Remembering United Methodists of note


United Methodists over the past 12 months have marked the passing of a scholar who blazed the trail for women of color, a maestro of United Methodist hymns, an influential president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and a country music radio innovator dubbed the “Mayor of Music Row.”

Here are 29 remembrances, listed in order of date of death. This list includes one death from late 2022.

Charlie Monk

Fans of country music radio stations — and the artists those stations have popularized — have reason to be grateful for Charlie Monk.

Monk, a Hall of Fame radio personality, co-founded the popular Country Radio Seminar that helped country stations compete with their Top 40 rivals and helped launch multiple country-music careers. He also was a faithful member of Calvary United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, which he attended with his wife of 63 years and where he routinely invited his friends in country music to join him at Sunday school.  

Monk died Dec. 19, 2022, at his Nashville home. He was 84.

He grew up poor in the small town of Geneva, Alabama, listening to Frank Sinatra and what was then called hillbilly music. While in high school, he got his first radio job — cleaning up a local station for $5 a week.

In 1968, he and his wife, Royce, moved to the Nashville suburb of Murfreesboro, where he worked for one of Tennessee’s first country-format stations. He hosted a live radio show and also worked as a song publisher, helping Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney get their first writing and record deals.

Around 1969, he joined fellow radio man Tom McEntee in starting the Country Radio Seminar. The seminar is now a weeklong convention that draws about 2,000 people and showcases artists all over Nashville.

During his long career, the man who grew up a fan of country music earned plenty of fans among country music stars, including Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift.

Monk — who became known as the “Mayor of Music Row” — supported many big-name artists long before their name was known to many others. He served on the Country Music Association board. He also was a board member of the Gospel Music Association, which he worked to grow from its white Southern gospel roots to include Black gospel and Christian contemporary artists.

That commitment to embracing a broader range of gospel music was in keeping with Monk’s expansive Christian faith, said his longtime friend and fellow Calvary United Methodist member Dave Nichols.

“One of Charlie’s great gifts was that he was an encourager,” said Nichols, recalling that Monk encouraged budding musicians and busy church staff members alike.

“He was very Christ-centered in his faith,” Nichols added. “Everything else he saw through that lens.”

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree

The Rev. Thomas Warren Ogletree, a United Methodist theologian, veteran of the U.S. civil rights movement and retired elder in the New York Conference, died Jan. 4 at age 89.

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While still an undergraduate at Birmingham Southern University in Alabama, he served as founding pastor of Vestavia Hills Methodist Church. He went on to earn his master’s degree at what is now Garrett-Evangelical United Methodist Seminary, where he became friends with the late Rev. James H. Cone, a leading voice in Black liberation theology.

As a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Ogletree became involved in the sit-in movement under the leadership of fellow student and eventual United Methodist pastor the Rev. James Lawson.

Ogletree went on to become a noted scholar of Christian ethics. He served on the committee that drafted the statement “Our Theological Task” in the Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church’s policy book. He eventually was dean of Drew University Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, a United Methodist seminary, and later dean of Yale Divinity School.

He made national headlines after officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son, Tom Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad, in defiance of church law. A just resolution was reached in the complaint against Ogletree in 2014, avoiding a church trial. He is survived by his wife, the Rev. Mary-Lynn Ogletree, his five children and their spouses, and six grandchildren.

“We in the Drew Theological School community are deeply saddened at the passing of Dr. Ogletree,” the Rev. Edwin David Aponte, the school’s dean, said in a statement.

“As one of his successors as dean of the Theological School, I can confidently say that we all still benefit from the accomplishments of his vision and faithful leadership in the church, theological education, and the work of social justice. We at Drew will continue to build upon Dr. Ogletree’s legacy.”

The Rev. Joel Mora Peña

The Rev. Joel Mora Peña was a groundbreaking bishop in the Methodist Church of Mexico. He served from 1974 to 1982 and became the first Methodist bishop to provide focused leadership in the northern area of his country. 

Term limited as an episcopal leader in Mexico, and still in middle age, he immigrated to the United States and spent many years leading churches in what was then the Rio Grande Conference of The United Methodist Church. That ministry trajectory was then — and remains — unique.

Mora Peña died Jan. 3 at age 88 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

As bishop, Mora Peña had a key role in the founding of Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley (John Wesley Seminary) in Monterrey and worked to ease tensions between Mexican Methodists who were charismatic in their worship and those who were more traditional.

Mora Peña would go on to lead United Methodist churches in the Texas cities of El Paso, Brownsville, Laredo and Houston. Even after he officially retired in 2004, he continued to serve Rio Grande Conference churches for another decade. The conference included all Hispanic congregations in Texas and New Mexico. (The Rio Grande and Southwest Texas conferences became the Rio Texas Conference in 2015.)

“I knew him to be a beloved pastor everywhere he served,” said retired United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez, who was Mora Peña’s brother-in-law. “And he was a winsome preacher. People enjoyed his preaching very much.”

Betty Thompson

The ecumenical movement of the mid-20th century helped chart a path for Betty Thompson and she, in turn, helped tell the story of Christianity’s impact on the world. Along the way, she set high standards for journalistic integrity in religious communications and championed young talent, often acting as a mentor.

Thompson died Feb. 1 in New York City, a few days before her 97th birthday.

After moving to New York in 1950, she worked first in the Methodist Board of Missions’ news office for five years, then joined the Geneva office of the World Council of Churches as an information officer. In 1956, she returned to New York as the WCC’s public relations director.

She went on to lead the publishing operations for what soon became the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, then moved to the mission education and cultivation department, overseeing New World Outlook and Response magazines along with designated-giving programs. From 1987 to her retirement in 1994, she was the mission agency’s public relations director and chief spokesperson.

The United Methodist Association of Communicators recognized Thompson’s contributions by naming her as Communicator of the Year in 1994 and a member of the association’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Many of us considered her the ‘go-to’ person for counsel and information regarding the connection,” said Tom McAnally, retired director of  United Methodist News Service. “Her knowledge of the global church was matched by wisdom and good humor.”

