Delegates meet SEJ episcopal nominees


General Conference delegates and others from the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) of The United Methodist Church met their 14 SEJ episcopal nominees, including two from the South Georgia Conference, on Tuesday, May 1 and Wednesday, May 2.

Seven of the 14 candidates spoke during General Conference’s lunch break on Tuesday, including Rev. Robert Beckum, and the remaining seven, including Dr. Ivelisse Quiñones, had their turn on Wednesday.

Rev. Beckum, senior pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus, is endorsed by the South Georgia Conference delegation to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Dr. Quiñones, associate pastor and minister of Hispanic ministries at St. Luke UMC, is endorsed by Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA).

Prior to being appointed to St. Luke UMC in June 2011, Rev. Beckum served for seven years as vice president of Church Relations and Development for Magnolia Manor in Americus. He has also served the following congregations: Albany First United Methodist Church; Trinity United Methodist Church in Warner Robins; Douglas First United Methodist Church; Mt. Olivet and Midway, both near Savannah; and as associate at Grace United Methodist Church in Savannah.

In addition to pastoral responsibilities, Rev. Beckum has served as the Chair of the South Georgia Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Council on Ministries and the Conference Personnel Committee.

“Churches I’ve served have borne fruit evangelically and missionally,” he said during his address to the delegates.

When asked the most important role of a bishop, he stated that knowing and sharing God’s vision for the Church is most critical.

“The biggest role of a bishop, I think, is to be the custodian of the vision that God has given the Church for the Annual Conference, and to share that vision through preaching, teaching, and supervision – making appointments and the oversight of clergy,” he said. “I have the courage to make the decisions that are required for personnel, but also the compassion to be able to enter into people’s lives as we make those decisions. I think that combination is essential.”

Rev. Beckum received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Georgia Southern University and a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He has done further work towards a Doctor of Ministry from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.  Rev. Beckum was ordained an elder in 1982.

Originally from Louisville, Ga., Rev. Beckum has been married for 34 years to Mary Pat (Jones) Beckum, an elementary school educator. They have one son, Jonathan, who is a senior at Georgia Southwestern State University.

Dr. Ivelisse Quiñones is a second-career pastor who has served as St. Luke UMC’s associate pastor since 2006. As the church’s lead pastor for the Hispanic ministries, she oversees a vibrant, vital and growing ministry serving members from more than 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries. She has also served as director for Hispanic Ministries in the South Georgia Conference and as associate pastor of Edgewood United Methodist Church in Columbus.

In addition to her pastoral duties, Dr. Quiñones has also served as a member of the General Commission on Religion and Race.

“My passion is to expand the Kingdom of God and to make disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said during her address to the delegates. “I want to make sure we continue expanding. I won’t be a bishop who sits behind a desk. I want a vibrant church, I want a powerful church, I want a church that lives in this century.”

The most important role of a bishop is to lead and to cast a vision for the Church, she said. Having a clear vision and building relationships with the local churches and pastors are of vital importance.

“It’s important to make sure that whoever I have in the cabinet and in the local churches knows exactly where we’re going,” she said. “We don’t have much time, so we need to know from the get-go where we are going and our vision.”

If elected a bishop, Dr. Quiñones said that she will meet with each local pastor three to four times each year to build and develop relationships.

“I will be present in those churches,” she said. “I want to be there and for them to tell me what they need and where they’re struggling. I will pray with them and hold their hands; that’s what I think the Lord is calling me to do – to be present and in the midst of their struggles.”

Dr. Quiñones, who has 20 years of corporate finance and human relations experience, earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Puerto Rico, a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Congregational Development from Drew School of Theology. Dr. Quiñones was ordained as an elder in 2009.

The remaining 12 SEJ episcopal candidates include Rev. Larry Bryars of the Alabama - West Florida Conference; Rev. Ken Carter of the Western North Carolina Conference; Rev. Young Jin Cho of the Virginia Conference; Rev. Randy Cooper of the Memphis Conference; Rev. David Graves of the Holston Conference; Rev. Jonathan Holston of the North Georgia Conference; Sharma Lewis  of the North Georgia Conference, sponsored by the Black Clergy Women caucus; Rev. Bill McAlilly of the Mississippi Conference; Rev. Tim McClendon of the South Carolina Conference; Rev. Deborah McLeod of the Florida Conference; Rev. H. Gray Southern of the North Carolina Conference; and Rev. Debbie Wallace-Padgett of the Kentucky Conference.

Bishops will be elected in July when the Southeastern Jurisdiction will hold its quadrennial gathering for the primary purpose of selecting bishops to serve conferences in the SEJ.