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Retired Bishop John Russell dies

Archive file photo of Bishop John Russell courtesy of UM News.
Archive file photo of Bishop John Russell courtesy of UM News.

Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Retired Bishop John Russell dies

Bishop John Russell, a retired bishop of The United Methodist Church, died on Friday, September 2, 2022, at the Reunion Court of the Woodlands, Texas. He was 96.

“We give thanks to God for the special calling placed upon Bishop Russell’s life and are grateful for the ways in which his ministry was a blessing to many. We extend our sincere thoughts and prayers to Bishop Russell’s family and friends in the midst of their loss,” said Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the Council of Bishops.

Bishop Russell was elected to the episcopacy at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in 1980 and he was assigned to the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. In 1988 he was assigned to the Fort Worth Area where he served until his retirement in 1992.

John Russell was born in Abilene, Texas. He did his college work at Oklahoma City University (B.A.); his alma mater honored him with a D.D. degree in 1968 and a distinguished alumnus award in 1980, where he was Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He holds a L.H.D. from Texas Wesleyan College (1987).

He was ordained deacon and elder by Bishop W. Angie Smith, and became a full member of the Oklahoma Annual Conference after graduation from Perkins School of Theology. He did additional study at the Graduate Seminary at Phillips University where he also taught United Methodist polity.

After serving relatively smaller churches, Dr. Russell spent twenty years as pastor of some of United Methodism's largest congregations (Village Church, Oklahoma City; First Church, Enid; Boston Avenue, Tulsa), with an interim appointment as District Superintendent of the Tulsa District.

He was a delegate to the General Conferences of 1976 and 1980 and to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of 1972. He was active in conference affairs, serving as Chairman of the Board of Ordained Ministry, as well as civic organizations. He gave the Britt Lectures in Honolulu in 1980. He was a member of the General Council on Finance and Administration; Board of Trustees, Southern Methodist University, and is on some boards at other institutions.

John and Mary Jean were married for 71 years, ending only upon Mary Jean's death the day after their anniversary in 2018. The union was blessed with three children: Mary Margaret, Deborah Ann and John Garrett.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Virgel and Louise, his wife Mary Jean and their son John Garrett Russell, and a brother Wylie H. Russell.

He is survived by a sister, Louise Ann Russell of Colorado; daughters Mary Margaret Layton and her husband Bill of The Woodlands, Texas; Deborah Ann Cordaro, and her husband Louis, of Shreveport, Louisiana; granddaughters Melissa Kathleen Layton of Bryan, Texas, and Meredith Marie Layton and her husband James Mason, and their son, John's great grandson, William Osborne Mason, all of Clear Lake City, Texas; and his adopted grandson, William Russell Layton (and his children Jessica and Joseph) of Arlington, Virginia.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at the First United Methodist Church located at 800 W. 5th St., Fort Worth, Texas. Burial will follow in the Oakridge Section of the Greenwood Memorial Park Cemetery located at 3100 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations be given to the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, or the charity of your choice, in memory of John William Russell.



Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
110 Maryland Ave. NE  # 301
Washington , D.C. 20002
(202) 748-5172 
[email protected] 


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