Dr. Bernhard T. Mittemeyer

Dr. Bernhard T. Mittemeyer served as the highest-ranking physician in the U.S. Army during the Reagan administration and later played a crucial role as an advocate for veterans around Lubbock, Texas. He also was a faithful member of Lubbock’s First United Methodist Church.

Mittemeyer, who went by “Bernie,” died Jan. 25 at age 92.

He was born to missionaries in the South American country of Suriname, and with his family, he immigrated to the United States to escape Germany’s incursions during World War II. He felt fierce loyalty to the U.S. for its role in defeating the Nazis.

In 1957, he began his service as a medical officer in the U.S. Army. Among multiple honors, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star with V Device for Valor. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, a role he held until his retirement =as a lieutenant general in 1985.

After his service, Mittemeyer came to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. There, he served as a surgery professor and the first executive vice president and provost of the medical school. He also helped establish what is now the school’s Department of Urology. In 2009, the school named a urology clinic after him.

Crucially, he was among four physicians who served on a board to improve veterans’ health care in the Lubbock area. That work led, in part, to a new Veterans Affairs facility in a more accessible location.

The Rev. Todd Salzwedel, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, said Mittemeyer lived his faith out loud and sought to be a good steward of his God-given gifts.   

“Part of the reason he was such an amazing leader is he built up relationships,” Salzwedel said. “People followed him not because of rank and not because of position. … They followed him because of the amazing sense of integrity and character that he had.”

Socorro M. Granadosin

Socorro Mella Granadosin, wife of the late Philippines Bishop Paul Locke Granadosin, never held an official leadership position in The United Methodist Church.

But she dedicated all her energy to building up Christian community — often with a radiant smile, said longtime friend and retired Bishop Emerito Nacpil.

Granadosin, known to many as “Mommy G,” died on March 14 at the age of 97. Her husband died in 2001.

She met her future husband when the two were students at Union Theological Seminary, the oldest Protestant seminary in the Philippines. She was studying Christian education and he was studying theology. Nacpil, who was a year behind them at school, said he could see romance blossoming between the two.

The Granadosins married shortly after graduation. She became a deaconess and he a pastor.

She joined her husband as his ministry took him from Manila to the Baguio Area in the north and the Davao Area in the south. Her husband was elected a bishop in 1968, and at one point, because of a vacancy in Manila, served as bishop of the entire country. She and her husband also raised six sons, three of whom also became pastors.

She had a talent for singing, which she used to promote church music. She taught her sons to sing as well.

“She served as a witness,” Nacpil said during a Council of Bishops memorial service, “giving witness to Jesus Christ in all the roles that she played so effectively.”

Syble Spain

Syble Spain — partner in ministry with the late Bishop Robert H. “Bob” Spain during 74 years of marriage — died April 1 at age 96. It was less than a year after her husband’s passing.  

Born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, she attended what was then Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee. She played on the college’s winning basketball team, prepared to become a high school teacher and eventually married her husband, who at the time was preparing to become a physician. Life took the couple in a different direction.

After she married the future United Methodist bishop in 1948, she joined him in ministering wherever he was appointed in what was then the Tennessee Conference. Her husband’s first appointment was to a charge that encompassed five congregations.

They served at multiple churches in Tennessee, included Brentwood United Methodist Church, where they would return in retirement. After her husband’s election as bishop, she also served alongside him in Kentucky and South Carolina.

She was active in the women’s groups of each church, serving in numerous activities and projects to better the community and mission of the church. She also was an active participant in various groups including United Methodist Women, community garden clubs and The Questers, an organization focused on antiques and historic preservation. She later managed a small business of estate sales to help others with the transitions of life and moving.

“Even though she thought she was marrying a physician, she honored his call and supported his ministry,” retired Bishop Joseph E. Pennel Jr. said during a Council of Bishops memorial service. “Sybil loved the congregations where they served, and she was very supportive.”

Pennel also noted her skill as an antique collector. “She was known for being able to collect the right antique for the right occasion in people’s lives.”

Innocent P. Afful

Innocent P. Afful, a missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries serving in Kinshasa, Congo, died April 17 at age 49 of an unknown cause.

Friends and colleagues say he had a passion for social ministry and a welcoming spirit. They especially credit Afful for being a light for vulnerable children.

Afful grew up Methodist in the West African country of Ghana. After studying in institutions in Ghana and Sierra Leone, he served as a United Methodist Missioner of Hope from 1999 to 2013 and worked for the James One 27 Vocational Training Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit corporation, in Mumford, Ghana.

Since 2014, he had worked with the Churches of Christ in Congo, an ecumenical group council representing 74 member denominations. His work was focused especially on supporting children orphaned or threatened by civil conflict. 

Afful worked with 15 orphanages and four vocational training centers that teach skills such as soap making and sewing to orphans and disadvantaged children in Kinshasa. Every Saturday morning, he hosted “30 Minutes with the Orphans,” a Lokole Methodist Radio program dedicated to lifting up the cause of vulnerable children.

Bishop Daniel Lunge of Central Congo said Afful proved he was in the mission to serve God.

“The orphans are mourning Afful. Mothers are mourning Afful. The United Methodist Church in Congo, especially Kinshasa, is mourning him,” Lunge said. “We will treasure our memories of him and pray that his soul rests in peace.”

The Rev. Karen Y. Collier

The Rev. Karen Y. Collier was the first United Methodist clergywoman of color to earn a Ph.D. She earned her degree in church history from United Methodist-related Duke University in 1984.

But even as she became an authority on the church’s past, she helped The United Methodist Church chart a more diverse future.

She died May 5 at age 73 in her Nashville, Tennessee, home.

Collier grew up in Nashville attending Clark Memorial United Methodist Church, where she eventually answered her own call to ordained ministry. She became one of the first Black women pastors in Middle Tennessee and one of the first women of color to work as an editor of the United Methodist Publishing House.

