Translate Page

Meet Bishop David Wilson

Download Audio

In this special “Meet a bishop” episode of “Get Your Spirit in Shape,” we talk with the Rev. David Wilson who made history as the first Native American to be elected as bishop of The UMC. Bishop Wilson tells us how growing up in The UMC prepared him for his current ministry role, the highest leadership position in the denomination..

Guest: Bishop David Wilson

Popular related items on

Join the conversation

  • Email our host Crystal Caviness or our producer Joe Iovino about this episode, ideas for future topics, or any other thoughts you would like to share.

Hep us spread the word

  • Tell others: members of your church, coworkers, and anyone else might benefit from these conversations.
  • Share us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • Review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you download the episode. Great reviews help others find us.

More Get Your Spirit in Shape episodes

Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.

This episode posted on April 21, 2023.

Get Your Spirit in Shape and are ministries of United Methodist Communications. For more than 80 years, we have been delivering messages of hope and leading the way in communications ministry. Join us in this vital work by making a tax-deductible donation at


"Safer Sanctuaries: Nurturing Trust withing Faith Communities" is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by buildiing on its trusted policies and procedures. To learn more, go to or call 800-972-0433.


Today’s episode of "Get Your Spirit in Shape" is part of our Meet the Bishop series, where we talk with United Methodist bishops to learn more about their faith journeys. On this episode, we chat with Bishop David Wilson, a member of the Choctaw Nation and the first Native American to be elected as bishop in The UMC. Bishop Wilson tells us how growing up in The UMC has prepared him for his current ministry role and how Micah 6:8 has been a guide for him throughout his life.


Crystal Caviness, host: Bishop Wilson, welcome to “Get Your Spirit in Shape.”

Bishop Wilson: Thank you. It's great to be with you today.

Crystal: This interview today is a part of our Meet a Bishop series, and that's an opportunity for United Methodist across the connection to get to know you a little bit, not really as a bishop, but as a fellow United Methodist, and to learn about your faith journey, including your call to ministry and your path to being elected Bishop. So I'm excited for our conversation today.

Bishop Wilson: Thank you. Me too.

Crystal: Bishop Wilson, you and I met in early 2020 at an event in Nashville, Tennessee, and I had the opportunity to hear you speak about how important growing up in the church was for you and how it has nurtured you to become a leader. Do you mind starting our conversation with just sharing more about that?

Bishop Wilson:

Yeah, I sure will. And thanks again, thank you for having me. I, I remember our time there in Nashville. UMCom put on a great, a great event. So I do remember that.  You know, the fun part for me as I have been here in the Great Plains is, people want to hear my call story and my story, and I forget. I was at, been traveling across the conference this week and at the first event, well, tell us your call story, tell us more about you. And I forget that people are interested in hearing that story. And so I appreciate sharing that. I, I grew up in a small Native American congregation in the town in Muskogee, Oklahoma. M`y family moved there from Tulsa in the mid Sixties. So I've been a part of this United Methodist Church before it was United, in 65, as a young child going to church with my mother there.

And, you know, that church raised me. My mother never drove. And so we always seemed to live close to the church and other places. So we'd walk through the park, sometimes further depending on where we live. We never lived too far from that local church. And so I have fond memories of that place. And, of course at a time when it was a different time in terms of neighborhoods and the rest. That local church where I, I was sharing just yesterday where people, mostly the mothers of the church, who nurtured me and supported me and encouraged me with anything I did. You know, I was sharing with the group of pastors. I said, I've done everything in local church you've ever done: cleaning the toilets, cleaning the church, all sorts of things, running out wasps of the church and other things, teaching Sunday school, leading worship, youth folk, you name it.

And that was made possible by my pastor at the time who I tell people recognized God's call upon my life before I did. And you know, starting me out to be involved. Taking up offering, later would be leading in worship, reading this, reading that. And it wasn’t that he would come and say, here it is. He would instruct you on how to do it and what to do there. And I, I remember fondly, and this is from the older communion ritual that was in the, I believe it was 72 hymnal. And I, I would, he would invite me up and I'd get to read part of that. And I always remember he would always kneel before the altar table and I don't recall anyone ever doing that then.

And then he would ask me to, you know, read parts of that ritual, which I did. So by the time I was 15, 16, you know, I had the whole ritual memorized there and still could almost memorize that. And I love to use that from time to time. And so helping with the service of communion. And I remember when he left and he was retiring, he said, I'm leaving. And the rule for the churches that retired pastors did not come back to the churches to give the new pastors a chance to acclimate themselves and be in leadership. And he said I've done all I can to teach you, so you need to carry on. And we did. I remember leading worship for the longest time, even in college.

I attended Oklahoma City University. I would drive back on weekends and just attend church or help with the church there. But the nurturing that the local church gave me, not just through him, but through the people, the church who encouraged me, who helped me, who supported me throughout my life, that was pivotal for me. And I still now, when I go to my, that church, it's a different location. My mother's still living, so my family still attends there. The folk who are in leadership now are the children of those church mothers who were there, including some siblings of mine. So it's always good to go back, you know, their grandkids that I taught who are now also some of the leaders in the church. And that is very rewarding to be able to see those folk back in the life of the church who realize and recognize how important that church is.


Bishop Wilson, I love hearing you talk about that because I hear about a legacy that impacted you, but I also hear how you're now part of a legacy that's impacting others. You know, going back,  those kids are hearing the stories about when you were a little kid in that church, and those teenagers are hearing the stories of when you were helping with liturgy or as a worship leader. That’s just such a beautiful tapestry of how these connections in our church can work. So I really appreciate you sharing that.

Bishop Wilson: Yeah. Thank you.


You were talking about how you've done everything in the local church, every job. And I would almost say that you may have served, you may have done everything in the church, period. You've been a campus minister, a youth director, you've served churches, you know, as clergy, you were a district superintendent, and you served the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference as an assistant to the bishop. Wow. That's a lot <laugh>.

Bishop Wilson:

Yeah. And I think I've served on maybe three, at least three, maybe four general agencies across the church. So to have that vast experience too, of how from Global Ministries to Higher Education and Ministry, Connectional Table, and back to Global Ministries again, which provided some great opportunities to learning about the greater church and how that operates.


Absolutely. And I was thinking that as well, that you have such a unique perspective that you've seen all of, you've seen connectionalism and how it works.

Bishop Wilson: Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Yes, I have.

Crystal:  And can you talk some more about that, what you've experienced and, and maybe how that's impacted how you view perhaps your role as Bishop now?

Bishop Wilson:

Yeah, I thank you. You know, I look back to the early days during youth ministry and campus ministry. So we would participate in probably the very first exploration event, which was an attempt to address the shortage in the early nineties of young people in ministry, and then involved with campus ministry gatherings, and international youth gatherings,  jurisdictional. And the fun part about that, Crystal is, of course you get to meet folk from all over. And then even now serving as Bishop, folks will come up to me and say, do you remember me? We worked together in youth ministry. And I said, of course, I remember you. And so it's fun to see those folk and even some young folk who I've seen some of delegates and said, you may not remember, but we're part of the South Central Jurisdiction, all the stuff I did for so many years and to continue those relationships across the church. And that's one of the beautiful things about this denomination. We meet friends everywhere we go, colleagues, and also people you can call on for advice or for support or models for how people get to do that. And, you know, even for the general agencies, that was an invaluable experience when I first worked with Higher Education and Ministry in 1996, I think through 2000. I had no idea how that worked. And so it's a good big learning curve. And there are folks there who helped me. We became friends. Again, folks I see now there and help, you know, say, here's how we operate, here's how leadership is built.

