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The Rev. Lawson Bryan learns he has been elected the fourth bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction during its meeting in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Photo by Matt Brodie, South Carolina Conference.

Photo by Matt Brodie, South Carolina Conference.

The Rev. Lawson Bryan learns he has been elected the fourth bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction during its meeting in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

R. Lawson Bryan is fourth bishop elected in Southeastern Jurisdiction

By Mary Catherine Phillips
July 13, 2016 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)

The Rev. Robert Lawson Bryan, of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, has been elected a bishop by the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church.

He is the fourth bishop elected at the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Bryan, who serves as senior pastor at Montgomery (Alabama) First United Methodist Church, was elected on the 10th ballot, taken at 5 p.m. on July 13. He will fill one of the vacancies created in the denomination’s jurisdictional college of bishops by the retirement of five bishops.

Bryan, 66, will become one of 13 active bishops serving the episcopal areas of the 15 annual conferences that make up the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Southeastern Jurisdiction delegates elected all five of their new bishops on the first day of their conference, which ends July 15.

Upon his election, Bryan was honored by members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference delegation and then escorted to the stage by Bishop Paul Leeland and Bishop Larry Goodpaster. His wife, Sherrill, son Philip and daughter-in-law Brittany joined him on stage.

In his remarks to the conference, he thanked his family and the Alabama-West Florida Conference, and again stressed a word he frequently uses in making an impact in The United Methodist Church: “Immediately.”

"It is an honor to be elected by colleagues in our jurisdiction and to see God at work,” he said. ”For the past year, I have referenced Ephesians 2:5, 'alive together in Christ,' and ask for your prayers as I seek God's will as a leader in our SEJ Conference."

A consecration service for newly elected bishops will be held at 10 a.m., July 15, in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska. Episcopal assignments will be announced July 14. New assignments will be effective Sept. 1.

Endorsed by the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Bryan received 256 of the votes cast.

Bryan holds a bachelor of science degree from Tulane University and a doctorate in ministry from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. His service to the church and community includes:

Pastoral Appointments
1975—Associate Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Opelika, Alabama
1976—Pastor, Hiland Park United Methodist Church, Panama City, Florida
1980—Pastor, Dexter Avenue United Methodist Church, Montgomery, Alabama
1986—Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Brewton, Alabama
1990—Pastor, Ashland Place United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama
1997—Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Dothan, Alabama
2007—Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Montgomery, Alabama
 
Alabama-West Florida Conference Leadership
Chaired Alabama-West Florida Conference Council on Ministries, 1996-98
Served as board chair, Academy for Congregational Excellence, 2011-present
Dothan District Committee on Ministry, Chair, 2000-2006
Alabama-West Florida Conference Board of Ministry, 1980-88; 2000-2012
Huntingdon College Board of Trustees, 2001-present
Chaired Board of Ordained Ministry, Alabama West-Florida Conference, 2007-2009
Participant and Leader in Three-year Covenant Community for Spiritual Growth
Developed partnership between First United Methodist Church Montgomery and Huntingdon College to provide intern program
Organized and hosted annual Pan-Methodist Pentecost Service

Southeastern Jurisdiction Leadership
Chaired Southeastern Jurisdiction Larger Church Consultation, 2001-2002

General Church Leadership
General Conference delegate in 2012 and 2016
Chaired Financial Administration Sub-committee at General Conference 2016

Local Church and Community Leadership
Leadership Mobile, Class of 1992
Chaired the Alzheimer’s Association “Walk to Remember,” 2000-2001
Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, 2002-2005
Member of Downtown Rotary Club of Montgomery, 2007-present
Chaired Believe It! Montgomery, community partnership for public schools
Author of Pursuing Science, Finding Faith
Member of the Committee of 100—Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Member of Leadership Alabama
Teaching Parish Supervisor—Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Chaired the Visioning Team for Adult Respite Ministry of First UMC Montgomery

A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life. Bishops have a mandatory retirement age of 68 to 72, depending on when their birthday falls. Bryan will serve as an active bishop for four years. But he told delegate he plans to start working immediately.

Bishops are charged by the church’s Book of Discipline to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs” of the church and to “guard, transmit, teach and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically.”

*Phillips is director of communications for The United Methodist Church’s Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference.