Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
For Immediate Release
July 6, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former President of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel died on Sunday, July 4, 2021, with all his five children by his bedside.
Bishop Yeakel, 93, has been a resident in an assisted living facility in Wooster, Ohio.
He was elected to the episcopacy during the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 1972. He served as resident bishop of the New York West Area from 1972 to 1984, and the Washington (DC) Area from 1984 to 1996. He retired on August 31,1996.
Bishop Yeakel served as president-designate of the Council of Bishops (1991-92) and president of the Council of Bishops (1992-93).
Current Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey described Bishop Yeakel’s death as a big loss to The United Methodist Church. “Another giant of the faith has joined the church triumphant. Bishop Yeakel was a voice for justice and was always one of the first to speak truth when it was most needed,” she said.
She described him as one who was present as long as he was as able to support those who had come after him into the episcopal role.
“He and I often walked together to and from our meeting spaces early in the morning and late in the evening making sure we found our way together always talking about our day and solving the problems of the church and the world,” Bishop Harvey said, adding, “He was a kind and gentle spirit who always led with a voice of encouragement and steadfastness.”
Bishop Mark Webb, president of the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops, noted: “We celebrate the significant life he lived and the impact he had on so many, including all of us.”
Born in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, Joe Yeakel attended the Pottsville, Pennsylvania, public schools. His matriculation to Lebanon Valley College was interrupted by a tour of duty with the United States Navy Seabees, returning to Lebanon Valley College from which he graduated with an A.B. degree.
He served the Gardners-Mt. Victory Charge near Mt. Holly, Pennsylvania, during his senior year in college. He attended United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio (M.Div.), serving as a student assistant pastor at the Euclid Avenue EUB Church in Dayton.
He became a member of the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church as a probationary member and was ordained an elder by Bishop George Edward Epp. He was assistant pastor at Otterbein Church in Hagerstown, Maryland; pastor at Messiah Church in York, Pennsylvania; and Memorial Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In 1963 he was elected Assistant General Secretary of the Board of Evangelism with offices in Dayton, Ohio. In 1965 he became the General Secretary of the Board and at the time of church union in 1968, he became the General Secretary of the Board of Evangelism of The United Methodist Church.
The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference elected him to the episcopacy in 1972. Apart from his episcopal role, Bishop Yeakel served on the General Board of Church and Society and the General Council on Finance and Administration.
Bishop Yeakel was preceded in death by his wife, Lois Josephine, on March 5, 2014. They are survived by five children: Claudia Jo (McIntyre), Joseph Douglas Yeakel, Joanna Irene (Drushal), Mary Jo (an elder in the Ohio West Conference), and Jody Lucille (Kampmeier) and twelve grandchildren.