And even, even early from that point, I was, I had been ordained probably, two or three years before that. And so learning how the church worked. But it always been, and I share this often, a strong advocate for inclusion, for representation. And so everywhere you go, across the church, you look where indigenous folk, other folk have or have not been represented. And it was exciting to be a part of that at that first point from you know, serving on that board and for having other folk, usually racial, ethnic folk who helped to nurture me. I remember once, Crystal, I was at a gathering for campus ministry, and they asked me to do a devotion. I've been to maybe my first kind of national gathering with campus ministers.

I'm so nervous, you know, all these folk who've been at it for years. And some I knew their names, and I remember getting up and saying, I don't know what I'm doing here, why I'm here, and I apologize for something. And afterwards, it was a Hispanic person who came to me and said, David, don't you ever do that. Don't you ever apologize for being there for what God has placed you. God will work through you and God will use you. And I always appreciate that because I kind of felt like a small fish in a huge pond. And my people have been in ministry for years, and I always remember that I shared that with other people, especially when I see young folks struggling with work or their role in the church.

And then of course, as I went on through boards and agency, learned so much opportunities to be in leadership, you know, chairing boards and committees there. And then, Crystal, not really understanding how these bishops were elected, how they got to be where they're at. I shared – and I’m not trying to be offensive to anybody -  but for the longest time, as an indigenous people, all we saw were older white bishops and I, and for the longest time, that's who I thought bishops were until I met, began meeting some, racial ethnic bishops as I served on the boards and places. And they were always a great encouragement as well.

Crystal: That's a great segue into talking about your historic election as the first Native American bishop in The United Methodist Church. This place that we find ourselves, this last election, this last round of elections in November of 2022, we had multiple historic elections. It was so exciting for the denomination. I want talk to you about what that felt like for you personally, when that was happening to you. What was going on in your mind? How were you feeling?

Bishop Wilson: <laugh> Well, you know, that was an amazing election, not just in the South Central, but across the church. And we gathered with the new bishops this past January, so many who were historic firsts. And that was pretty amazing for us to share stories. You know, I was a candidate since 2012, early on. I was much, much younger, of course, and knew it was a long shot, but It was a good experience. And, at the time people said, David, you're too young, you’ve got too many years to serve, this or that. There's always excuses. But other folk, other folk did that. Other folk were elected when they were young, with other experience and they got elected. So it's always something that's different for racial ethnic people. And I think for women who, who've been in that role. And running again in 2016, very close election, I think even there, some reason we'd like to make history, I think we went to the most ballots ever in the South Central Jurisdiction.

And that was a difficult process. And, you know, I remember somebody asking said, what will you do? What will you do if you're not elected? I said, well, I have an appointment right now in Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. I'll go back or do my work, ministry as much to be done. I'll still pick up where I left off, which I did. And then, folk who continued to encourage me to run again in 2020, of course 2020 moved on. And then I forgot about it. You know, you get so engrossed in ministry and everything was up in the air with Covid and with the state of the church. And then when they announced that the elections were going to be held, I said, well, yeah, the elections are there. So then they had to start getting ready again, to get your resume out, your stuff.

You start updating it. All those things. We met via Zoom for the most part, with delegations. We had some great support. Many, many people across the South Central who encouraged me to run again. And so when we got to the jurisdiction, of course, we're all anxious and gathering. And, so it was quite a shock when thevote first came up, there was some things there was things happening. Uh, numbers went all there for the candidates, this or that, but they went for it. And then they had some struggles there and challenges. And the, I remember the bishop saying, well, let's see what's going on. And he, they came back with the list and he looked, dumbfounded. He was like, he was, he was like, not sure what to do. And he said, folks, we have three elections.

Crystal: You're making up for what happened in 2016.

Bishop Wilson: I guess so. And, and so we stood there looking at the names and people are screaming and cheering. They're still trying to make sense. And then finally I realized, Bishops Merrill and Williamston and myself were elected for that. And, and you and course seeing folk and <inaudible>, because I had to ask Bishop Harvey, I said, if I'm elected, will you come and escort me? Well, somebody else had asked her too. And so  Bishop now was standing, standing there with me a bit, my bishop, and he said, well, we gotta wait. Bishop Harvey's kind of popular today. So finally she came around, took me to the stage, and that was such a surreal time. Even some family members who were coming that day got there too late, about 20 minutes. So many people got there too late. No one had any idea that three people would be elected the first day. There were some people in that jurisdiction who knew it was going to happen, they worked hard for that. And they knew it, and they told us. But just because of what happened in 2016, it was kind of, you know, just waiting to see what was going to happen.

