Bishop Connie Mitchell Shelton announces upcoming retirements and changes in the Episcopal Office, effective July 1, 2023.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Locklear will enter retirement under Book of Discipline ¶ 357.2. Locklear has graciously served the United Methodist Church since 1989. After becoming an Ordained Elder in 1991, he served various appointments, including as Executive Director of the SEJ Association for Native American Ministries (SEJANAM) and Gateway District Superintendent.
Rev. Dr. H. Gray Southern plans to retire this year from his role as Assistant to the Bishop. First ordained as a Deacon in 1980, Southern became an Ordained Elder in 1982. He served an array of churches and also as a District Superintendent.
When the new Assistant to the Bishop role was created in 2021, the position was essential to lead the conference transition when we shared a bishop with the Kentucky and Central Appalachian Missionary Conferences in a particular time of constraint and challenge and a new bishop again in 2023.
“The foresight of your previous Conference leadership to create this position was greatly effective during a pivotal time in the North Carolina Conference. I’m thankful for the great wisdom and thought put into establishing a way to align conference staff and ministries during so much transition in the life of the church,” affirmed Bishop Shelton.
As we no longer share a bishop, the position of Assistant to the Bishop will end as envisioned when it was created. Any continuing responsibilities related to that role will be addressed by the Office of Clergy Life. Southern will continue in his role as Conference Secretary.
Mrs. Becky Biegger, Administrative Assistant for the Bishop’s Office, also plans to retire at the end of June. Biegger has served the NC Conference since 1995, holding previous administrative roles in Congregational Development, Education and Lay Ministries, Multicultural/Social Ministries, and Missions. This position will become part-time, and Mrs. Lou Jennings will fulfill these responsibilities along with her current Director of District Administration role.
We are deeply thankful for each person who has faithfully served in these roles, and we ask that you continue praying for them as they move forward into new areas of ministry.
Future information will be forthcoming in accordance with the appointment season.