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Bishop Ernest Newman dead at age 80

By United Methodist News Service
Aug. 29, 2008

Bishop Ernest W. Newman

United Methodist Bishop Ernest W. Newman, the church's first African American elected bishop in the southeastern United States, has died at age 80. 

Newman died Aug. 28 in Atlanta, where he lived.

He served as bishop over the church's Nashville (Tenn.) Area from 1984 until his retirement in 1992.

"Bishop Ernest W. Newman was our bishop—the first African-American elected from Southeast Jurisdiction," said Pamela Crosby, executive director of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.

"He was educated in the historically black colleges and upheld the history and initiatives of the black church."

"He was a very dedicated worker and dedicated to the church. He was a fair person," said the Rev. Louis Johnson, who served as a district superintendent on Newman's cabinet in the late 1980s.

Crosby noted that Newman was a strong supporter of the black church and the Black College Fund, and that his brother, Omega Newman, was one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.

"Our caucus lifts up the great work of this man who served with distinction in the episcopacy and whose family remains at the heart of Methodism," she said.

In 1984, Newman was elected to the episcopacy from the church's Florida Annual (regional) Conference, where he was a district superintendent. There, he also had been the conference's first black pastor of a large all-white congregation.

Born in Kingstree, S.C., Newman received his bachelor of arts degree from Claflin College in Orangeburg, S.C., and his master of divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

"Our caucus lifts up the great work of this man who served with distinction in the episcopacy and whose family remains at the heart of Methodism." –Pamela Crosby

He was ordained deacon in 1946 and, after transferring to the Florida Conference in 1953, was ordained an elder in the Methodist Church.

Newman served Florida churches in Ocala, Jacksonville and Plantation. He was superintendent of the Melbourne District from 1972 to 1977 and the Deland District from 1983 until his episcopal election in 1984. Between those appointments, he was pastor of the 2,000-member Plantation United Methodist Church

He was on the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race from 1976 to 1984 and served eight years as secretary of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals. He served on the boards of trustees of many United Methodist-related schools of higher education.

He leaves his wife, Thelma; two children, Kathy Newman McCoy and Ernest Newman Jr.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sept. 2 at Warren United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Burial will follow at Westview Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Newman's name to Claflin University.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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