3 districts receive new superintendents
Three pastors begin service in June as district superintendents, appointed by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. On this page, each shares a personal story.
By Charile Graves
The phone call came on Ash Wednesday. Bishop Hayes wanted my wife, Karen, and me to consider appointment to the Clinton District Superintendency.
"Being a D.S. has probably not been on your radar, has it?" he asked.
"No, it hasn’t," I answered. I can think of many other pastors who, I feel, would be better district superintendents. A lot of self-doubt, even fear, suddenly filled me.
Yet I have always trusted that God is involved in the appointing process.
The past 32 years have confirmed that for me. The churches at Helena, Okeene, Frederick, and Woodward-First have all been used of God to grow me as a Christian. I found each church had wonderful, loving, supportive people who loved Jesus as I did. Each church in its turn helped me become a better pastor. I will always be grateful for their roles in my life and that of my family.
Thus I believe God will continue to grow me in this new appointment as well. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is an ongoing journey.
I was raised by Christian parents. I’ve always gone to Sunday School classes and worship services. My home church in Wakita and a Lay Witness Mission in 1971 really cemented my faith in Christ. However, I had no intention at the time of going into the ordained ministry. All I knew was that I loved Jesus and wanted to learn more about Him.
I graduated with a major in Bible from a Presbyterian college in Sterling, Kan. My thirst for God was not satisfied, so I went on to Asbury Theological Seminary. I simply wanted to learn more about God.
There at Asbury I also met the woman who became my wife. The child of a United Methodist missionary couple, Karen grew up in the Philippines.
After seminary, I still did not know where God was leading, but a door opened for me to pastor a local church, so Karen and I went to Helena UMC.
That’s how it’s been for me in my journey with Jesus.
I do today what I sense is God’s will and leave tomorrow in God’s hands. Thus, my wife and I said yes to Bishop Hayes, and we are looking forward to this new adventure in ministry.
By Tish Malloy
Who knew that growing up as one of five children in a Catholic family in Boston, Mass., would serve to prepare me for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church in Oklahoma?
And who knew that moving to Florida as a teenager and working at United Methodist camps every summer, from age 16 to 22, would develop in me a realization that people bring to every table who they are and who they are becoming — especially to the Lord’s table?
Who knew that my first experience of being called a Yankee — and realizing the person calling me that name was not referring to a team from New York — would open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to people who suffer the injustice of all kinds of categorizations except "child of God"?
And who knew I would be compelled to answer a call to serve a Church yearning to truly have "open hearts, open minds, and open doors" to all of God’s children?
In my childhood home, one thing was absolutely clear. We didn’t have to like each other all the time, but we did have to love each other all the time. My parents taught that if we harmed anyone in our family, the whole family suffered. I believe the same is true of God’s Church.
In my family, whenever any children squabbled, my father lined up all five, from smallest to tallest. Then he asked each child to look at the person beside him or her and tell my father who that person was. Of course, the only acceptable answers were "my brother" and "my sister."
As a pastor, there have been times I wanted to do that very same thing in a church meeting, hallway, or parking lot — to help those in the church remember who we are to each other.
Over the years, my family memories also have helped me reflect on my own behavior toward others.
I hope, as a pastor and a parent, that I’ve shared my parents’ teaching well.
Since my ordination I’ve been blessed to serve in pastoral leadership at Broadway UMC in Kansas City, Mo.; and in Oklahoma at Heavener-First, OKC-Village, and Moore-First. I’ve served as director of Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission. Now I look forward to ministering alongside the clergy and laity of the Stillwater District and the Cabinet of the Oklahoma Conference.
God knows what’s next, and I know that God goes with me. I’m looking forward to looking back.
By Rockford Johnson
I have floated the Rio Grande, the White River in Arkansas, the Illinois in Oklahoma. I once owned a canoe. Such winding rivers provide an apt metaphor for my life’s unfolding adventure. In his poem "Fluent," Irish poet and theologian John O’Donovan voices a yearning to live life like a river, "carried by the surprise/of its own unfolding."
Carried along by the surprising grace of God, employing our gifts and skills in navigating and propelling, we do not fully know what is around the next bend. We do know that God is always and effectively with us.
I was raised in a small Oklahoma town that had no Methodist or Baptist congregation! I had grandparents in each of two Mennonite churches. I was raised and experienced God’s Christ-centered saving grace in a quasi-independent church of mostly Mennonite people, then sojourned among those in another denomination.
Then I chose the United Methodist tributary and found a theological home and welcoming place of service. As Bishop Hayes likes to say, "I got here as fast as I could."
Shortly after entering the Oklahoma Conference, I attended Local Pastors Licensing School. While worshipping in the chapel of OKC-Wesley UMC, my mind and heart were "strangely warmed" by the Spirit as I participated in a reaffirmation of baptism. It was for me a confirming experience of God’s unfolding guidance.
A few years later, at Tulsa-Boston Avenue UMC, I knelt at the altar during Annual Conference for Recognition of Orders. The Love Divine among us humbled me and caused a swell of deep gratitude for this connectional journey of ministry in which we advance the mission of God in Christ, reconciling the world.
Life’s river first carried me into pastoral ministry at Gober, Texas — a village of 17 houses, four churches, an ancient gas station, the officially smallest post office in that big state, and a mostly retired cotton gin. The church was filled with 35 faithful friends and plenty of joy.
Subsequently, I have served and been blessed and shaped by faith communities in Duncan, Lone Wolf and Blair, Tulsa, Shawnee, and Chickasha.
Early and along the way I’ve encountered the Spirit’s influence through persons and experiences. One grandmother modeled piety, purity, and compassion; the other: education, music, culture, and community. Dad was a lay preacher and teacher, took me with him to county jail ministry, and often witnessed to God’s liberating work. Mom taught Sunday School and taught us to laugh. At church camp I experienced a call to ministry with confirmation of faith and promised to employ whatever gifts I had for the mission of Christ.
Through education and ministry, professors and pastors, that sense of a call has matured and deepened.
It has led me to fresh understandings and a continuing desire to experience and express the rich import and interplay of God’s magnanimous, holy grace and our faithful responsibility.
I am surprised, humbled, grateful, eager, and desirous of your prayers as the current of grace carries me into ministry with the mission, laity, and clergy of North Oklahoma City District.