Q&A with Bishop Jonathan Holston
By GLENN HANNIGAN
The Rev. Jonathan Holston, senior pastor of St. James UMC in Atlanta, was elected bishop on the first ballot of the recently held Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference at Lake Junaluska. Holston, 53, will become resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference on Sept. 1.
Holston, who was born in Griffin, Ga., earned a B.A. in religion from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Divinity from Gammon Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. Before being appointed to St. James UMC in 2005, he served as District Superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford district (1997-2005).
Holston’s previous appointments include: senior pastor of Marietta Street UMC (1983-1986); senior pastor of Clifton UMC (1986-1992); associate director of the Conference Council on Ministries from (1992-1997).
Holston recently answered questions posed by the North Georgia Advocate.
Q: What was the biggest challenge for most difficult task you faced in being vetted and interviewed as a candidate for the episcopacy?
A: Just remembering to be myself was my goal. I wanted to focus on being concise with my answers, to speak clearly as well as being authentic in my presentation.
Q: What do you think was most helpful factor in your successful candidacy?
A: I believe my journey is indicative of one who has experienced many opportunities of ministry. In every way, I have sought to actively participate in a ministry that connects laity and clergy on every level in exciting ways.
Q: How did you feel when it was announced that you had been elected on the first ballot by such a large margin?
A: I was overwhelmed by the generosity of affirmation received upon my election as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church. I was especially appreciative of the laity and clergy of the North Georgia delegation who have been supportive in every way. Definitely, I was surprised by an election on the first ballot. Wow!
Q: After spending so many years as part of the North Georgia Conference what will it be like for you to start over someplace new?
A: Of course, living and working in a new state (South Carolina) will be different. There will be new places to visit as well as new people to meet. This will be an exciting opportunity for Felecia and me yet, it is really nothing new. Being an itinerant elder, I recognize that being sent is a part of my vow to serve. It is my expectation to go where sent as well as lead, love and learn from the people in this new place of service.
Q: What are you most excited about?
A: I am excited about the opportunity to partner with the laity and clergy of South Carolina to create vital congregations, take the risks that challenge us to make a difference and discover our context for ministry. To be a part of a ministry that allows people to grow spiritually and local congregations to be places of vital ministry will be an awesome experience.
Q: What is your biggest concern?
A: At the moment, my biggest concern is getting moved to our home in South Carolina as well as getting acclimated to work and meeting the wonderful people of the South Carolina Conference.
Q: What was it like on your first Sunday back at St. James UMC after being elected?
A: It was an exciting day at St. James. We celebrated with hugs and well-wishes and shared a wonderful reception offered for Felecia and me. Indeed, it was a time of great joy.
Q: What will you miss most about being pastor of a local church?
A: The opportunity to be a part of someone’s life is significant in ministry; therefore, I will miss the personal friendships that I’ve shared over these years. The blessing of sharing God’s word on Sunday mornings will be missed as well. I will cherish the conversations, visits, and worship shared in the local church.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish in your first few months as bishop?
A: In the days and months to come, I am going to concentrate on listening, visiting, and observing as much as possible. With the assistance of Conference leadership, it is my hope that we discover the future God has for all of us.