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United names Bard Distinguished Alum

Bard named Distinguished Alum by United Theological Seminary Twin Cities

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities has named Bishop David Bard, Michigan Conference, as its 2021 distinguished alum.

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities celebrates the 2021 Distinguished Alum Bishop David A. Bard (‘84). An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Bard has been in ministry for over 35 years and served for many years as pastor of First United Methodist Church of Duluth, MN. In 2016 Bard was elected bishop by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference and assigned to the Michigan Area. Still serving in that role, he is also acting as the interim bishop of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In the Minnesota Conference, Bard has served as a General and Jurisdictional Conference delegate, member of the Higher Education Ministry Team, member of the Board of Ordained Ministry and Congregational Response Team, and chair of the Episcopacy Committee. He was also the conference parliamentarian. Bard was a district superintendent with for seven years and served three years on the Commission on Religion and Race.

“David Bard fulfills the New Testament requirements for the noble task of bishop in an exemplary manner (1 Timothy 3:1-7),” says Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall, interim president of United. “Among these qualities are gentleness and peacefulness, modesty and hospitality, one who exercises good management and is well thought of outside the church.”

Bard’s lifetime commitment to the work of anti-racism has been key to his leadership from the beginning. Following the death of George Floyd, he cited The Book of Discipline, stating, “The role of the bishop is to be a prophetic voice for justice in a suffering and conflicted world through the tradition of social holiness.”

He joined the Full Cabinet of The Michigan Conference in affirming, “Racism is as virulent a virus as the coronavirus, and it is also lethal.” The United Methodist Church has said racism is sin, “that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ… denies the redemption and reconciliation of Jesus Christ,” and “that racism robs all human beings of their wholeness.”

“David has provided outstanding leadership for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, serving churches and as a district superintendent,” says Kathi Austin Mahle (’78, former trustee). “His leadership continued in the worldwide UMC leading to his election as bishop in 2016. His intellectual gifts and personal caring have been demonstrated over and over. He is now serving as the interim bishop for Minnesota, and we are glad to welcome him ‘home,’ as his humor and caring were demonstrated at our recent Annual Conference session. He is so deserving of this recognition at such a difficult time in the life of the United Methodist Church.”

In a time when there has been great disagreement about theological and social issues, Bard has embraced those challenges, leading with theological grounding, wisdom, and skill. Classmates Arthur Ritter (‘85) and Stuart Jamieson (‘86), who nominated Bard, spoke of his willingness to listen, and his ability to understand those with a different view and opinion.

Ritter writes, “Those with whom he has served notice his ability to bring people together in order to achieve a better understanding and to better serve the intention of God….he embraces the challenge by lifting up the church as an instrument of God’s power.”

In addition to his strength as a preacher, Bard is a gifted writer. While serving in Minnesota, he regularly wrote a column entitled “Bard’s Brushstrokes.” As the Bishop in Michigan, he has continued to write regular blog posts on the Joyful Journey. Drawing on his experience as a leader, his pastoral gifts, and the depth of his theological education, Bard shares rich and meaningful insights, engaging theologians like Marcus Borg, Howard Thurman, and John Wesley. Bard also includes theological insights that come from poets and musicians. In his writing Bard invites us to see and name God, to ask difficult questions, and to trust that God is leading us, even in times of turmoil, anxiety, and concern.

Bard has been a remarkable leader in a variety of roles in the church and continues to inspire all those who have the opportunity to work with him. For Bard it is the church that can be the means to a new and more just way forward. Citing his own experience, Bard states, “God has put in my heart a burning desire to help people find a faith that is thoughtful, that engages both their minds and hearts, that is compassionate, that cares deeply about a hurting and wounded world.”

He continues, “My education at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities was instrumental in providing a foundation for this kind of thoughtful, passionate, and compassionate Christian faith, a faith that is personally transformative and socially engaged.”

United celebrates Bishop Bard’s long and significant commitment to justice, love, and living out his call to help people answer their own call to care deeply about a hurting and wounded world.

The Michigan Conference