In anticipation and preparation for Bishop Leonard Fairley’s new role in serving multiple conferences – the Kentucky and North Carolina Conferences, as well as the Red Bird Missionary Conference – he, along with directors and other representatives from each conference, met via Zoom on Aug. 30-31, to build relationships and also dream about the possibilities of collaborative ministry while Bishop Fairley is serving as bishop to them all.
The strategizing and logistics planning had been in the works since it was announced that Bishop Fairley would have expanded duties until early 2023 because of four vacancies in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church created by retiring bishops. One of the retirees was North Carolina’s Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. The retirements were effective Sept. 1.
The session had originally been planned to convene in person in Kentucky, but because of surging COVID-19 cases, it was moved to Zoom.
Participants met with their counterparts, and as a delegation, to figure out what collaboration looks like during this season, Rev. Tami Coleman said. Coleman is Kentucky’s Annual Conference Secretary. Some specifics were addressed, such as how the bishop’s calendar will be handled, but it was more about forging relationships and dreaming about possibilities.
“After spending two days with many of the Conference staff from North Carolina and Red Bird, I’m excited about the opportunities for collaboration and mutual support as we share Bishop Fairley in this season,” said Rev. Kevin Burney, Kentucky’s Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Ministerial Services.
The plan is for Bishop Fairley to spend alternating months in each location. A native of North Carolina and a long-time member of the North Carolina Conference, he was elected to the episcopacy and assigned to the Kentucky & Red Bird Conferences in 2016. He and his wife, Dawn, arrived in North Carolina on Sept. 1 and will be working in the NC Conference through the month of September.
In North Carolina, Bishop Fairley will be assisted by Rev. Dr. Gray Southern, Assistant to the Bishop/Conference Secretary, and Rev. Beth Hood, Assistant to the Bishop/ Director of Clergy Life, along with the bishop’s administrative assistant, Becky Biegger. While working in Kentucky, Bishop Fairley will be accessible as needed via Zoom and other communications methods.
Joining Southern, Hood, and Biegger, Christine Dodson (Conference Treasurer), John Hall (Conference Lay Leader), Steve Taylor (Executive Director of Connectional Ministries), and Derek Leek (Conference Director of Communications) participated in the gathering from the NC Conference.
Rev. Hood said, “I left the gathering confident that blessings will come in this new season of sharing episcopal leadership. Our commitment to collaborate, communicate, and celebrate the goodness of God will surely lead to ministry that exceeds what we could ask for or imagine.”
by LeeAnne Thornton (NC Conference) & Alan Wild (Kentucky Conference)