By Jessica Connor
A deacon lauded for her unique ability to see both the forest and the trees has been named the new director of Connectional Ministries.
The Rev. Kathy Lewis James was announced as new DCM April 11. She takes the reins July 1 from the Rev. Willie Teague, who retires at the end of June after eight years in the position.
The conference s inaugural congregational specialist for Connectional Ministries, James is known across the state for her extensive work in conflict transformation. She is the first deacon to take the helm.
Kathy has been part of the cutting-edge changes to help the Annual Conference be more responsive, said Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor on her appointment of James. She has been the poster child who set the standard of what that position could be for all of the congregational specialists. She s very gifted, and South Carolina is very fortunate to have her. I m thankful for her and know she ll continue to be very effective in offering her leadership gifts to the conference.
Teague said he applauds the choice of James as his successor, calling her a person of great faith, discipline and creativity who has a unique gift to see both the forest and the trees: big picture and little picture.
She is able to see the big picture and vision, while at the same time pay close attention to the detail needed to fulfill that vision, Teague said. Given the number of changes that will occur in the Annual Conference in the next six months, she ll be a stabilizing force.
James said she is humbled and excited about her new position.
I m standing on a lot of shoulders of people who have mentored me, encouraged me to step up and say yes to the next step, James said.
I know it will be a different set of challenges, but I m looking forward to it.
James points out that, in The United Methodist Church s Book of Discipline, the role of the DCM is to be the steward of the vision of the Annual Conference, which is to equip the local church for the ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ and connecting them with ministries beyond themselves.
So, she said, her overriding passion is how Connectional Ministries can steward that vision as far as possible, and take it to every church in the conference.
James intends to spend her first months seeking to understand Connectional Ministries as a whole. From her current perspective, she has five priorities. The first is to see that the new Conference Connectional Ministries begins to function effectively. Authorized by the Annual Conference 2011, the CCM is still brand new and learning its way.
Second, she hopes to initiate some very intentional conversation about how to better connect the outreach ministries of the conference directly with local churches, bringing them to the same level of high connection as, say, Salkehatchie Summer Service.
Third, she wants to embark on an awareness campaign in an effort to be clear about the services the conference can provide and to continue to respond to what churches want and need.
It s learning the gaps and the expectations, James said.
Fourth, she plans to evaluate the role of congregational specialists to ensure they are functioning in the best way they can. While feedback has been extremely positive, she wants to know how the conference can shape the system so churches are as well resourced as possible.
And fifth, she wants to position Connectional Ministries so that it can respond to any opportunities that come out of General Conference 2012 (April 24-May 4), such as the vital congregations initiative.
James said she knows all of this can be accomplished because of the conference s commitment to the vision of Connectional Ministries and because of the quality, experienced staff she will be tasked to lead.
It makes a big difference when you have dedicated people, James said of her staff.
Taylor said much the same about James herself. She thinks and looks at things in an out-of-the-box kind of way, and she has a passion for doing and helping churches have effective ministry, Taylor said, calling James very insightful.
It s a calling from God, and that s a good thing.
A native South Carolinian growing up in the Irmo area, James is married to the Rev. Joseph R. James Jr. They have three sons: Aaron, Joe and Lewis. She has served on the staffs of Grace and Bethel UMCs in Charleston and Philadelphia UMC in Fort Mill, and as editor of eChristianEd for Columbia College.
A 1992 graduate of Candler School of Theology, James has worked on the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry and the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, as well as the District Committees on Ordained Ministry for Charleston, Rock Hill and Spartanburg. She was named the first chairperson of the Order of Deacons in 2000. She was elected a delegate to the 2004, 2008 and 2012 General and Jurisdictional conferences. She is a member of the General Board of Discipleship.