Crystal: It was an exciting time, with those elections happening and we were getting the news coming in and there were cheers across the connection for those elections. I want to go back to something you said earlier. You said your minister, when you were growing up, really recognized the call on your life before you did. When did you recognize the call on your life?

Bishop Wilson: I think back to that, you know, as active as I was as a lay person, you know, as a child. And, there was a group, I remember my sisters who were a little bit older, three or four years older than I was active with youth group and all that stuff. And I was so excited. When I get to be 12, I get to be a part of that group. Well, when I turned 12, the group disbanded for whatever reason. So I had no youth group. So I was just thrust in the life of the church, of working and serving. That was so ingrained that I never thought about serving as a layperson different from other work. And even family members who would say, he'll be a pastor someday day.

Since junior high, I was always interested in writing. And so even in the seventh, eighth and ninth grade, I was writing for the school newspaper in junior high school. In the old days, a mimeograph. I was a reporter and went to high school and wrote articles for a larger high school to move to a smaller school and editor of that little paper, again, a mimeograph paper there. And then I went to school, to college on journalism scholarships. I was a editor of my paper in junior college for a year, and went on to Oklahoma City University. I was a copy editor on scholarship. So that's how I got through college and all that time, always involved. And, and, um, and, and one, two students, many of my family and others don't recall our pastor to leave for some reason.

So I was licensed for one semester at our church. And that experience and then another pivotal point, when I was doing my, finishing my undergrad mass communications, I did an internship with the General Board of Church and Society, uh, racial ethnic local church at Peace there and served for a summer in Washington, D.C. I worked in the office of Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was the only Native American in Congress at that time. He was a house rep and got to work with the press secretary, and I got through a whole lot. It was fun. I mean, they, they, the third or fourth week, they kind of let me lose. And that was a great experience. And then every week we would gather at the building, talk about racial justice, social justice, the work of the board.

And that helped me to finally realize when I got done, I said, okay, I’ve got to get down to business and make that call. And I declared candidacy and then finishing college and undergrad, and then going on to seminary there, and then took off from there. So, although it's always in the back of my mind, I don't know if I, if I wasn't just facing it or just knowing that, knowing how active I was as a layperson, you know, I, I didn't see the difference at that time before that call.

Crystal: You talked about being involved when you were working for the congressman, being involved with racial justice and social justice. And, and you said earlier you acknowledge the truth that there's inequity for indigenous people. There's inequity for different ethnicities. And that's been something that you have worked on,not just inside the church, but in the community. Can you talk some about that work?

Bishop Wilson: Sure. And I've always, you know, I, for whatever reason, and maybe it's just been from where I was at in college, I think even, even for some of racial ethnic focus. Sometimes college is a time when we find ourselves, when we begin to claim who we are. And for myself as a racial ethnic person, some of that goes back to outside of the church. You know, the, the local church had great role models for being Native folk and Christian folk. In other places, that wasn't always, always the case. So there were times, you know, look around at what's happening and, and all the way grew with a lot of Native families in my neighborhoods. We weren't always proud to be Native, if that makes sense. And it has to do with family structures and rest that I won't go into.

But college is a time when you realize, this is who I am, be proud of who you are. Learning more from, counselors, advisors, and others about that. And so even since college, you know, being a strong advocate for Native folk and, whether it's around mascots or whether it's around just inclusion. And the last work lately it's been around voter engagement for indigenous folk and working some on issues of mascots with the general boards. And representation, you know. Simple things, Crystal, like there be times when publications would come out and folk who weren't familiar with us, and they find what they can find on the computer and it is not always accurate. And so there were times I'd have to call them up and say, that's not a good representation of who we are.

