Preaching past GW

Iowa Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer was elected to the presidency of the worldwide Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church last month. He said he thinks his selection might not have been possible without GW.

Palmer, a religion major at GW, said his time at the University was a significant influence on his career and helped him to ascend to the presidency. In May 2008, he will lead the council, which is composed of every bishop in the worldwide United Methodist Church.

“I received an extraordinary education at The George Washington University, and my major was in the religion department,” he said. “I was equipped in terms of thinking about religion and public policy both in my major and outside of my major.”

He added, “It provided me opportunities to cultivate my gifts for leadership – it was a nurturing environment.”

Palmer said he is looking forward to his new responsibilities, which include leadership at meetings and worldwide planning.

Each president of the council serves two years and presides over the body’s meetings, which include 68 active bishops – 50 in the United States and 18 in other countries. In addition to being in charge of the meetings, he or she does not hold any additional authority over the other bishops.

“The position includes the spokesperson-type of roles that would be involved in every organization,” Palmer said.

Since his election, he has worked to set goals for his term as council leader.

“If there was anything that I would like to emphasize in the two years, it would be to strengthen our sense of unity as leaders in the life of the church,” he said.

He added, “I would like to work towards making the world a more loving, more just, more human place.”

Since November’s election, things have been different for Palmer as he has been receiving attention from much more people than before.

“I’m getting lots of cards of congratulations – it’s intriguing how much interest people inside and out of the church are taking in it,” he said.

“People want to feel very hopeful about their institutions and, in this case, about the contribution a religious institution can make to the common good,” Palmer said. “People are saying they hold great hope, and it’s not about Greg Palmer but about our established institutions and the good they can do.”

Palmer will assume the role of president of the council at the next General Conference, a policy-making body of up to 1,000 delegates that occurs every four years.

Current Council President Bishop Janice Riggle Hui wrote in an e-mail, “Bishop Palmer has tremendous leadership skills and his commitment to Christ and the United Methodist Church will make him an excellent leader of the Council of Bishops.”

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