Jul 20

WJ 2012: Opening Worship (Memorial Service)

By Cate Monaghan
Director of Communications, California-Nevada

Bishop Melvin Talbert eulogizes his longtime friend, Bishop Leonine Kelly, at the Opening Worship/Memorial Service of the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference in San Diego. Photo by Patrick Scriven, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference director of communications and young people’s ministries.

A bishop who resigned the episcopacy, the first African American woman bishop, a bishop who worked with Cesar Chavez, and a bishop who protected the home of a Japanese family sent to an internment camp all were remembered at the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s Opening Worship – a memorial/Communion service.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of the Los Angeles Area (and host Conference, California-Pacific) preached the sermon, “Bringing Justice to Victory.”

“The Church, under God, is the hope of the world,” she said. “That hope is the hope for food, for health, for justice, for equality, for all – and in the eyes of God, all means all. Only that is equality: when all stand equal. Only then is justice brought to victory.”

The four bishops of the jurisdiction who have died since the 2008 jurisdictional conference – Edward W. Paup, Leontine Ruth Turpeau Current Kelly, William W. Dew, Jr. and Melvin E. Wheatley, Jr. – all were champions of the disenfranchised.

“They not only lived, but led us, through that tension between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought,’” Swenson said, referring to the gap, identified by Scottish philosopher David Hume, between the ‘is’ – the world as it exists, “in all its broken, beautiful, flaming despair and glory” – and the world as it ought to be.

“For many, that’s all there is, and we are to play it out as it is: there is no potential for change, no chance it could be any different. In other words, there is no hope for transformation,” Swenson said.

“What Leontine preached and what Bill and Ed and Mel poured their lives into, is that when we propose the transformation of the world, what we are talking about, what we are doing, what it comes down to, is accomplishing justice – and doing so in a particular way.”

Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Phoenix Episcopal Area (Desert Southwest Annual Conference) eulogized Ed Paup, former bishop of the Seattle Area who left the episcopacy to head the General Board of Global Ministries. He served only one year in that capacity before being diagnosed with a brain tumor that forced his resignation. He was, Carcaño said, “a grand scale thinker. He believed that God’s call to us was to respond to and care for all of God’s people, everywhere. He yearned for The United Methodist Church to reclaim its Wesleyan DNA and once again be ‘a movement people.’ Ed’s vision for the 21st century was that the Church would focus in deliberate and concrete ways on overcoming poverty, which he considered a deadly disease; improving global health; [and] creating new places where people could gather to experience and share faith in our Creator God, who cares for all of creation.”

Visibly moved, Bishop Melvin Talbert (retired) spoke of his close friend of many years, Leontine Kelly, who died June 28, 2012. “She served as an active bishop for only four years,” he said, “but she made up for lost time. She packed more into those four years than anyone could ever imagine.” After citing some of her accomplishments – the second woman to be elected a bishop in The UMC, the first woman to be elected a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction, and “the first African American woman to be elected bishop of any major communion in the world” – Talbert finished with the simple words, “She’s gone. But not forgotten.”