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Bishops elect Huie president, Palmer president-designate

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A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton

Council Secretary Ernest Lyght (left) and President Peter Weaver (right) congratulate Gregory Palmer and Janice Huie after the election.
Nov. 7, 2005

By Tim Tanton*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Texas will take office as president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops during a milestone year in which the church marks the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women.

The council elected Huie as its next president and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of Iowa as president-designate, effective in May.

Taking office during the 50th anniversary year of full clergy rights for women puts “an additional dimension to this office,” Huie said Nov. 3, in an interview after the election.

“I find myself grateful for the women who went before me that paved the way for me to receive this gift and responsibility,” she said. “I’m strengthened by their witness because they charted new territory too, and they did it with God’s strength, and if there’s a lesson … for me, that’s the strength I need to rely on as well.”

Huie, 58, will succeed Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Area as president for a two-year term. Palmer, 51, is in line to succeed her. The council, with offices in Washington, comprises 69 active bishops and 100 retired bishops; they are the clergy leaders of the nearly 11 million-member church in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Palmer and Huie were elected during the council’s Oct. 30-Nov. 4 meeting in Lake Junaluska. Though the leadership change occurs in May, a formal ceremony probably won’t be held until the full council meets again in fall 2006. The bishops are forgoing their regular spring meeting because their fall gathering will be in Mozambique.

Bishop Ernest Lyght of the West Virginia Area was re-elected secretary of the council during the weeklong meeting. He took office in September 2004.

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A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton

Women are active at all levels of the church. Bishops Charlene Kammerer (foreground, left) and Violet Fisher (foreground, right) join in a blessing at the Council of Bishops’ fall gathering.
Elected as a bishop in 1996, Huie served in Arkansas for eight years before being assigned to lead the Houston Area in 2004.

“I still am deeply honored and feel a profound sense of humility that the Council of Bishops would elect me to this position,” Huie said after the vote Nov. 3. “This is both a gift and an enormous responsibility. I certainly will do my best to be faithful to what the council needs, but most important, faithful to God.”

Palmer has led the Iowa Area since being elected to the episcopacy in 2000. He said he felt overwhelmed, humbled and honored by his election as president-designate.

The election is important, he said, “because I believe among the deepest hungers of the church is (the hunger) for leadership in the church. … It’s a crucial time for the Council of Bishops to continue to offer strong corporate leadership to the church.”

Both bishops described their commitment to the council’s emphasis on “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”

“That’s very personal with me as well as (being) what the council believes is the mission of the church,” Huie said.

“I believe that this is our mission into God’s future,” she said. It is a mission that extends beyond the 2005-08 quadrennium. “…What we’ve done here in this quadrennium is to reclaim our historic mission, and therefore I don’t see this as a quadrennial focus. We’re living into the mission of the church. This is much deeper than a quadrennial focus.”

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A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton

Bishop Peter Weaver will lead the council as president for another six months. Bishop Ernest Lyght, council secretary, is seated next to him.
“The making of disciples has always been key and central to what is the heart of the mission of the church,” Palmer said.

He is pleased the council is leveraging its resources to lead the church in that way, he said. “We lead the church by saying, ‘This is our mission, and this is what’s important.’”

Weaver, who remains president of the council for six more months, is the first person to serve in that post for a two-year term under the council’s new leadership structure. Previously, bishops served one-year terms. The council also has placed its leadership in the hands of a team comprising the president, past president, president-designate, secretary, executive secretary and ecumenical officer.

The elections of Huie and Palmer represent the first time there has been continuity in the new leadership structure, Weaver said. Through a discernment process, the council tries to understand the complementary gifts that people would bring to create a leadership team that works well.

“Bishop Huie and Bishop Palmer both have extraordinary gifts,” he said, “and I’m looking forward to what God will do through them as they help that leadership team serve the church as it serves the world.”

The council gave Weaver a standing ovation during the closing session of its meeting.

Huie told Weaver the council was grateful for his leadership, sense of humor, the ways in which he helped the group “sing our faith,” the amount of travel he has borne, and for his spiritual depth and ability to lift the bishops “to a higher plane.”

“I’ve just been blessed to serve as a part of this” council, Weaver said. The discernment process has enabled the council to put together an incredible leadership team, he said, “… and to God be the glory.”

*Tanton is managing editor for United Methodist News Service

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Audio Interviews

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie: "We're living into the mission of the church."

Bishop Peter D. Weaver: "We've invested in a leadership team."

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer: "It's a crucial time for the Council of Bishops."

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