She also mentored other aspiring church leaders and academicians, helping to get the Women of Color Scholars program off the ground. The program, administered by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, provides scholarships and mentoring to Black, Indigenous and other women of color pursuing doctorates. Today, the program has 55 graduates serving as United Methodist pastors, professors and university administrators around the globe.

Collier eventually served as associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Religious and Philosophical Studies at Fisk University in Nashville. She also was an executive board member of the World Methodist Council; chair of the Wesley Foundation at Tennessee State University; and a board member of the African American Methodist Heritage Center.

“Karen had a love for the church that was, nonetheless, anchored in her experiences in challenging systemic racism and sexism that are uniquely difficult for those who are ‘firsts,’” wrote Garlinda Burton, Collier’s longtime friend and veteran United Methodist agency executive, in a tribute

“Karen also made me know and cherish her heroes in faith and pop culture.”

Zoe Wilson

When Zoe Anna Wilson learned that the man she would marry wanted to become a minister, she said her first response was: “You must be kidding.” She recounted that she thought clergy were people of little humor and no fun.

But that assumption did not describe her relationship with United Methodist Bishop Joe Wilson, with whom she shared more than 60 years of marriage. She accompanied him throughout his 30 years as a Texas Conference pastor and then eight years as bishop of the Central Texas Conference.

But she did not let her role as a clergy spouse define her. Instead, she found her own ministry in each setting where she and her husband served. Wilson died May 8 at the age of 87.

She grew up in Marshall, Texas, and met her future husband when they were both students at United Methodist-related Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. After graduation, she taught elementary school for a year in Georgetown before joining her husband as he attended seminary at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.

As her husband’s career progressed, she engaged in ecumenical ministries. She also became a respected advocate for children. She initiated a drive for United Methodist global outreach that resulted in 4,000 tennis shoes for children. She was honored by a scholarship that helped care for children before and after school in Fort Worth.

Her husband affectionately described her “Carrie Nation” spirit in confronting a grocery chain for displaying questionable magazines where children could see them. She was ultimately successful in helping the chain “see the light.”

“Zoe was strong and a dignified leader,” said her friend, retired Bishop Janice Huie. “She also had a beautiful smile that drew in friends even before they knew her. She was courageous and deeply grounded in faith in Christ.”

The Rev. Carlton “Sam” Young

If all the Rev. Carlton R. “Sam” Young had ever done was edit The United Methodist Hymnal, he’d have a secure place in United Methodist history.

But United Methodism’s maestro did so much more.

Young died May 21 at the VA Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 97.

Born on April 25, 1926, in Hamilton, Ohio, Young was such a large baby that his family nicknamed him “Samson,” which turned into “Sammy” and finally “Sam.” Young started piano lessons at age 6 and went on to learn brass instruments and string bass. He became a jazz lover and played in jazz combos himself. Some of his church music would include jazz touches. 

A pastor friend influenced Young’s decision to become an ordained Methodist elder, but with a focus on church music. He would serve local churches as music minister early in his career, but soon became a multifaceted contributor to the denomination.

He taught church music at Perkins, the Candler School of Theology and Scarritt College, mentoring a generation of United Methodist music ministers.

Young directed the music for nine General Conferences, including the 1968 Uniting Conference in Dallas that officially formed The United Methodist Church. From 1980 to 1990, he led the United Methodist Youth Chorale in international concert tours. 

He composed more than 200 choral and organ compositions for the church and wrote nearly 50 hymn tunes. Some, such as “Star-Child,” text by Shirley Erena Murray, and “This Is a Day of New Beginnings,” text by Brian Wren, remain popular choices for church choirs.

Though more prominent in the 20th century, Young remained productive until near the very end, and in 2022, published a memoir that attested to his sharpness and wit. He titled the book “I’ll Sing On: My First 96 years.”

“Young was the undisputed dean of Protestant mainline church music at the end of the 20th century as a church musician, composer, educator, hymnal editor, choral conductor and mentor,” said C. Michael Hawn, professor emeritus of church music at Perkins School of Theology.

Bishop Jack Meadors

Friends remember Bishop Marshall L. “Jack” Meadors Jr. as a compassionate leader and dedicated activist on such issues as fighting child poverty, promoting women’s rights and working for peace.

The retired bishop died May 25 at age 90 in his native South Carolina.

Meadors, ordained as an elder in 1958, served churches in South Carolina before being elected bishop in 1992. He led the Mississippi Conference until 2000. While bishop, he also was president of the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, a group of religious leaders who promoted tolerance and understanding.

Meadors’ peacemaking extended to serving on a delegation of religious leaders led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson that secured the release of three captured U.S. Army soldiers from Yugoslavia in 1999. The soldiers were captured during a peacekeeping patrol along the Yugoslav-Macedonian border.

For the denomination, he was a director for both the Commission on the Status and Role of Women and Board of Church and Society and chaired the Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty from 1995 to 2000. 

He remained active for years after retirement, serving as the bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta; a trustee of United Methodist-related Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina; and a trustee emeritus of Emory.

Meadors was elected twice to the Anderson County District 5 School Board and was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley to two state bodies regarding aging.

“He was a mentor who modeled grace and generosity to all persons, especially children and those on the margins,” said Bishop William T. McAlilly, who leads the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference and was a pastor in Mississippi under Meadors’ leadership.

“The world is a better place because Jack walked this way,” McAlilly added. “I rarely make a decision of consequence without asking the question, ‘What would Bishop Meadors do?’”

Edward William Stack

Edward William Stack hardly ever missed a Sunday at the United Methodist Church of Sea Cliff, where he was a lifelong member. 

But during the workweek, he spent much of his career tending to what many sports fans consider to be sacred ground — the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Stack died June 4 at age 88.

Stack grew up in Sea Cliff on New York’s Long Island. At age 14, he was stricken with polio — which proved to be a defining event in his life. He spent nearly a year in St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York, where he happily helped the nuns on staff with their secretarial work. He wrote letters to national figures, urging them to reach out and communicate with the children in the hospital. As a teen, he also was president of his church’s Methodist Youth Fellowship. His teen experiences began his commitment to service.

