A pastor with a track record of launching ministries, embracing new ministry techniques, retiring debt and adjusting to the varying demands of ministry has been named the new district superintendent of the Blue River and Elkhorn Valley districts.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Tomlinson will move to the Cabinet from her current role as lead pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Papillion, Nebraska, effective July 1. Tomlinson, who has nearly 25 years of ministry experience, earned her doctorate in preaching. She used those skills to teach preaching and worship both at Licensing School for local pastors and for Certified Lay Ministry courses.
“I have served churches in turmoil and churches that were stable and excited,” Tomlinson said. “I have helped reconfigure staffs and launch new ministries. There have been times we have celebrated successes and times I learned from our failures.”
Tomlinson’s work has included service on several district committees on ministry and 14 years on the Board of Ordained Ministry.
She is the first appointive change announced in 2019 by Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
“Nancy is a Christ-centered leader who brings years of effective pastoral experience to the office of the superintendency gained from her pastoral ministry and engagement in the rural, county seat, and urban church and community settings,” Bishop Saenz said. “She is highly relational and possesses the gift of creative visioning needed for the potentially rich Blue River and Elkhorn Valley mission fields.”
Tomlinson will be responsible for the churches in the Lincoln area as well as the central portion of the Elkhorn Valley District. She will succeed the Rev. Bill Ritter, who is retiring at the end of the appointive year after five years as a district superintendent — the last three of which he served as the dean — and 42 years of ministry.
“Much of the Blue River District is in the fast-growing area of Lincoln and Lancaster County,” Ritter said. “It is an area ripe for new church plants. Two new projects are currently under way in the Blue River District. Neighbors UMC is a new church plant on the north side of Lincoln and is gaining traction. Neighbors is just completing the buildout in the Fallbrook area of Lincoln. ConnectionPoint is an exciting new ministry located in the former Faith United Methodist Church building across from UNL East Campus. Worship at ConnectionPoint is just being rolled out, but this ministry is better known for its community outreach, including a food pantry, Bridges Out of Poverty Program, conversational English and many more ministries and activities as they connect the community to the gospel.”
Ritter noted that the churches in his portion of the Elkhorn Valley District paid 100 percent of their mission shares in 2018, and Blue River District churches paid 98.2 percent of their mission shares.
Bishop Saenz thanked Ritter for his service as a district superintendent.
“Bill Ritter’s ministry included growing multiple churches in Nebraska,” Bishop Saenz said. “He was able to translate those skills as a pastor into leadership on the Cabinet that helped support growth not just in the districts he served but congregations across our entire mission field of Kansas and Nebraska.”
Tomlinson said she already has started a time of prayer and discernment to prepare for her new role July 1. Those prayers include two great hopes for the Blue River and Elkhorn Valley districts.
“The first is to assist the pastors and lay persons of the Blue River and Elkhorn Valley districts as we determine how best to share the incredible love of God with a world in need of hope and unconditional love,” she said. “We serve an amazing God, and it is my desire for us to share that love with others — in both traditional, time-proven ways and in new, creative ways.”
Second, she believes God has called her to be a pastor and, now, a district superintendent to serve in the pivotal times we face as a denomination, with the upcoming special session of General Conference set for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis. The special session will focus on disagreements within The United Methodist Church on matters of human sexuality.
“We are all called to be present and love one another,” Tomlinson said. “I hope to be present with the clergy and churches of the Blue River and Elkhorn Valley districts in a compassionate and caring manner as we seek to move forward in this time of turmoil. I also believe that those of us in leadership —at the local church level, district level or conference level — whether clergy or lay persons, we have all been called ‘for such a time as this.’ I hope and pray that together we will walk the path ahead of us with integrity of heart and with kindness and compassion for others.
Bishop Saenz said Tomlinson’s background in a wide variety of ministry settings has prepared her for the role of district superintendent.
“I have all the confidence in Rev. Dr. Nancy Tomlinson to lead faithfully and care for the clergy, laity, congregations and communities entrusted to her supervision with grace and an encouraging spirit that builds community and creates new possibilities that bring personal, congregational and community transformations.”