March 3, 2005
John Wesley Hole
A UMNS Report
By Marta Aldrich*
United Methodist lay leader J. Wesley Hole, who served as secretary of
the 1939 Methodist uniting conference and became the first layperson
elected secretary of the denomination’s General Conference, has died at
who died Feb. 14 in Arcadia, Calif., also worked on several general
church boards during his nearly four decades of service to the
was probably the best example of integrity I’ve ever known in terms of
working with people administratively," said the Rev. Don Locher, who
worked with Hole while serving as a district superintendent in Arizona.
"He was a brilliant administrator and a wonderful servant of the
in 1903 in Burns, Kan., Hole joined the church in 1908. As secretary of
the 1939 uniting conference, he helped oversee the merger that brought
together three Methodist denominations that had split in the 19th
century, mostly over the issue of slavery. That merger created the
Methodist Church, which merged with the Evangelical United Brethren
Church to create the United Methodist denomination in 1968.
was elected delegate to nine General Conferences between 1940 and 1970.
In 1964 in Pittsburgh, he became the first layperson elected secretary
to a General Conference. At that gathering, the denomination’s top
legislative body voted to abolish its separate jurisdiction for black
Methodist churches and absorb those into the denomination’s other five
served as General Conference secretary until 1968, then stepped in
again 1970-72 when his successor resigned for health reasons.
1934 until his retirement in 1972, Hole worked as treasurer and
statistician of the Southern California-Arizona Conference, which later
became the Pacific and Southwest Conference, working primarily under
Bishop Gerald H. Kennedy.
said Hole was instrumental in bringing a Hawaii district into the
conference, and his administrative acumen freed up Kennedy to receive
national prominence as a Christian leader, making the cover of Time magazine in 1964.
Kennedy was a great preacher. Wes handled the administrative work that
enabled Bishop Kennedy to fulfill that gift," Locher said. "As
statistician of the conference, he brought facts to us without bias or
interpretation. And he did it all with a great sense of humor."
the national denominational level, Hole served on the Methodist Board
of Pensions, Council on World Service and Finance, Board of Missions and
General Conference Entertainment Committee. He also was on the Board of
Directors of Methodist Hospital in Arcadia.
could almost as soon believe in God letting me down as him," Bishop
Kennedy said in giving Hole the Southern California-Arizona Layman of
the Year award in 1969.
his retirement, United Methodist agencies and officials frequently
turned to Hole for information and counsel. "He had an incredible memory
and recollection," said Locher. "He was highly respected nationally and
a great resource to the church."
by the death of his wife, Velma, after 70 years, Hole is survived by a
daughter, Marilyn L. Peer of Los Angeles; son, John W. Hole Jr. of
Whittier, Calif.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
donations can be sent to the Memorial Fund at La Cañada United
Methodist Church, 104 Berkshire Place, La Cañada-Flintridge, CA 91011,
or to the J. Wesley Hole Scholarship Fund at the Claremont School of
Theology, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.
*Aldrich is a freelance writer in Franklin, Tenn.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.