After graduating from Pace University, he began working as an accountant for The Clark Estates in New York City. There, he helped manage the finances for the Clark family of Cooperstown and the charitable and nonprofit organizations affiliated with the Clark Foundation, including the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was first elected to the hall of fame’s board in 1961 and served as board president from 1977 to 2000. During his tenure, the hall inducted such legendary players as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson. Stack also was responsible for instituting the eligibility rule that prevents Pete Rose from joining the hall’s inductees. Rose had the most career hits in baseball history. But he also bet on baseball games including his own team — leading to his permanent ban from the sport.

Stack would remain with Clarks Estates for his entire 44-year career, retiring in 2000 as president and director. He also volunteered with a number of charitable and civic organizations, including as a board member of the United Methodist City Society.

The Rev. Miyeong Kang, the Sea Cliff congregation’s pastor, called him a model for laity, and other church members agreed.

“When it came to our church, there was no more faithful member than Ed Stack,” said Sarah Halliday, a fellow member of Sea Cliff United Methodist who has known Stack and his wife, Christina, for 54 years. “He was always there.”

Etta Mae Mutti

Etta Mae Mutti, the wife of retired Bishop Albert Frederick “Fritz” Mutti, raised three sons and, as her husband put it, she loved them more than her own life.

Yet she and her husband confronted what many parents consider their worst nightmare: watching all three of their children precede them in death. The couple’s oldest son, Tim, died of AIDS in December 1990; their middle son, Fred, died of the disease in September 1991. Their youngest son, Marty, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2018.

Both Muttis worked through their pain to help others, especially in fighting AIDS around the globe and championing LGBTQ inclusion in their beloved United Methodist Church. Etta Mae Mutti died June 7 after a long illness. She was 84. 

She grew up on a farm outside Hopkins, Missouri, and attended the same high school as her future husband. She went on to attend Northwest Missouri State, and the two married in 1959.

As her husband followed his call, she took on a variety of roles, which included taking care of children, serving as a church secretary and preparing church dinners. She won a “Cook of the Week” award. She also supported her husband when he was elected bishop in 1992, shortly after the loss of two of their sons. The bishop served conferences in Kansas, now part of the Great Plains Conference, until his retirement in 2004.

Even as she mourned her sons’ passing, she took on a new role working for the eradication of AIDS and the stigma attached to the disease. She created an AIDS Quilt block for Tim and Fred; she served as board member of AIDS National Interfaith Network; and with her husband, she co-chaired the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. The Muttis wrote a book about their experiences, titled “Dancing in a Wheelchair: One Family Faces HIV/AIDS.”

“Their lives are a study in courage,” retired Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson said of the Muttis. “Read their book, and there is not an angry sentence in it. They kept walking and serving faithfully.”

The Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda

Year after year, the Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda traveled across Latin America and beyond for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, encouraging mission work and tending relationships with various Methodist groups.

He also nurtured the faith and ministry of Spanish-speaking United Methodists in the U.S., and he became a go-to authority on the history of Methodism in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.

Avitia died from a heart attack at age 62 on June 27 in El Paso, Texas.

Avitia grew up a Methodist in Chihuahua City, Mexico. He immigrated to the United States in December 1983, soon after marrying Giuseppina Lauretano, a fellow student at a college in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Texas in El Paso and earned a Master of Divinity degree at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

Avitia was ordained in the largely Spanish-speaking Rio Grande Conference (now part of the Rio Texas Conference) and there led local churches and served as chaplain at Lydia Patterson Institute, the United Methodist school in El Paso. He also did a stint as superintendent of the Rio Grande Conference’s Southern District.

In 2001, Avitia began his 22-year career with Global Ministries. He led the agency’s Global Mission Relationships unit, a role that included being regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. Avitia also was active in MARCHA, the Hispanic/Latino caucus within The United Methodist Church, and he taught in the Spanish-language Course of Study program at Perkins.

“Edgar had a remarkably keen understanding of the links between local and global Christian mission,” said Roland Fernandes, Global Ministries’ chief executive, in a statement.

Fernandes added that the mission agency “heavily depended on his experience and vision.”

Roy Herron

Roy B. Herron urged people to use whatever they had, with God’s help, to aid others. Friends say helping others was what the longtime Tennessee state lawmaker and attorney, who also had trained as a United Methodist pastor, tried to do throughout his life. He did so energetically, getting up at 4 a.m. most mornings.

Herron died July 9 in Nashville, Tennessee, from injuries sustained in a jet ski accident. He was 69.

Herron lived most of his life in Dresden in western Tennessee. He also was a member of Dresden First United Methodist Church. When a tornado devastated the town and demolished the church two years ago, Herron led the way in fundraising to restore the community.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee at Martin, Herron was one of the first students to earn joint degrees in divinity and law from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. His wife, the Rev. Nancy Carol Miller-Herron, was a fellow joint law-divinity school graduate and like him combined a career in The United Methodist Church and the legal profession.

Roy Herron worked as a part-time United Methodist pastor and was ordained a deacon — the equivalent of what today is a provisional member. However, his work as an attorney took him in a different direction and he found another way to help his community.

He served a combined 26 years in the state’s House and Senate, where he became floor leader and caucus chair for the Democrats. As a legislator, he focused on healthcare, public education, consumer protection and victims’ rights. He was instrumental in getting the state to ban smoking in public areas. He never missed a day of session, except for when his youngest of three sons was born, according to his website.

He also chaired the state Democratic Party from 2013 to 2015.  In addition, Herron wrote books, including “God and Politics: How Can a Christian Be in Politics?”

When he died, condolences poured in from politicians across the partisan divide. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore spoke at Herron’s funeral and got choked up as he read from a benediction Herron himself had written.

Policymaking frequently requires making compromise with fellow politicians — something that wasn’t easy for Herron but that he did in hopes of serving the greater good.

“He believed in the work of justice as a faithful, holy enterprise,” said the Rev. Greg Waldrop, retired United Methodist pastor and his longtime friend. Waldrop delivered the eulogy at Herron’s funeral. “He viewed his work in the legislature as a work of justice.”

