TOPEKA -- If there are dominant feelings from members of the Great Plains Conference delegation about Bishop David Wilson it’s these:
On the eve of his installation as the Great Plains episcopal leader, General and South Central Jurisdictional conference delegates who have known him since he was first in contention for bishop in 2012 are rejoicing that not only was he elected, but that he’s been appointed to the bi-state area.
“From the get-go he made it very clear he wanted to be with us, and that Great Plains was where his heart was,” said Lisa Maupin, conference lay leader and a delegate. “If he was elected this was where he wanted to be.
“You get to witness this leader that you knew was gonna be great,” she added. “But he’ll be great with you.”
Bishop Wilson fell short of being elected during South Central Jurisdictional conferences in 2012 and 2016, and was elected in November along with Bishops Dee Williamston and Laura Merrill, all on the first ballot in an outcome never before seen in Methodist history.
“A lot of us have been big, big fans of David Wilson for a long time and looking forward to his opportunity to serve in this role, and particularly glad to have him serving in this role in our conference,” said Randall Hodgkinson, associate conference lay leader and a delegate. “It’s been a long time coming, and for me I’m glad to see it coming to fruition.”
With the election, Bishop Wilson becomes the first Native American bishop in United Methodist history.
“I’m in awe of this moment because I understand the historical nature and value of it for the greater church,” Maupin said, “but at the same I get to do this with somebody I call a friend and someone I admire as a leader and cannot wait to learn from. This is good for the Great Plains.”
Maupin said she was proud to be present when the first Hispanic bishop, Joel Martinez, was elected and placed in Nebraska, as was the first female bishop in the jurisdiction, Ann Sherer-Simpson, and now the first Native American bishop.
“It’s part of the lineage of leadership to grow under,” she said. “That changes you as a leader, and I think it makes you better.”
Hodgkinson said he was eager to see Bishop Wilson’s plans for the future.
“Just like every other leader they’re going to change and grow,” he said. “I think it’s exciting to be able to watch Bishop Wilson as he will grow into this position. He’ll make mistakes, but I’m confident he’s going to help lead us and our denomination positively.”
The Rev. Zach Anderson, superintendent of the Dodge City and Hays districts and a clergy delegate, also had longtime aspirations for Bishop Wilson.
“At times I’m still pinching myself that it finally happened,” he said. “I’m just excited about what he can bring to the table – a whole different way of looking at things and pushing us to really think about who we’re not reaching. That’s the most exciting part of him coming here. Something I’ve hoped for a long time ago has finally come and we get to see it up close and personal in the Great Plains.”
Anderson said he has already seen Bishop Wilson’s leadership in cabinet meetings, particularly deciding on a successor to Bishop Williamston as director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop.
“He’s very deliberate in getting input, and we’ve seen that already,” Anderson said. “He gets a lot of input before big restructures or naming any permanent replacements for Bishop Dee’s position. He’s spent a lot of time bringing in consultants and hearing from stakeholders about what he should do.”
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