Southeastern Jurisdiction elects five to the episcopacy

With the most bishops to elect this season and a plethora of candidates, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference jumped to the front of the line by filling all five episcopal openings in a single day. The conference is meeting this week at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center in North Carolina, the traditional headquarters of the jurisdiction.

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Rev. Sharma M. Lewis

The SEJ made history by electing the Rev. Sharma M. Lewis on the first ballot. Lewis, currently serving as a district superintendent in the North Georgia Annual Conference, is the first African-American woman to be elected as a bishop in the SEJ. Lewis is a graduate of Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center

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Rev. David Graves

Three ballots later, the Rev. David Graves, Sr. Pastor of Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville, TN was elected. Graves is a member of the Holston Annual Conference. A 2013 Denman Award winner, Graves is a graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

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Rev. Leonard Fairley

The next election would come on ballot 7 when the Rev. Leonard Fairley of the North Carolina Annual Conference was elected. Fairley is currently the district superintendent of the Capital District and is a graduate of Duke Divinity School.

The remaining two positions would be filled three ballots later on ballot #10 when the SEJ elected Dr. R. Lawson Bryan and the Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson.


Dr. R. Lawson Bryan

Bryan is a member of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, serving currently as Sr. Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Montgomery, AL. A graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Bryan is the author of Pursuing Science, Finding Faith, a book on the complementary relationship between faith and science, published in 2012.

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson

Haupert-Johnson has served as the North Central District Superintendent of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church since July 2013. A graduate of the Candler School of Theology, Haupert-Johnson was a federal law clerk and a litigator with a Tampa law firm before she answered her call to ministry.

Please click on the names above to see the full biographical statements of the new bishops-elect.

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at

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