The North Central Jurisdictional Conference will be voting for bishops in July of this year. The Michigan Delegation has endorsed and supports the election of the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai .
Senior Content Editor
January 15, 2020 | LANSING, Michigan – In a video-conference held on January 11, the Michigan Delegation to the General and Jurisdictional conferences interviewed and endorsed the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai as an episcopal candidate for the North Central Jurisdiction.
“Based on our vision and our shared values, we see Kennetha as being ideal in leading United Methodists into the future,” said Laura Witkowski, who co-chairs the delegation with Bigham-Tsai. “Kennetha is a visionary and a bridge-builder, a hope-filled leader.” Witkowski continued, “She is committed to the full inclusion of LBGTQ persons in the life of the church, is passionate about racial justice, and envisions a more innovative, contextual, and adaptive United Methodist Church.”
Since January 2018, Bigham-Tsai has held denominational leadership as the Chief Connectional Ministries Officer of The United Methodist Connectional Table. Prior to that, she served as the Superintendent of The Lansing District and pastored two West Michigan congregations: Kalamazoo: Milwood UMC and University UMC in East Lansing (Associate). She was elected as a clergy delegate to General Conferences in 2012, 2016 (alternate), and 2020.
“Kennetha’s experience with the worldwide church, exceptional leadership capacity, deep faith, and spiritual maturity uniquely position her for the office of bishop for such a time as this,” Witkowski stated. The delegation believes her high-level view of the global church fits her to deal with what the denomination is facing post-General Conference 2020.
“If elected, I will encourage experimentation and innovation and work to nurture new leaders,” Bigham-Tsai said. “I also will teach, preach and live a theology of grace, seeking reconciliation in relationships, and caring as Christ did ‘for the least of these.’”
The discernment process that delegates experienced on January 11 was guided by discussions held during the months following their election in June of 2019. A vision was developed and can be seen here.
Witkowski described the delegation’s vision this way: “It is our hope, through listening, to lead the Michigan Conference into becoming a more just and inclusive body. We challenge ourselves to continue the reconciling work of Jesus Christ and to live into the catholic spirit of John Wesley.” Core values held by the delegation as a strong foundation for their life and work are: holding all in sacred worth, compassion, honesty, and realism. Delegates have committed to act as servant leaders for the tasks at hand in 2020 and into the future.
Six months of listening also informed the interview process. In October of 2019, the delegation began soliciting the names of potential candidates for bishop. “Our process also asked Michigan United Methodists to submit the qualities they look for in a bishop,” Witkowski explained. These qualities were among the many thoughtful responses the delegation received from Michigan clergy and laity. Persons want a bishop who:
- is spiritually grounded with deep faith and rich devotional life;
- has a deep understanding of a Wesleyan theology of grace and able to translate theological concepts in ways that are relevant and relatable;
- can cast vision and work with lay and clergy leadership to bring about innovation and change in the most challenging times;
- leads with a non-anxious presence;
- has a broad spiritual and theological approach;
- exhibits honesty, dependability, and strong discipleship.
After follow-up with persons whose names were submitted, one person indicated an interest in being considered by the delegation. Bigham-Tsai was that person.
Kennetha Bigham-Tsai says this about making herself available for episcopal leadership at this time. “I am honored to have been endorsed for the episcopacy by the Michigan delegation. I am offering myself because I care deeply about our worldwide connection and feel called to help lead our church through change. For me, that means bringing an open and prayerful spirit, a creative mind, and a pastor’s heart to the challenges ahead.”
What is her hope for The United Methodist Church? “I would like to see The UMC claim who we are as a worldwide church shaped by grace, reaching across boundaries to bring healing and transformation to the world.” She prays for God’s guidance in the midst of change. “My hope is also that we would be open to God’s Spirit as we find new ways of being the church.”
Kennetha has been married for 25 years. She and her husband Kee live in East Lansing and have two sons. Keeton is an engineering student at Western Michigan University and is a leader at the Kalamazoo Wesley Foundation. Kamden is in middle school and active in band, youth group, and sports.
READ MORE on the candidate website for the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai.
The North Central Jurisdictional Conference will meet in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, July 15-18, 2020. The main work of the Jurisdictional Conference is the election of bishops. At the present time, it is known that two NCJ bishops intend to retire. Other factors – additional retirements and possible reduction of the number of episcopal areas due to declining membership – may affect the number of elections.