Kiyoko Kasai Fujiu

Kiyoko Kasai Fujiu, former top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, died June 27 at age 98.

She was the first Asian American woman to hold the position of general secretary in The United Methodist Church. She also was an advocate for full participation for women and people of color in The United Methodist Church and beyond.

She was born in San Francisco and lived in Nihon-machi (Japanese Town), until the age of 5. Her family then lived in Redwood City, a predominantly white suburb until they and more than 120,000 other people were forced into U.S. internment camps during World War II.

Fujiu was released in fall 1942 to attend college in Chicago at the Baptist Missionary Training School. Her parents and younger sister were incarcerated in the Topaz camp until they were released in 1945. Her and her family’s experience influenced her lifelong commitment to social justice.

Alongside her late husband, the Rev. Victor Fujiu, she played a pivotal role in uniting the Asian American community within the church in the 1980s. Her husband of more than 40 years supported her volunteer and professional work. At his invitation, she attended a meeting of Asian Americans that led to her becoming one of the founders and initial officers of what is now the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists. She also was instrumental in starting the Asian American campus ministry at United Methodist-related Boston University.

As the first Asian Americans to serve cross-cultural appointments in The United Methodist Church, the Fujius worked to make sure they would not be the last and encouraged other ethnic-minority pastors.

Starting in 1977, Kiyoko Fujiu served for 14 years as one of a three-person executive secretariat of the Status and Role of Women agency. After that, she became a partner in a consulting firm, New Dynamics, that focused on increasing diversity and power equity in organizations.

“God has taken a beautiful soul, a trailblazer who paved the way for many Asian American United Methodist leaders, a champion of gender and racial justice, a mentor to numerous young pastors and a faithful servant of God,” wrote one of the clergy she encouraged, the Rev. Chongho James Kim. He is the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Flushing, New York.

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar’s last name means “follower of God.” Through his faithful discipleship and humble leadership, fellow United Methodists say the aptly named bishop helped them to more closely follow God, too.

His sudden passing on July 18 at the age of 72 led to an outpouring of grief from people across the United Methodist connection.

The denomination’s first Indian American bishop, whom friends called “Suda,” had just retired on Jan. 1 after nearly 20 years as an active bishop — first in the Greater New Jersey Conference in 2004-2012 and then in the New England Conference until this year. He had moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be near his grandchildren.

But he was still serving as chair of the denomination’s Asian American Language Ministry Plan, which works to develop new United Methodist ministries and strengthen existing ones among more than a dozen language groups. He also was set to become bishop in residence at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey.

Throughout his ministry, he supported the denomination’s work for Christian unity and interreligious dialogue. Friends say Devadhar’s ability to connect with other faiths and denominations was likely shaped by his upbringing in a family of clergy members of the Church of South India — itself a union of various Protestants including Methodists.

He maintained Christian-Hindu dialogue throughout his life. He also championed LGBTQ inclusion. And he always made time for prayer.

“He was a beautiful human being who saw the divinity in everyone,” said the Rev. Wanda Santos-Pérez, whom Devadhar appointed as Seacoast District superintendent in the New England Conference before his retirement.

“You knew you were seen when this man looked at you. He was the incarnation of humility, grace and generosity.”

Dede Weldon Casad

Dede Weldon Casad said she decided to earn a Ph.D. after renowned scholar of Methodism Albert C. Outler told her she didn’t have the mind for it.

“He was right. I don’t have the mind for it, but I did it anyway,” Casad wrote in her memoirs. “I don’t have a Ph.D. mind; I have a Ph.D. determination.”

Casad earned her doctoral degree when she was 73. Her tenacity and lifelong love of learning inspired many fellow United Methodists, including her daughter-in-law Mary Brooke Casad who wrote a tribute to her.

The elder Casad died July 23 at age 94.

The Henderson, Texas, native felt called to ministry at a young age. At age 16, she earned her license to preach. But ordination was not in her future. While attending Southern Methodist University, she met and fell in love with seminary student Gordon Casad. They married in 1949, and she settled into the ministry of a preacher’s wife — a role that she wrote about in her master’s thesis and that she held until her husband’s death in 1989.

The mother of three was always brimming with ideas. A prolific writer herself, Casad suggested to Mary Brooke the idea for a series of children’s books about an armadillo traveling to Texas historical sites. She then helped her daughter-in-law publish the now-popular Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series.

She started three businesses, served on various boards and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Congress. She was a two-time cancer survivor. She also survived the largest condominium fire in Dallas history, losing all her material possessions. Despite these setbacks, she kept pushing forward to new beginnings. 

At age 81, she got married again — to Lt. Col. Charles “Chuck” Walker. They enjoyed five years together before his death in 2014. At age 87, she launched a senior adult ministry at University Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. In the final weeks of her life, she was preparing a presentation for the ministry.

“Although we mourn her passing,” Mary Brook Casad wrote, “we give thanks for her long, well-lived life, her rich legacy of love and faithful service, and are confident that she is ‘forever beginning’ again in God’s eternal home.”

Bishop Melvin G. Talbert

From humble beginnings as one of seven children born to sharecropper parents in rural Louisiana, retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert took his ministry of justice and love for all people around the globe. He died Aug. 3 at the age of 89.

Talbert was elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church by the Western Jurisdiction. He served as episcopal leader for the Pacific Northwest Conference from 1980 to 1988 and then was assigned to the California-Nevada Conference, where he retired in 2000. Talbert also served as secretary for the Council of Bishops from 1988 to 1996 and later as the council’s chief ecumenical officer from 2000 to 2004.

One pivotal moment in Talbert’s life was meeting and spending three days and three nights in a jail cell with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960 when Talbert was a seminary student at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Talbert focused much of his ministry on fighting racism and discrimination against LGBTQ people. After his retirement, he became the first United Methodist bishop to officiate at a same-sex wedding, which was held in Alabama in 2013.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops requested a complaint be filed against him. A resolution was reached two years later and Talbert did not face a church trial or loss of his clergy credentials.

