Oklahoma cabinet member to lead Saint Mark

David Burke


The Rev. Dr. Victor McCullough has positive memories of his time at Wichita Saint Mark United Methodist Church.

“I really saw church at another level at Saint Mark,” said McCullough, who served as executive pastor of the church from 1997 to 1998. “Saint Mark was a large church and sort of a corporate model of doing church. I had never been part of a church that had been organized to do ministry the way Saint Mark did it.

The Rev. Dr. Victor McCullough will become the pastor of Wichita Saint Mark UMC on July 1. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Conference

“I credit Saint Mark with really giving me an anchor and an understanding of reaching people for Christ on a larger level,” he added.

McCullough, currently on the cabinet of the Oklahoma Conference, will return to Saint Mark on July 1, taking over as its senior pastor.

The 61-year-old succeeds the Rev. Robert Johnson, who is moving to Resurrection, a United Methodist Church, as its Leawood campus pastor.

Bishop David Wilson, who was assigned to the Great Plains Jan. 1 from the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary conferences, has worked with McCullough for many years.

“He brings his passion for Christ and His church, and I know he and his wife, Nancy, will be great leaders for the church,” the bishop said in a statement.

Saint Mark is the largest Black church in the Great Plains Conference, among the largest in the South Central Jurisdiction and has a “dynamic legacy,” McCullough said.

“It’s one of those vital congregations that has an impact on not only Wichita and the Great Plains Conference but certainly the entire connection,” he said.

McCullough said Bishop Wilson approached Oklahoma Bishop Jimmy Nunn to ask permission to speak with him about the opening.

“I perked up and wanted to know more,” McCullough said.

Born and raised in United Methodist churches, the Dallas native went into the University of Texas-Arlington as a business major, but involvement in a Christian student group changed his direction to a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I just wanted to help people,” he said. “I felt like I was living out the dream that others had for me.”

That fall, he entered the Interdenominational Theology Center in Atlanta, earning a master’s of divinity in preaching and pastoral care. He earned a doctorate in ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

McCullough’s first appointment brought him back to Texas, with a cross-racial appointment in the North Texas Conference prior to his time in Wichita.

“The appointment at Saint Mark went a long way in preparing me for such a time as this, as it relates to going on and pastor a church in that setting,” he said.

In mid-1997, he received an offer to serve as senior pastor at Mount Zion UMC in New Orleans, a predominately Black church that was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina but has since rebuilt.

He was appointed at Oklahoma City Quayle UMC, a predominantly Black church, where he served from 2006 until his appointment to the cabinet in 2018. He is superintendent of the Heartland District, which includes Oklahoma City.

Although he said he enjoyed his time in the cabinet, he also missed regularly preaching.

“Even though I’ve had ample opportunities to preach during the time I’ve been on the cabinet in some of the churches in our district and other places, I guess I’ve never lost the passion to serve the kingdom through the local church,” he said.

His time on the appointive cabinet, he said, “has been an opportunity to use some of the experience I can share and come alongside the pastors and the congregations who are on the journey of doing kingdom work and following Jesus Christ. My call, my purpose resonated again when I was given the opportunity to go to Saint Mark.”

McCullough’s wife of 36 years, Nancy, is an ordained elder who is currently serving as an educator. They have four adult children, ranging from 35 to 24. Their youngest daughter, ViaFaith, was born in Wichita and serves as executive director for Project Transformation, an Oklahoma Conference summer program that unites children and college-age young adults with churches.

He said he is looking forward to working with the congregation at the Wichita church.

“I hope I bring a love for Christ and Christ’s church and a love for God’s people and the community,” he said. “Our foundation is not to stay in the walls of the church, but we are blessed and given opportunities to serve those who are in need, sharing the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Johnson moving to Resurrection

After seven years at Saint Mark, the Rev. Robert Johnson said he got into casual conversations with officials from Resurrection that grew into the job offer this spring.

“For the longest time I didn’t think I would do it because I feel so attached to Saint Mark, I really do,” Johnson said. “But I started saying that I think I’m supposed to do this.”

Rev. Robert Johnson, Saint Mark pastor since 2016, will become the Leawood campus pastor at Resurrection, a United Methodist Church.

As campus pastor at Leawood, he will be responsible for managing the campus, programming, day-to-day activities, evangelism and the church’s outreach into the community.

“I see it as a basic management piece, but the other part is the creative leadership,” Johnson said. “That’s the part that I think that helps this. They want to increase diversity in that campus, and they’ve seen the stuff I’ve done creatively in terms of podcasts, creating community conversations, bringing that kind of leadership to that campus. The big piece is connecting them more with social justice and advocacy and that piece.”

A Mississippi native, Johnson, who turns 57 on May 1, became senior pastor at Saint Mark in 2016, succeeding the late Rev. Junius Dotson, who had been named at the time as general secretary of Discipleship Ministries.

Johnson said he’s seen positive changes in seven years.

“Saint Mark has kind of gone through a turnaround and restoration process,” he said. “When I got here, we had some slow decline over a 10-year period. Things turned around financially. The church is growing again.”

The church added 31 new members in January and February this year, he added.

When COVID hit, Johnson said, “we greatly expanded our capacity for ministry by quickly learning to use digital resources and technology to do ministry.”

Johnson himself started a podcast and several different online interview programs on the Saint Mark website. He also introduced a program called “The Table,” where guests meet to discuss social issues while being served by a gourmet chef. That program will continue in Wichita, he said, and will likely be added in Kansas City.

Through the years, Johnson said, he and the church have become increasingly involved in the Kansas Legislature, especially on issues such as critical race theory education and payday loan reform.

“Saint Mark expanded its influence by becoming an advocating community for issues of social justice,” he said. “Saint Mark’s influence, I think, has been expanded. I think we’ve done it very effectively.”

Plans for Nehemiah Village, two houses near the Saint Mark campus that would house 14 newly released prisoners in an effort to ease their return to society, remain on track, Johnson said, and he will continue to be involved in fundraising after he moves. Nehemiah Village is scheduled to be in place within a year, he said.

Bishop Wilson said he was thankful for Johnson’s service at Saint Mark.

“He has led the church well and has been a great voice for justice,” the bishop said.

Johnson said he has met McCullough several times but is not familiar with him. He said he’s liked what he’s seen.

“I think he’s going to be great,” Johnson said. “I think he’s going to bring the kind of peace and leadership that Saint Mark needs right now.”

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.

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