Bishop Lewis to lead Virginia Conference of United Methodist Church
8/5/2016, 7:31 a.m.
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis, the first African-American woman to be elected a bishop in the United Methodist Church’s Southeastern Jurisdiction, will lead the United Methodist Church’s Virginia Conference for the next four years.
Beginning Sept. 1, she will oversee more than 327,000 members of 1,169 churches in the Virginia Conference.
A welcome service will be held for Bishop Lewis 10:30 a.m. to noon Sept. 17 at Reveille United Methodist Church, 4200 Cary St. Road, in Richmond.
The 52-year-old native of Statesboro, Ga., succeeds Bishop Young Jin Cho, who is retiring after leading the state conference since 2012.
“I was called by God and made myself available, not just to a position, but to follow God’s will,” Bishop Lewis said in a statement. “I am excited, and I am really humbled … I am humbled by the fact that this is historic.”
A graduate of Mercer University and the University of West Georgia, Bishop Lewis worked as a biologist in the academic and corporate sectors. She later answered the call to the ministry and earned a master’s of divinity with honors from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.
She served at churches in Atlanta and Marietta, Ga., before being appointed district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District in the denomination’s North Georgia Conference, where she currently serves.
In mid-July, she was elected bishop on the first ballot at the denomination’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference that represents nine states from Mississippi to Virginia. She became the first African-American woman elected as a bishop in the denomination since 2000.
The first was Bishop Leontine Kelly from the Virginia Conference, who was elected in 1984 by the church’s Western Jurisdiction.
“I have an evangelistic heart,” Bishop Lewis said. “I just feel that people need Jesus. And I hope that’s what I bring to the Council of Bishops.”