By Jessica Brodie
The Rev. Ken Nelson has been tapped as South Carolina’s episcopal nominee by the South Carolina delegation to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences.
Nelson will be among those considered for the role of bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction’s 15 annual conferences when the next Jurisdictional Conference is held beginning July 15, 2020.
At least five episcopal openings are expected as bishops currently serving in conferences shift into retirement.
At their meeting Sept. 22, the delegation—comprising 16 clergy and 16 lay delegates plus alternates—voted unanimously to approve a motion by the Rev. Tim Rogers that Rev. Nelson’s nomination be made by acclamation.
Nelson was the first clergy elected to represent South Carolina at the 2020 conferences and since 2008 has been a delegate to four General and three Jurisdictional conferences.
Delegation Chair the Hon. Jackie Jenkins called Nelson a bridge builder, an adaptive faithful leader and a unifier.
“As a bishop, Reverend Nelson would bring a vital and renewing spirit, an enquiring mind, a vision for the church and a passion for the unity of the church,” said Jenkins, director of Lay Servant Ministries for the conference and a member of St. Mark United Methodist Church, St. George. “For more than 25 years, he has demonstrated to South Carolina United Methodists what it means to be a servant minister with a commitment for the transformation of the world and gifts for the ministry of administration.
“Reverend Nelson is a person with a deep, abiding faith, a love for Jesus Christ burning in his heart, and compassion for his neighbor. It is our honor to nominate him for the episcopacy.”
Now, Jenkins said, the delegation can move forward to mapping out a pathway for his election in July at the 2020 Jurisdictional Conference.
Jenkins said the election of Nelson as nominee went smoothly. Nominations were received Aug. 25 following prayerful discernment. Candidates were asked to submit a biographical statement to the delegation secretary to indicate their interest in being considered to move forward. Then on Sept. 22, following a 10-minute presentation from each candidate and 30 minutes of questions from the delegation, Nelson was selected.
Jenkins said the next steps will be to provide information and opportunities for the rest of the Southeastern Jurisdiction to learn more about Nelson in the hopes that he can be elected as a bishop at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, set for July 15-18, 2020, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
“The beauty of a defining moment is that it usually forces us to face our fears head-on and take action; now is such a moment for me,” said Nelson, conference secretary and director of clergy services for the South Carolina Conference. “I am profoundly humbled and gratified to be the episcopal nominee of the South Carolina delegation.”
Nelson added, “We stand at a pivotal point in the life of the United Methodist Church and in the life of our world. I am convinced that God still has a mission in the world—a vision of a world redeemed and ordered anew. This vision inspires in me a hope that the way things are is not the way things have to be.
“I am genuinely heartened about the possibilities that lay ahead, because God is not done with the church or the people called Methodist. I invite those who share in this hope to join me as together we seek to follow where God leads us.”
Nelson is the delegation’s nominee. The full annual conference will need to approve his nomination at Annual Conference 2020 in June for him to be South Carolina’s episcopal nominee.
About Jurisdictional Conference
Jurisdictional Conference, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, is held every four years primarily to approve the budget for the next four years, conduct general business and elect bishops for the 15 SEJ conferences: South Carolina, as well as Alabama/West Florida, Florida, Holston, Kentucky, Memphis, Mississippi, North Alabama, North Carolina, North Georgia, Red Bird Missionary, South Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Western North Carolina.
Nelson, 51, was born in Beaufort. He graduated from Newberry College in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts and earned a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in 1993. He has completed coursework for a doctor of ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary and has performed additional studies at the Center for Theological Inquiry.
He was ordained in the South Carolina Conference as a deacon in 1993 and as an elder in 1995. He served 12 years at four South Carolina UMCs: the St. Mark-Mount Zion Charge (1993-1994), St. John’s UMC, Aiken (1994-1998 and 2000-2002), the Centenary-Kingsville Charge (2002-2006) and Silver Hill Memorial UMC, Spartanburg (2006-2007). He also served for seven years (2007-2014) as a congregational specialist and the African-American coordinator for the conference, and for two years (1998-2000) as assistant dean and director of religious life at Duke University Chapel.
In 2014, South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston appointed Nelson to his current position.
He was elected secretary of the conference the same year.
In addition to his work in local churches, Nelson served on district committees on ministry from 2002 to 2012 and on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry from 2004 to 2014, including three years as registrar and five years as chair.
On the General Church level, his service has included membership on the General Board of Church and Society from 2012 to 2016 and on the Connectional Table from 2016 to the present.
His ministry has taken him to Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Norway and the Holy Land.
Rev. Nelson is married to the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, an ordained elder who is pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC, Camden.
General Conference Clergy
- Rev. Ken Nelson
- Dr. Robin Dease
- Rev. Keith Hunter
- Rev. Susan Leonard
- Rev. Emily Sutton
- Rev. Will Malambri
- Rev. Tiffany Knowlin Boykin
- Rev. Karen Jones
General Conference Laity
- Hon. Jacqueline Jenkins
- James Salley
- Michael Cheatham
- Herman Lightsey
- Chris Lynch
- Martha Fridy Thompson
- Dr. David Braddon
- Emily Evans
Jurisdictional Conference Clergy
- Rev. Tim Rogers
- Rev. Cathy Mitchell
- Rev. Fran Elrod
- Rev. Connie Barnes
- Rev. Mary Teasley
- Rev. Kathryn Hunter
- Rev. Elizabeth Murray
- Rev. Richard Reams
- Alternate: Dr. Stephen Love
- Alternate: Rev. Sara White
Jurisdictional Conference Laity
- Betty Void
- David Salter
- Valerie Brooks-Madden
- Marlene Spencer
- Jennifer Price
- Tony Watson
- Lou Jordan
- Doug Coffeen
- Alternate: Marvin Horton
- Alternate: Vicki McCartha