By Jessica Connor
The man elected bishop on the very first ballot at Jurisdictional Conference 2012 will become the S.C. Conference’s new resident bishop.
Bishop Jonathan Holston, nominee from the North Georgia Conference and most recently senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Atlanta, will become South Carolina s episcopal leader Sept. 1.
Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, who has served South Carolina since her initial election in 2004, will move to the Holston Conference. (See below.)
Holston called his assignment to South Carolina the icing on the cake after the blessing he felt at being elected a bishop.
This election to the episcopacy is a tremendous honor, it s humbling, and yet it s an opportunity to give leadership and service to the church, Holston told the Advocate. I have always sought to be on the cutting edges of ministry, making a difference for the sake of Jesus Christ. Whether as a local pastor, conference associate or district superintendent, I wanted to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and connect laity and clergy to God s mission in vital and viable ways. This was my thinking in offering myself for consideration to the North Georgia Conference and subsequently to the Southeastern Jurisdiction for the office of a bishop.
Holston, 53, was the overwhelming leader in the episcopal election July 18 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Of the 254 votes needed for a valid election, Holston received 312 votes; of the 14 other nominees, the second-highest was 209 for Western North Carolina s Ken Carter.
Holston holds a Master of Divinity in biblical studies from The Interdenomina-tional Theological Center, Gammon Theological Seminary, Atlanta. He also has a bachelor s degree in religion from the University of Georgia. Prior to his appointment to St. James UMC, he served as superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District 1997-2005.
Holston said he will concentrate on listening, visiting and observing as much as possible in the days and weeks to come. He and his wife, Felecia, are blessed with the privilege to serve South Carolina, he said.
With prayer, time, patience, the blessing of the Holy Spirit and our very best efforts, we will walk together in God s grace and mercy, Holston said. With the assistance of the leadership of this annual conference we will seek to discover the future God has in store for us. For now, please pray for Felecia and me as we move to this new place of ministry. Please know that South Carolina will be our home, and we re excited.
˜He puts it all together
Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware called Holston a personable, spiritual man of faith. She had the opportunity to lunch with the Holstons, and she came away extremely impressed with his involvement in missions, inherent commitment to a life of prayer and belief in a partnership between laity and clergy that creates opportunities for vital ministry to take place.
I remember thinking that day, ˜This is a man with amazing gifts, and he will be a great bishop one day, Ware said. I was thrilled to hear his name called as being assigned to South Carolina and to know our conference will benefit from his gifts and graces. Many folks from other annual conferences spoke of his genuineness and his caring nature for people and the church. I am looking forward to the opportunity to be in partnership with Bishop Holston. We welcome Bishop Holston, his wife, Felecia; son, Karlton; and daughter, Brittany, to South Carolina.
Joe Heyward, head of the S.C. Conference Delegation, has known Holston for a number of years and considers him a man of his word and one truly grounded in his faith.
I am personally overjoyed with the appointment of Bishop Jonathan Holston as the Episcopal leader for the South Carolina Conference, Heyward said. Speaking with members of the delegation, and others from South Carolina who were in attendance at the conference, I got the feeling that they were very happy with our appointment. Bishop Holston, I believe, has a sense of where this conference is and is willing to work with us in our quest to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Ed Tomlinson, superintendent of the Atlanta Roswell District in the North Georgia Conference of the UMC and Holston s longtime friend and colleague, said Holston embodies how to make the most of the mission and ministry of the church.
Jonathan hasn t talked about it “ he s done it. He s doing some of the most creative things you can imagine, Tomlinson said, noting Holston s work with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. He s been on the scene, he knows how to tell the story and he knows how to interpret and get people ready to respond.
Also, having pastored an average-sized church in a small community, as well as a large church in Buckhead, one of the most affluent sections of Atlanta, Holston has the ability of relate to a wide variety of people, Tomlinson said.
He puts it all together, Tomlinson said.
More about Holston
Holston s previous appointments include senior pastor of Marietta Street UMC (1983-1986); senior pastor of Clifton UMC (1986-1992); and associate director of the North Georgia Conference Council on Ministries (1992-1997).
Holston has also served as a member of the General Council on Finance and Administration, chair of General Conference Finance and Administrative Legislative Committee and as a member of the Uni
ted Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, Hinton Rural Life Center, Appalachian Development Committee and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Association for Native American Ministries.
He has traveled extensively as a specialist in missions to Uganda, Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, China and Hong Kong. In his work as the conference disaster relief coordinator, he served on UMCOR, the Catastrophic Disaster Response Team and as the Church World Service Disaster Consultant in Georgia.
The Holstons have two children, Karlton and Brittany.
A total of five new bishops were elected by the jurisdiction July 18-19. Episcopal assignments were announced by the jurisdiction s Committee on Episcopacy July 19 just after 10 p.m. South Carolina s delegation hosted a special reception for Holston following the announcement. See related article, Page 1.
Taylor to bishop her home conference
Taylor, resident bishop of the S.C. Conference since 2004, will return to her home conference, Holston, when new assignments take effect Sept. 1.
Taylor is the Holston Conference s first female bishop.
Many South Carolina United Methodists expressed warm well wishes to Taylor, who they said has done a great deal for South Carolina over the past eight years. She was the S.C. Conference s first female bishop and has been praised for her service- and mission-oriented leadership.
Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware praised Taylor for bringing the Great Day of Service concept to South Carolina; the idea has morphed over the years from a full-conference event to a district-led event. She also lifted up Taylor s always kind and gracious demeanor.
I remember my first introduction to Bishop Taylor some seven years ago, Ware said. I introduced myself to her, and she immediately greeted me with that southern friendly smile of hers and a warm word of hello.
Joe Heyward, S.C. Delegation head and immediate past conference lay leader, has gotten to know Taylor very well over the past eight years.
She has served this conference well and I will miss her, Heyward told the Advocate. Thanks to Bishop Taylor for the innovations she brought. I value her friendship.
Taylor could not be reached for comment as of press time.