And so when the boards and agencies and others would hear that, they would say, well, can you help us? And so, so we do that, and we'd say, here's who we are producing a document. Here's some photos, whatever we need to say. Here's how diverse we are as indigenous peoples. And so I got to do, I get to do a lot of that for, I think for all of our agencies across the church. I worked with them all. Some advisory, some just, they know me and, um, they know me from years of work and doing that. And so that, that's been pivotal. But just knowing we come from, I come from a conference made up of all Native folk, you know, that's all I knew all my life. And then when you get away from that, you don't see that.

And so always calling for representation and, you know, for men in the church, it's, it's, unfortunately, it's defined as black and white. And I have to remind people often I say, we are so much more diverse than that. And not only speaking up for indigenous peoples, but for others who are not represented, uh, for that. I, I recall one instance, you know, working with voter engagement for native folk. I've done that since 2000, uh, two, myself and two of the young adults who both now pastors, one in deacon, one of the elder inspired by someone who, who talked about native folk not being involved. And we did off and ons of big elections until in 1718, received some funding from a national agency to do that, and really picked up and took off and did much work around that. And I was at a gathering during the census.

They asked us to come and help make sure Native folk represented. So they made it posters and everything. And they said, go to your table and you'll find your table, your posters, buttons, whatever, and take, have spin. You want. Well, I looked around and didn't see us anywhere. This is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 39 tribes in the state looked around again, it wasn't there. And I said, where, where is our, where's our posters? And the rest? She said, oh, we'll, we're going to get, you know, she stumbled. She said, we'll, we'll get there. And, and, and then, and, and I was fuming then and the guidance's about to start influential people across the city school board, folk, state superintendent, council folk. Finally, halfway through, they were showing the presentation. I said, VO, I'm sorry, I have to say this. I said, Nope. I said, we're in Oklahoma City thinking about the Native representation in the city and in the state.

And I said, we're not represented anywhere in, in this room on this, that, and this. And I said, well, it's even more difficult is that no one else in this room noticed but me. And, uh, so that's, that's what we deal with all the time. And, and so many places, uh, even in the general church where we have been left out. And, and almost every single time I pick up the phone and I call most of these people I know, I'll call 'em up and say, Hey, do you know what you've done here? And, and, uh, war is cordial, but there's still that kind of work to do. And I think even my, now what I've realized, been on the job for two months, as in March 1st at, uh, um, and, and, and becoming, because I'm indigenous people, uh, calling, calling upon me for all sorts of native stuff, native issues there.

But also recognizing before by election Crystal on that, on that Council of Bishops, there, there were no indigenous people, no one, no one to speak for our issues, except for the bishops who've served in, in, in native, uh, in areas where there's a large representation. Bishops Ske, who did a great, who's done a great job of educating folk about the Sand Creek Massacre, uh, Bishop Nunn who's, who really advocates for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, wherever he happens to be at. And so this'll be a role that I unofficially take on of being a spokesperson for Native issues, representation, and the rest.

Crystal: So it's an important voice that's needed in the church. Yes. In culture, it's needed and it's important. And you're obviously, in a space now where you can have, you know, you  can talk about these things and there are people maybe listening in a way that they weren't before.

Bishop Wilson: Yeah. And what's interesting, and I have been sharing this with people, at my installation. In this era to several boarding schools. So the tribes are wanting more access and more input than what they've been given, and came to my installation. And others and a friend of mine who came, who's also working on this with the Lutheran Church. And I told him, it's interesting to see how much influence a bishop has. Before, when I was just an assistant to the bishop for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, there are people who listen. But when you're a bishop, people really listen. And that’s hard to wrap my head around. I'm not saying that to be bragging about that, but just people know that you're representing in the Great Plains over 800 churches in two states, and they realize the influence that you have as a bishop.