“I give thanks for his commitment to a fully inclusive church that was expressed by his pastoral acts and prophetic voice,” said Mountain Sky Conference Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop. She previously served in the California-Nevada Conference under Talbert’s leadership.

“Our church and my life and ministry are richer because of his presence.”

The Rev. Julio Andre Vilanculos

The Rev. Julio Andre Vilanculos, an influential leader across the church in Africa and United Methodist higher education, died Oct. 5 at age 53 after a prolonged illness. His survivors include his wife, Madalena Anibal, and three daughters.

Vilanculos was vice president of the Association of African Methodist Institutions of Higher Education and the founding vice chancellor of the United Methodist University of Mozambique — essentially the same as a founding university president in the U.S. The university in Morrumbene, approximately 400 miles northeast of Mozambique’s capital of Maputo, offers students education in theology, computer engineering, management and administration and in becoming educators themselves. After the university opened in 2017, Vilanculos said the university offered a “double blessing of academic and spiritual growth” in one place.

Vilanculos influenced The United Methodist Church in other ways. He was a member of the Christmas Covenant Central Conference Outreach Team, championing a proposal coming to the 2024 General Conference that aims to put the different regions of the denomination on equal footing. He also was an adviser to the United Methodist Africa Forum, a new advocacy group that promotes both unity in the church and regionalization as a way of preserving it.

Vilanculos joined the ministry in the 1990s and served multiple leadership positions at United Methodist churches within his home country of Mozambique. He studied theology at Africa University, the pan-Africa United Methodist university in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

He was  a lecturer at Cambine Theological Seminary in Mozambique, then director of the seminary in 2010. Mozambique Area Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala appointed him to lead the new United Methodist University. He worked closely with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. He also was a leader of the denomination’s Central Conference Theological Education Fund, supporting United Methodist education in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

João Filimone Sambo, assistant to the bishop in Mozambique and Africa Lusophone correspondent for UM News, studied at Africa University alongside Vilanculos. He described his friend as hardworking and humble.

“He was a man committed to Christ and to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Sambo said.

Bishop Thomas Stockton

Bishop Thomas B. Stockton’s favorite Bible verse was John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Friends say that spirit of abundant joy encapsulated his life.

Stockton served as pastor at several United Methodist churches in North Carolina before being elected to the episcopacy in 1988. He was assigned as a bishop to the Virginia Conference, where he served until his retirement in 1996. After that, he served as bishop in residence at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, where he also taught.

He died Oct. 18 at age 93. He was living in Arbor Acres, a United Methodist retirement community in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Stockton was born in Winston-Salem, 15 minutes after his twin brother, Richard Stockton. He graduated from Davidson College and Duke Divinity School and also studied at Cambridge University. Richard Stockton pursued a career in the clothing industry, and the brothers liked to tell people they were both “men of the cloth.”

The future bishop married Jean, his wife of more than 60 years, in 1953. She preceded him in death in 2017.

Throughout his ministry, he remained committed to raising up low-income families and helping the homeless find housing. He helped found Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was a major supporter of the Council of Bishops initiative on children and poverty. Even as he dealt with these serious matters, he also strived to “Live Alive” — a phrase on his license plate that he also often wrote before signing his name.

“He had an enthusiasm and joyfulness that was really contagious,” said the Rev. James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Stockton’s son-in-law. “People around him, they’d feel better. They’d feel more cheerful; they’d feel more hope just from being in his presence.”

Bishop João Somane Machado

Retired Bishop João Somane Machado, Mozambique’s third United Methodist bishop, is remembered as a father figure with an infectious laugh who contributed immensely to the growth and development of The United Methodist Church in Africa and globally.

Machado died Oct. 25 in Maputo, Mozambique, at the age of 77.

He was a peacemaker. Machado was part of a group of church leaders that engaged the rebel Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Renamo) insurgents to end the 15-year civil unrest and restore peace in Mozambique in 1992.

The bishop’s major achievements also include the ordination of the first women pastors in Mozambique and supporting the education of young people. His efforts led to the establishment of a school in Tete Province that was befittingly named Bishop João Somane Machado Secondary School.

Machado grew up in Cambine, Mozambique. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the Methodist University in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a master’s degree in theology in Kinshasa, Congo. He returned to Mozambique, where he served as assistant pastor at Malhangalene United Methodist Church in Maputo. At the same time, he was assistant to the late Bishop Almeida Penicela.

Machado was elected to the episcopacy in 1988 in Lubumbashi, Congo, and served as the bishop of The United Methodist Church in Mozambique and South Africa until 2008, when he retired after almost 20 years of ministry and service.

Bishop Joaquina F. Nhanala currently leads the Mozambique Area, which encompasses two conferences in Mozambique and one in South Africa. She described Machado as a teacher and mentor who expanded the church to new areas in the country.

“He was an advocate for women’s ministry and served the country and beyond the borders,” said Nhanala, the first and only female United Methodist bishop in Africa.

“He was an example of making the world his parish.”

Bishop William Boyd Grove

Bishop William Boyd Grove distinguished himself in many ways over a long ministry career, including serving as the first ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops and writing a hymn that’s in the United Methodist Hymnal.

But in talking about Grove, pastors stress the personal side, especially how carefully he listened and how they knew he was in their corner.

Grove — a strong United Methodist voice for ecumenism and social justice, and a lover of his native Appalachia — died Oct. 27 at age 94 in Johnson City, Tennessee. He’d lately faced osteomyelitis of the spine, as well as other health problems. Among his survivors is his wife of 72 years, Mary Lou Naylor Grove, and their two daughters.

The Johnstown, Pennsylvania, native earned degrees from Bethany College, where he majored in English, and from Drew University and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

After years of serving churches in and around Pittsburgh, Grove was elected bishop in 1980, in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. He led the West Virginia Conference for 12 years before leading the conferences in the Albany, New York, Episcopal Area from 1992 to 1996. He briefly reactivated in 2012 to serve West Virginia as interim bishop.

