Kansas Bishop Scott Jones, right, escorts newly elected Bishop Gary Mueller to the stage after his election in the South Central Jurisdiction.
Wink and Bishop Gary Mueller receive the appreciation of the body after his election to the episcopacy.
The Rev. Gary E. Mueller, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, has been elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Mueller was elected Thursday, July 19, at the jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting in downtown Oklahoma City. On the 11th ballot, he received 170 votes, 18 more than 152 needed for election.
“I’m a leader who likes to bring a lot of people to the table,” Mueller said.
Mueller said everywhere he’s been in ministry, he’s tried to bring lots of people to the table to ask the right questions and build excitement around the decisions that are made. Empowering the laity has been important to his ministry.
“What’s important to me is making the mission the main thing,” he said. “We can’t structure our way into vitality.”
He said he plans to spend time learning about his new area once that assignment is made, learning about what is going on there and figuring out how he can best help that conference or area.
Mueller was the second bishop elected by the 256 delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity, from the eight states that form the South Central Jurisdiction. The assignments of bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction for the next four years will be announced later in the week. His four-year term of service begins Sept. 1.
He first got involved with The United Methodist Church as a high school student in Pittsburg, Kan. He attended the University of Kansas, where he began to hear a call to ministry. During his years at KU, he and Bishop Scott Jones were roommates.
“I went to seminary the next year, and everyone knew he was going to seminary,” Mueller said. “We didn’t talk about becoming bishops, but we talked about our call to ministry.”
His previous appointments include time as an associate and later executive pastor of First United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas. Since then, he has been pastor of Brewster Memorial United Methodist Church, McKenzie Memorial United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church Roanoke-Trophy Club-Westlake and First United Methodist Church in Denton. He also previously served as director of the North Texas Council on Ministries.
“The longest I’ve lived anywhere is in Plano, Texas,” Mueller said. “It’s hard to move to a new place, but within in six months, it’s home.”
Mueller said he believes the United Methodist Church began to experience what it truly means to be a global church at the 2012 General Conference.
“I grew up in Kansas, and to go on vacation in Colorado, we had to drive across Western Kansas,” he said.
He said like the seemingly endless horizons of western Kansas, the United Methodist Church is only beginning to see what it’s like to be a global church. He said many conversations began at General Conference and that those conversations will help the church begin to live into what it really means to be a global community of faith.
Mueller, nominated by the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference and endorsed by the North Texas jurisdictional delegation and South Central Black Methodists for Church Renewal, has helped his Plano congregation from an average weekly attendance of 760 in 2001 to 1,265 in 2010. He presently serves as chair of the conference’s board of ordained ministry and previously was chair of the North Texas Conference Ministry Center Building Committee. He was a delegate to the 2012 General Conference, where he successfully put forth the “Mueller Amendment,” which create oversight of the appointment process with the end of guaranteed full-time appointments for ordained elders.
He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.
A consecration service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 21, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. The ceremony can be watched live at the South Central Jurisdiction’s website.
Within the United States, local United Methodist churches are organized into increasingly larger groups: numerous districts, dozens of annual conferences and five jurisdictions (regions). Ten active bishops now lead the 15 annual conferences that form the South Central Jurisdiction. By Jan. 1, 2014, there will be 12 annual conferences as Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska form the Great Plains Annual Conference and the Rio Grande and Southwest Texas conferences come together to form another annual conference.
A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life. Typically, a bishop will serve in a specific annual conference for eight years. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, directs each bishop to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” and to “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.” Bishops also are to be “prophetic voices and courageous leaders in the cause of justice for all people.”
The states represented in this jurisdiction are: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.