Forgive the Rev. Junius Dotson if he needs a few moments to collect his thoughts during a discussion – particularly during the hustle and bustle of General Conference.
It’s not because he’s slow to ponder a response. He’s just got to sort through which hat he is wearing first.
Dotson was elected during the 2015 Great Plains Annual Conference session as a delegate to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference coming up in July. In that role, he also serves as a reserve delegate to The United Methodist Church’s General Conference. July 1, he takes on a new role as executive secretary of Discipleship Ministries, an agency of the worldwide church based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Until then, he’s still lead pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, the largest African-American church in the Great Plains.
New church executive, delegate, pastor – all at the same time, and all in demand among inspirational worship services, debates on important issues facing the worldwide church and sometimes tedious legislative meetings.
“I can’t get too far into anything right now,” Dotson said during a brief break between morning worship and a legislative committee meeting during General Conference. “For example, I can’t get too deeply involved yet with the agency because I’m not there yet. They have a staff and are doing their work. Plus, I can’t disconnect from Saint Mark.”
To top it off, Dotson also has served on the plenary session floor as a voting delegate because of the brief absence of fellow delegate the Rev. Mark Holland, the mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, who had to travel home to assist with a memorial service for detective Brad Lancaster, who was shot and killed earlier in the week.
Dotson said the convergence of tasks has created somewhat of a whirlwind because of demands on time and commitment to his various duties. He has used some of his time at General Conference to meet staff members and other people with whom he will work as the general secretary. And while paying close attention to legislation that could impact Discipleship Ministries, he now is monitoring petitions related to conferences as he fills in for Holland.
“I’m paying attention to legislation that will impact the agency and our efforts worldwide,” Dotson said. “I’m also paying attention to legislation of interest to the Great Plains Conference. I think I’m handling it pretty well. It’s about finding the right balance.”
That balancing act has become part of daily life for Dotson since being named to the new position earlier this spring. While excited to take on such an important role that could impact discipleship worldwide, he also is grieving at the reality of leaving a church he has served for more than 14 years. He said his top priority is to finish well at Saint Mark by continuing to be a shepherd and pastor while preparing the congregation of approximately 3,500 people on two campuses ready for new leadership.
“It is almost daunting in that I am leaving one of the top 100 churches in Methodism, and I am leaving one of the top five black churches in the country, so this is really, really huge,” he said. “I’ve had some people I know ask me if I’m crazy. People usually aspire to be in the pulpit of a church like Saint Mark.”
In his new role, Dotson will serve on the denomination’s Connectional Table and will work with central conferences. It’s a role in which Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference believes Dotson is more than qualified to serve.
“Junius Dotson has been an excellent pastor, and we are sorry to lose him. But our loss in the Great Plains is the entire denomination’s gain,” Bishop Jones said. “He has been a leader in evangelism and in church vitality across our annual conference, and he will be an excellent general secretary.”
That was the sentiment of the team that selected Dotson for the role with Discipleship Ministries, led by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area and president of the agency’s board of directors.
“We believe Rev. Dotson can focus the church on three missional fronts: strengthening partnerships in our increasingly global church, improving the effective ongoing ministries in our churches, engaging the growing number of ‘spiritual but not religious’ people in the United States,” Bishop Stanovsky said in announcing Dotson’s new role.
Dotson said he will miss Saint Mark and serving in the local church. In a way, he said, his time at General Conference – with its opportunities to interact with people from around the world – has prepared him for the move.
“I think my call is bigger than any local church,” Dotson said. “It’s a leap of faith that I can make some kind of difference for the church around the world.”
Contact Todd Seifert, communications director for the Great Plains Conference, at firstname.lastname@example.org.