Grove was entrusted with overseeing church trials as a bishop. He was strong for social justice, offering support to striking coal miners and urging The United Methodist Church to apologize for its past and present racism.

He also belonged to the Order of St. Luke, which is dedicated to sacramental and liturgical scholarship and practice. Grove wrote poetry and hymn texts. His text “God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us” — written for his daughter Susan Grove-DeJarnett’s wedding — has made its way into various hymnals including that of The United Methodist Church.

Council of Bishops President Thomas J. Bickerton, who grew up in West Virginia, is among the United Methodist leaders who consider Grove a mentor.

“William Boyd Grove was my ordaining bishop, the bishop that appointed me, and the bishop that opened doors of possibility in my life that would never have opened had it not been for his constant grace and love,” Bickerton wrote in a tribute.

Richard Marsh

Richard Alan Marsh was an attorney who strived to use his deep knowledge of the law to benefit The United Methodist Church. He died Oct. 29 at age 70.

For the past 17 years, he served as chancellor — basically the legal adviser — to what is now the Mountain Sky Conference. He provided legal assistance in the merger between the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone conferences that created Mountain Sky. But his impact extended beyond one conference to the whole denomination. Among his recent contributions, he joined with other chancellors in helping The United Methodist Church navigate the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy proceedings.

Marsh was also a champion of LGBTQ inclusion. He counted among his proudest achievements defending the election, consecration and assignment of Mountain Sky Bishop Karen Oliveto, The United Methodist Church’s first openly gay bishop, before the Judicial Council — the denomination’s top court.

Marsh was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, but he received his college education in the Chicago area. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1975, and earned his juris doctorate from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1979. In Chicago, he met the love of his life — the Rev. Kay Palmer Marsh. The two married in 1982 in the Sky Chapel, part of First United Methodist Church (Chicago Temple).

They moved to Colorado, where he practiced law and his wife pastored United Methodist churches. The couple also had two daughters. Marsh became an experienced litigator in complex real estate and business matters. In addition to his law practice, he served as Eads, Colorado, municipal judge. During his career, he tried well over 100 bench and jury trials in Colorado, Illinois and federal courts.

“Rich was a real ‘litigator’ who practiced in the real world and brought that understanding to his church work,” said Jay Brim, an attorney in Austin, Texas, and fellow chancellor who works with the Rio Texas Conference.

“As the husband of a United Methodist elder, Rev. Kay Marsh, he was immersed in the daily drama of local church life and that informed his work for the annual conference and the general church. He was irreplaceable for chancellors throughout the connection.”

The Rev. Ted Walter

The Rev. Theodore Holt Walter held a variety of leadership positions in the South Carolina Conference and the wider United Methodist Church. That included serving as a member of the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court.

Walter, whom friends called “Ted,” died Nov. 17 at his home in Columbia, South Carolina. He was 89. Among his survivors is his wife of 67 years, Pegilie.

Born in Florence, South Carolina, Walter graduated from United Methodist-related Wofford College in Spartanburg and then Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He eventually received honorary doctorates from both Wofford and Columbia College, where he had served as board chair.

He served various United Methodist churches across his home state and was superintendent of the Spartanburg and Columbia districts. Before his retirement in 2003, he was coordinator of clergy services for the South Carolina Conference. During retirement, he served as interim president of Epworth Children’s Home for two years.

He also served on the board of The United Methodist Church’s Higher Education and Ministry and the ecumenical World Methodist Council.

Among his more far-reaching influences was as a Judicial Council member from 1992 to 2000.

Sally Curtis AsKew, who was on the church court alongside Walter, described him as a meticulous writer and researcher of the opinions he was assigned to draft. She was particularly grateful for the index of decisions he put together and added to after each Judicial Council meeting. He initially used the index simply to help the South Carolina Conference, but AsKew asked him to share it with the Judicial Council and the denomination as a whole.

The bound volumes of Judicial Council decisions for the two quadrennia he served each contain the indexes he created.

“Ted was a true Southern gentleman,” AsKew said, “and I was very grateful for his friendship and help in so many ways.”

Bishop Calvin McConnell

Bishop Calvin D. McConnell spent 16 years in the active episcopacy, leading two areas of the Western Jurisdiction and serving as board president of general church agencies. He was comfortable in high places but never forgot that he was, first and foremost, a pastor.

McConnell died on Nov. 28 at Willamette View Retirement Community in Portland, Oregon. He was 94.

McConnell was born Dec. 3, 1928, in the southern Colorado town of Monte Vista, and grew up on a farm in the San Luis Valley. His Council of Bishops biography said he “couldn’t get off the farm fast enough” and he followed his elder brother Taylor into ministry. He earned degrees from United Methodist-related University of Denver, the Iliff School of Theology and later a Masters in Sacred Theology from Andover Newton Theological School.

He served in various churches and ministries in the Rocky Mountain, California-Nevada and Oregon-Idaho conferences, including as a campus minister at Stanford University and later a university chaplain and assistant professor of religion at United Methodist-related Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

After returning to serve churches in  his native Colorado, he was elected a bishop in 1980 and assigned to the Oregon-Idaho Conference. After eight years, he assumed leadership of the neighboring Pacific Northwest Conference. 

Bishops often help lead church agencies, and McConnell served as president of The Upper Room, the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

McConnell had a heart for social justice, which for him included full acceptance of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church. He was one of 15 episcopal leaders who, during the 1996 General Conference in Denver, issued a statement saying that they opposed the denomination’s ban on ordination of “self-professed practicing” gay clergy.

“He was very caring, very compassionate,” said the Rev. Carol Davies, a close friend. “He felt that being a pastor was the most important part of being an episcopal leader.”

The Rev. Julian Rush

In Colorado, the Rev. Julian Rush — who died Nov. 28 at age 87 — is recognized as a trailblazing leader in the fight against AIDS.

In The United Methodist Church, Rush ended up on the front lines of a different fight — the denomination’s decades-long dispute over the status of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

Rush grew up in Mississippi, and in high school, he began composing songs — which was a lifelong passion. Early in his life, he also challenged the racial segregation around him. While in seminary at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, he was among the young adults who answered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to join the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, for voting rights.