And even when I first arrived,  a new governor was being reelected. And I said, well, I'd like to go to her interfaith service. And staff got me on there, I got to speak. And what was fun, by the time I finished later, people had said Bishop Wilson was there from the Great Plains and he talked about all the things that they're doing, and which was pretty cool to know. First of all, people knew who I was. Governor Kelly, who's there, also recognized that first indigenous bishop listed. But also what was the best part was to see how people know what The United Methodist Church is doing in the Great Plains Conference. That's pretty cool.

Crystal: That’s very cool. I know that feels good.

Bishop Wilson: It does. And I've been back twice and I see the same players. I said, I'm going to have fun with you folk, because I can see the work that you do around social justice, which is one of my passions around Micah 6:8. What does the Lord require us? But to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with God. All week, I’ve seen this everywhere I go and it's just a reinforcement of the people I get to serve with and work with, which is great.

Crystal: You said earlier that you just got back into the office. And you've been going around to Nebraska and Kansas meeting the people in the congregations that you're serving. What are you most hopeful for as you're going across the conference and meeting the different United Methodists that you're serving?

Bishop Wilson: Thank you. Yes, I, I've been on the road since Tuesday from one end of the state in Kansas to the other. And first of all, the excitement. There's so much excitement about what lies ahead. So much work, so much talk around disaffiliation. The Great Plains has done a good job of handling that so well. Folk have been very amiable folk, but folk are ready to put that behind us. Because as I said, we've got great work to do. We can do what we're called to do ministry and mission for the church and for God's people. And I've seen that excitement all across. People energized, ready to get after it. And they still are. It's not that this has stopped many, but just tired of hearing about this. And so after, you know, looking forward to just getting to meet more people and so much great ministry going everywhere.

I mean, I've heard so many stories of personal transformation. Look what local churches are doing. I was, for instance, when I was in Lawrence hearing local churches who were doing some great ministry. And then I got to visit local church where six to eight churches who come together to operate a thrift store in Kansas. Most United Methodists who run the show make about $30,000 a year, charging a quarter and 50 cents for clothing. And then at the very, very end, they give it all away to different agencies, including United Methodist Committee on Relief. And so you think about the power, what it  means for folk to work together. And one innate things, Crystal, about that, besides these great people running it. One of the churches who are with that group has a church that has disaffiliated, but they're still working with them.

So I just see we and the church can all still work together, and we're all, you know, common cause,  serving Christ and going out to transform the world. And last night got to meet an incredible group housed in one of our churches, helping lift people out of poverty. And so this project with where the folk who are living in poverty, they lead the discussions. I mean, who knows, who knows best how to get out of poverty and to understand poverty than those in poverty. Then they partnered them with two other folk from the middle class, and they worked together for 18 months to help get these folk in other places, not to construct and say, here's what you should do that did not do, but to coach them. And I got to meet some incredible woman who mastered this, who've been taken out poverty and who are now teaching, helping to lead other women and men.

I said, man, what an incredible model for ministry. And I share often, you know, one of the four foci of the church, Ministry of the Poor, and that's what The United Methodist Church does the worst. We don't know how to do that for a middle class, upper class denomination. We don't know how to work with the poor. And so what a wonderful model. I'm just still energized and hoping we can find ways to expand that and to model that. So those kinds of stories that I get to hear and to see, uh, just the continual lives being transformed from ministry. I met some folk at Church of the Resurrection. Some gentlemen been incarcerated for years and years and incarcerated unjustly and churches like Resurrection and others helped them through that part of that ministry. I thought, man, these are amazing stories makes me feel good . I have nothing to do with any of these, but I get to be a part of, connected with these ministries. And, that’s fun.

Crystal: It gives you a lot of hope, doesn't it?

Bishop Wilson: A lot of hope. It sure does. And there's more stories like that across this conference and across the church. I know it just, everything's been focused on disaffiliation. So I've really worked with media, our media to say, we’ve got to make sure this, I like these great stories. People need to hear them, and we need to share those stories. And that's just been amazing.

