Bishop Sharma Lewis to lead Virginia Conference for next four yearsth

By Linda S. Rhodes

   A welcoming service for Bishop Lewis 
was held 

10:30 a.m. to 12 noon 
Saturday, Sept. 17,
at Reveille United Methodist Church
4200 Cary Street Road, Richmond.
This event was live streamed. Click here to view
Bishop Sharma Lewis

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis, the first African-American woman elected a bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, has been assigned to lead the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church for the next four years. She will begin her term of office on Sept. 1.

Bishop Lewis will oversee the 1,169 local churches and faith communities and 327,647 United Methodists in the Virginia Conference. She follows Bishop Young Jin Cho who is retiring after leading the conference for the last four years.

Sharma Lewis is consecrated a bishop in The United Methodist Church.

Lewis, 52, was elected a bishop on the first ballot taken by the 376 delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Conference which met July 13-15 in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

"I was called by God and I made myself available, not just to a position, but to follow God's will," said Lewis. "I am excited, and I am really humbled. At 52 years old, I am excited that my next phase of life will be as an episcopal leader. I am humbled by the fact that this is historic."

Bishop Sharma Lewis learns she will lead the Virginia Conference. Behind her are Shirley Cauffman and the Rev. Tom Berlin, VAUMC representatives to the jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee.

Lewis is the first African-American woman elected as a bishop in the denomination since 2000. The first ever African-American female bishop in The United Methodist Church, Bishop Leontine Kelly, was from the Virginia Conference but was elected in 1984 by the church’s Western Jurisdiction.

Ice cream social welcome

Bishop Sharma Lewis addresses Virginians at her welcoming ice cream social.

Virginia Jurisdictional Conference delegates and friends welcomed Bishop Lewis as the new leader of the Virginia Conference by holding an ice cream social in Lambuth Inn on the grounds of Lake Junaluska Thursday night, July 14, after the assignments of SEJ bishops were announced. A room packed full of Virginians erupted in cheers when Bishop Lewis entered the room.

"I am excited about coming to Virginia!" the new bishop exclaimed. Watch video interview with Bishop Lewis on Facebook.

Lifelong United Methodist

VAUMC clergywomen celebrate the assignment of a woman bishop to the Virginia Conference.

Currently serving as district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District in the North Georgia Conference, Lewis is a native of Statesboro, Ga., and a life-long United Methodist.

She is a graduate of Mercer University and the University of West Georgia, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. After graduating, she worked as a biologist in the academic and corporate sectors. After answering the call to ministry, she entered Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, where she earned the Master of Divinity with honors.

"I have an evangelistic heart, I just feel that people need Jesus. And I hope that's what I bring to the Council of Bishops," said Lewis.

Before being appointed district superintendent, Lewis served at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in McDonough, Ga., Powers Ferry United Methodist Church in Marietta, Ga., and Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

Click here to read her bio.

United Methodist Bishops

Bishop Young Jin Cho prays for Bishop Sharma Lewis during her consecration as
a bishop in The United Methodist Church.

A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life. Typically, a bishop will serve a specific episcopal area for eight years, but can serve as long as 12 years in one area.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, directs each bishop to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church.”

Bishops provide oversight and support to The United Methodist Church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. They also are charged to work “for the unity of the church” and “be the shepherd of the whole flock.”

The United Methodist Church

Within the United States, local United Methodist churches are organized into increasingly larger groups: numerous districts, dozens of conferences and five jurisdictions. A bishop can be assigned to lead one or more conferences.

Active and retired bishops in the Southeastern Jurisdiction
pose for a photo.

Thirteen active bishops lead the 15 conferences in the nine states that form the Southeastern Jurisdiction. States represented in this jurisdiction are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Virginia Conference includes 1,169 local churches and faith communities covering the entire state of Virginia — except the section of the state west of Christiansburg, which is part of the Holston Conference.

— Linda S. Rhodes is Virginia Conference director of Communications


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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
10330 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606
(804) 521-1100
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