A College Station pastor will serve as a bishop for the United Methodist Church.
The Reverend Earl Bledsoe was elected to lead the North Texas Conference.
The 57-year-old, who has been a district superintendent in the Bryan area, is moving to Plano this week.
As bishop, Bledsoe will oversea 325 congregations.
He is the third consecutive black leader for the North Texas Conference.
The following is a press release from the North Texas Conference of the UMC:
The Rev. W. Earl Bledsoe of College Station, Texas, has been elected a bishop by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. Bledsoe, 57, an African-American pastor and superintendent of the Bryan/West District in the Texas Conference was elected July 17. Bishop Bledsoe was consecrated later in the morning July 19 at First United Methodist Church, Dallas. The service concluded the jurisdictional conference, which began July 16. The conference is held every four years with the primary purpose of electing and assigning bishops. Bishop is assigned to the North Texas Annual Conference (Dallas Area) and succeeds Bishop Alfred L. Norris, who retired in 2004, re-entered active service following the 2006 death of North Texas Conference Bishop Rhymes Moncure Jr.
Bledsoe becomes one of 11 active bishops serving one of the Episcopal areas of the 15 annual conferences that make up the eight-state jurisdiction. The South Central Jurisdiction is home to 1.8 million United Methodists in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. A United Methodist bishop is elected for life and, although eight years is the standard term for a bishop to serve in an Episcopal area, it is not unusual for a bishop to be assigned to one area for 12 years for "missional reasons." Bishops are charged by the church's Book of Discipline to "guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline of the church" and "lead all persons entrusted to their oversight in worship, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in their mission of witness and service in the world." They are also charged "to be prophetic voices and courageous leaders in the cause of justice for all people." A champion of evangelism and church growth, Bledsoe said his philosophy is that "the church is either growing or dying, and if it is standing still, it is dying." In a briefing after his election, he said the connectional system, the diversity of theological thought and differences of opinion are what he views as hopeful about The United Methodist Church. "We are a church that allows people to develop their faith and grow in their faith experience," he said.
Bishop Bledsoe received his BA in 1982 from West Texas State University, Canyon, Master of Divinity, Perkins School of Theology (1985), and Doctor of Ministry, Drew University, Madison, NJ (1991).
He served as district superintendent of the Bryan/West District 2002-2008, pastor of Spring Woods UMC, Houston, 2000-2002, pastor, Cypress UMC, 1993-2000, director of Teaching Ministries-Texas Conference 1990-1993, senior associate pastor, Bear Creek UMC, Houston 1986-1990, pastor, Hanham Methodist Church, Hanham Bristol England 1985-1986, part time assistant pastor, St. Andrews UMC, Ft. Worth, 1981-1985, and part time local pastor of Wyatt Memorial UMC, Amarillo and Anahuac Circuit, Anahuac, Texas 1974-1981.
Bishop Bledsoe was a jurisdictional member of the Connectional Table 2004-2008, Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee representative 2004, and General Conference delegate 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. Previously, he was chair of the Conference Board of Ministry, president of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, chair of the Houston Board of Missions Revitalization Committee, chair, Texas Methodist Foundation Board, chair, Gulfside Long Range Planning Team, and dean of the Cabinet. Additionally, he was a member of the Boards of Trustees of the Methodist Hospital System, Lon Morris College, and Methodist Retirement Services, and a member of the UNCF Campaign Committee as well as a Supreme Court appointee to the Access to Equal Justice Board.
Bishop Bledsoe is married to Leslie Jean (Bray) of Port Arthur, Texas, and they have six adult children. The youngest, Letitia Gail, will attend The University of Texas at Arlington in the fall and Leslie is a LSW. She is totally blind.