Three named district superintendents
Three pastors begin service as district superintendents in June, as announced by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. On this page, the trio shares stories from their Christian journeys.
|‘More than anything, I wanted to make a difference’
By George Warren
As a Boy Scout, I learned to value personal integrity, service to others, and stewardship of nature. Whenever we went camping, our Scoutmaster, Mr. Kiley, reminded us to always leave the campsite better than we found it.
As the oldest of four children in a Methodist parsonage family in Florida, I was surrounded by God’s love and the community of faith. When I was 13 or 14, I made the decision at Youth Camp to go into full-time Christian service—probably as a missionary.
I resisted becoming a pastor because everyone told me I was going to be one, just like my father. Also, I liked science, and I had questions of faith that seemed to conflict with science.
I had to quit putting off a decision on "What am I going to do with my life?" when I was about to get out of the Air Force. More than anything, I wanted to make a difference, so that, at the end of my life, I would leave my campsite better than I found it.
God’s call came to me as a gentle, persistent tug: Why don’t you try seminary?
My new bride, a lifelong member of OKC-St. Luke’s, supported my decision, and off we went to seminary. There I asked every question with which I had struggled, and I learned to develop my own answers.
By the time I graduated, I could not imagine doing anything else but serving God’s people in Oklahoma and inviting others to Christ.
Along my way, I have been blessed by superb teachers. My mother was the first. After my father died in a car-train collision when I was 15 years old, she told me, "God didn’t take your father. A train going 80 miles an hour in the fog took your father. But God did receive your father."
John Reskovac, my supervisor on internship, taught me, "People don’t care what you know until they know that you care."
My wife, Rosilyn, who is a teacher, helped me with my sermons: I don’t have to tell every possible meaning of Scripture in a 20-point theological "treatise." I should focus the message.
I learned the value of painting word pictures with memorable stories that touch the heart with God’s good news. Kenneth Mason, a farmer in the Panhandle, demonstrated faith and hope when he planted again after losing his entire crop of irrigated wheat to a hailstorm. William I. "Bill" Smith modeled the pastor who is fully graceful to all and, at the same time, a rigorous scholar, constantly pursuing truth.
Many of my best teachers have been the laity in the seven churches I have served over 32 years. Patient and forgiving of my mistakes, they were faithful servants of our Lord long before I showed up. Indeed, I know that I stand on the shoulders of these and a multitude of saints, most of whom I will never know. Whatever I have been able to accomplish in my ministry is due to God’s Holy Spirit working through me and these saints supporting and guiding me.
Now I have been given the privilege of serving pastors and churches in the Bartlesville District. I will seek again to learn lessons in ministry from some new teachers. As in all my previous appointments, I hope to build on the efforts of saints who are my predecessors and, through the grace of God, to leave this new campsite better than I found it.
|‘Following God can be full of surprises’
By David Wiggs
When they heard I was being appointed as a district superintendent (DS), someone said to me, "I guess this is a dream come true."
My response was: "I don’t know that I would say that. I never thought I wanted to be a DS and never planned to be a DS."
But this is not the first time that God has surprised me during my ministry in The United Methodist Church.
When I was about 12, I had the opportunity to go to Muskogee District Youth Camp. Nobody else was going from my church (Okmulgee-First). I wasn’t sure I wanted to go by myself, but my family encouraged me. I went and, to my great surprise, loved it. I went every summer as a teenager. It was the highlight of every year!
That is also where I first met a district superintendent. He would come to district camp for a day or for a worship experience. I could tell that superintendents held positions of importance.
Then I contracted blood poisoning during my senior year. I was 17 and hospitalized away from my hometown. Doctors told my parents that I might not survive. The superintendent came to visit us there, to offer prayer and support, and that leadership role became much more personal to me. It was the church connection in action.
Although we were far from home, we were not far from The United Methodist Church.
Later a superintendent visited me at seminary and brought the greetings of the bishop and the Conference. I found that contact quite meaningful and again felt the connection in action in a personal way.
I grew up in a United Methodist church, and we were there often. My parents were committed Methodists, as were my grandparents. Family life in many ways revolved around the life of the church, and surely Methodism is one of the great formative influences on my life. I have found my deepest joys and my closest friends through my associations with the Church. I met and married my wife, Mary, in a United Methodist church.
When I publicly responded to my call to ministry during college, it was largely clarified in my mind and heart as a way to bring hope and joy to others. The Church had done that for me, and I wanted to do that for others. I conceived doing that through serving in a specific church.
The superintendency is a different role for me to fill. Following God can be full of surprises, but for me they have been bountiful experiences. I desire to represent that to all the people I encounter as a superintendent in the connection.
I want to be a bearer of hope and blessing. I have been called to serve Christ through The United Methodist Church. It will be my deep prayer that, as I represent the Conference and the bishop, I will serve those in the Stillwater District in a way that they, too, will experience the hope and blessing I have through the Church. I think it is the greatest Church in the world, and I am pleased to serve!
‘I recall the tug of God on my heart’
By David Burris
My faith journey began long before my birth, when God called my parents to raise their children in a Christian home. As a youngster, I remember nightly prayer times with my family. I heard my grandfather and uncle lead out in ministry in the Methodist church.
Time and time again I recall the tug of God on my heart to follow. As a young child, I knew that I was destined to bring God’s joy into the world as a minister.
During my Confirmation class, I felt God’s touch on my life and I knew there indeed is a God who loves us all.
Jesus truly became my everyday Lord and Savior on a mission with the youth group in 1969.
This event occurred at the height of the Lay Witness Mission Movement—weekends when laity across the nation visited churches and shared their personal testimonies. The movement impacted my youth group, which embraced faith-sharing each evening on the summer mission trip.
One summer night in Roswell, N.M., as an eighth-grade boy tearfully shared his faith in Jesus Christ, I knew it was time for me to fully accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
From that moment to this, I have been fully committed to Jesus. My call to full-time ministry was affirmed that night and has continued over the past 40 years in ministry.
God has called and walked with me in many ministry functions: as youth director, chaplain, husband, father, camp dean, VIM mission coordinator, and in pastoral ministry. I now look forward to God’s continued guidance as I move into new servant leadership as superintendent of the Woodward District. God is a great God!