Crystal: Bishop Wilson, before we finish up today, there is one question that we always ask our guests on “Get Your Spirit in Shape.”  And that is, how do you get your own, how do you keep your own spirit in shape?

Bishop Wilson: Yeah, thank you. That's a great question. For years and years, that's probably been my biggest challenge in all my roles. That you get focused on ministry and there's always so much to be done that you sometimes overwork it. And I always knew when I got to a point when I was worn out to get sick and worn out. And I learned from that, finally. And the last many years, taking up physical routines of running, exercising.  Since I've moved, I haven't found groups that you work with in terms of running, working out, fitness groups. And that's been really fun. And, and the other piece too, Crystal, is the B L B L people who don't know me as a bishop. When I was with their group last night, they didn't, you know, I mentioned who I was, they could care less.

They didn't know what a bishop is there. So to find people who know me as David and not Bishop Wilson, who can act like they're going to act anywhere else, because the minute they find out you're a pastor or a bishop, it changes. And so I did my best to go incognito so people don't know me, so I can be who I am and that, and that's a healthy place for me to be at you. You sometimes always get pulled into ministry even in the midst of that, but that's rewarding. And to get to do racism work. I was visiting with Bishop Carlos Rapanut. He's a long distance runner. He moved from Alaska to Phoenix. I said, Carlos, so how have you adjusted to that running routine? And so we were talking about that and about the challenges and those are things that sustain us, because it sustains me physically and spiritually as well.

And then of course, the other thing, other place, Crystal, being around family and friends who know me well and can be yourself and who keep me humble, who remind me who I am. And then, of course, remaining connected to my culture. When I left my local church and had to go away, one of the women who had known me for years since college, said, “David, don’t forget you’re a Choctaw.” That’s my tribe. And I thought about that after I left and I thought, thank you. To remember who I am, where I come from, the culture of that helps define me and my ministry that I use often in terms of values. And, so those are things that sustain me in my life.

And of course my spiritual journey of prayer and spiritual disciplines. Scripture and listening to other people doing what they're doing in ministry, podcasts and hearing the different ways people understand scriptures and understand the relationship with God. So that feeds me. But you know, I really have to work hard at that. Because this job, even this job, it’s so easy to immerse yourself in that. I will have to be very intentional about working on that which is a challenge, but I’m getting there.

Crystal: That's a good reminder. I mean, we all have to make time, to make space and time for that Yes, it's very important.

Bishop Wilson: Yes. Yeah. And, people in Great Plains have asked me, how are you taking care of yourself? And so I appreciate that. Just yesterday, two people said, how are you taking care of yourself? And I appreciate for folks to ask me that.

Crystal: That's a loving question, isn't it?

Bishop Wilson: It is. It is rewarding. And so they want me to be in good shape and that made me feel good.

Crystal: Bishop Wilson, this has been such a delight to have you here. Thank you for being a guest on “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” Blessings to you as you go about and serve the people of the Great Plains Conference.

Bishop Wilson: Thank you, Crystal. It's good to see you again as well.

Crystal: Thank you.


That was Bishop David Wilson discussing his call to ministry and his journey to becoming the Native American elected to the role of bishop in The United Methodist Church. To learn more about Bishop Wilson and his ministry, go    to and look for this episode, where you will find helpful links and a transcript of our conversation. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at a special email address just for “Get Your Spirit in Shape” listeners, [email protected].

If you enjoyed today’s episode, we invite you to leave a review on the podcast platform where you listen.

Thank you so much for joining us for “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” I’m Crystal Caviness and I look forward to the next time that we are together.

Today's "Get Your Spirit in Shape" episode was sponsored by a new resource from the Upper Room and Discipleship Ministries titled "Safer Sanctuaries: Nurturing Trust within Faith Communities." This comprehensive resource continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedues. This resource contains theological grounding for the work of abuse prevention, basic guidelines for risk reduction, age-level specific guidance and step-by-step instructions on how to develop, revise, update and implement an abuse prevention plan. To learn more, go to or call 800-972-0433.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved