is really excited about the chance to return to the local church and honored by his projected appointment. After 30 years serving the UMC in this state, he called S.C. Annual Conference a great place to be.
The local church is my love and where my heart is, Etheredge said.
He said he thoroughly enjoyed his time serving on the Cabinet, and he will truly miss the wonderful people of the Walterboro District. As that district is the second-largest in the state, he spent a lot of time on the road, which gave him tremendous opportunity to spend a lot of good time with good people.
Appointments will be announced in the July Advocate after they have been fixed by Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor at Annual Conference.