The ordained United Methodist elder was “outed” as gay in 1981, while he was serving as a youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Boulder, Colorado. Rush had worked in youth ministry for years, frequently creating youth musicals for the congregations where he served. The revelation that he was gay caused conflict in the church and led to the late Bishop Melvin E. Wheatley Jr. appointing him to another congregation, but with no salary.

For continuing to back Rush, Wheatley was accused of heresy and disobedience. An investigative committee eventually concluded there were insufficient grounds to move to a church trial. Rush faced a complaint under church law as well, but that too was resolved in 1986, without a church trial.

Rush’s experiences had a lasting impact on The United Methodist Church, where intensifying debates and defiance over continuing bans against “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex marriage have led in recent years to congregational departures. Other United Methodist congregations — including First United Methodist in Boulder — have become reconciling, meaning they support LGBTQ equality.

In the meantime, Rush took on another ministry as executive director of the Colorado AIDS Project, now known as the Colorado Health Network. He started in 1983 with a handful of volunteers and gradually developed the lead service agency in response to HIV/AIDS in the state. When he left 17 years later, the Colorado AIDS Project had more than 50 employees and a budget of $3 million. Lee Hart Merrick published a biography of Rush titled “Julian Rush-Facing the Music.” His survivors include his partner, Michael Gebhardt, with whom he celebrated a holy union in 1992, two sons and their wives, and three grandchildren.

“Julian was an icon of inclusiveness; our hero and friend; a living legend of love and grace,” said the Rev. Don Messer, who started the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund and now serves as executive director of the Center for Health and Hope based in Centennial, Colorado. Messer said Rush helped the center — which works internationally on HIV and AIDS education, prevention and treatment — receive its first major gift.

“His courage inspired us; his musical talent has gifted us with hymns for the modern age.”

Trinidad “Trini” Garza

Trinidad “Trini” Garza was a groundbreaking Hispanic leader in Dallas and a nationally respected advocate for education.

According to the North Texas Conference where he was an active lay member, he credited growing up Methodist with pointing him in a positive direction.

He died Nov. 30 at the age of 92.

In 1969, Garza became the first Hispanic board member of Dallas public schools. He served on the board from 1970 to 1971 and again from 1991 to 1994. In the 1970s, he also served on the he Tri-Ethnic Committee that oversaw the desegregation of the Dallas Independent School District.

Throughout his tenure, he consistently promoted bilingual education. He also served deputy regional director of the U.S. Department of Education during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

The Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School at Mountain View College, where students can earn an associate’s degree as well as a high school diploma, was named for him in 2010.

Garza grew up the child of migrant farmworkers in Floresville, Texas. He began first grade only speaking Spanish. He eventually graduated his elementary school’s valedictorian. Orphaned by the time he was 17, Garza was responsible for the care of three younger siblings — two sisters and a brother. After graduating high school, he joined the Navy Reserve and served during the Korean War. 

After his Naval service, he graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1961. That same year, he began working for LTV Corp. In 1972, he and his late wife, Benilde, opened Ranchero Restaurant in West Dallas. The couple eventually realized Benilde’s dream of opening a concession stand at the State Fair of Texas, introducing fajitas to fairgoers 40 years ago.

Throughout his career, he remained an active United Methodist. He was initially part of what was then the Rio Grande Methodist Conference, which encompassed predominantly Hispanic churches. When the Rio Grande and Southwest Texas annual conferences merged in 2015, his membership moved to the North Texas Conference. He was a member of Elmwood-El Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church.

All four of his children are active United Methodists. His survivors also include 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

The Rev. Owen K. Ross, director of the North Texas Conference Center for Church Development, got to know Garza as a young pastor and joined Garza’s family by his bedside in his final days.

“Sitting by the bedside of this giant of a man who God used to bless so many, God reminded my spirit, ‘Quality education and quality churches for all of God’s children are not natural and inevitable evolutions,’” Ross wrote in a tribute for the North Texas Conference. “Justice is a hard-fought struggle that happens by God working through the lives of humble warriors like Trini Garza who bless the generations to come.”

Bishop Solito K. Toquero

Bishop Solito K. Toquero, who stood in solidarity with the oppressed and impoverished, died Dec. 1 in his sleep. He was 81.

Toquero led the Manila Area in the Philippines from 2001 to 2008. Retired Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco said Toquero was never afraid to march in the street to defend human rights and denounce corruption in government. He did this in a country where such public protests could result in harassment and legal reprisals.

Called “Bishop Sol” by many, Toquero was born in Canaan Rizal Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University-Philippines, his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary-Philippines, and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Christian Theological Seminary in the U.S.

But before he received any formal training, Toquero began his ministry at age 19. He found his calling in reading the Bible and Wesleyan materials. He also engaged in personal evangelism, passing out tracts and making house-to-house visitations. He later became a missionary, beginning to work with Philippines’ Ilocano people in the mountainous area of Kasiguran Aurora.

He went on to serve as a missionary in Hong Kong to Filipino migrant workers before being elected to the episcopacy.

During his time as bishop, he also was president of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History. In retirement, Toquero remained active in ministry including serving as vice chair of Philippines’ National Council of Churches from 2008 to 2011. Friends say he put others’ needs before his own and never ceased advocating for the poor.

“He welcomed everyone in the body of Christ and did not discriminate against anybody because of color, gender preferences, economic status or biblical and theological beliefs,” Francisco said of his friend and colleague. “He believed that the very nature of the church is inclusive, welcoming and a caring body of Christ.”

Hahn is assistant news editor for UM News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. Information for this story was compiled from UM News reports by Sam Hodges, Linda Bloom, Jim Patterson, Chadrack Tambwe Londe, Kathy L. Gilbert, Eveline Chikwanah and Gladys P. Mangiduyos.

Garlinda Burton, the Rev. Chongho James Kim, Mary Brooke Casad, David Burke of the Great Plains Conference and the Rev. Owen K. Ross of the North Texas Conference also contributed.

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