Bishop Thomas Bickerton (DMin '94)
Get to know Bishop Thomas Bickerton (DMin ’94), who was welcomed as President of the Council of Bishops of The UMC at the Spring 2022 meeting of the Council.
How do you see God at work in your ministry right now?
“I am humbled and honored to be able to serve the New York Annual Conference as their bishop and the whole denomination as the President of the Council of Bishops at this moment in time. Both roles have unique and unprecedented responsibilities in our church’s history and in response to the unique global context in which we find ourselves. I feel a strong sense of calling to this work and continue to pray that God would use me in whatever way possible to re-center the work of the church on our mission to make and nurture disciples and to position ourselves to re-set ourselves for the critical work of justice, advocacy, and love that is so desperately needed throughout the world.”
How did United equip you for leadership in the Church?
“My Doctor of Ministry at United enabled me to explore and test theories of Church Leadership both locally and beyond. More than that, the work toward that degree fostered relationships that continue to stimulate, bless, and hold me accountable along the way. United came along at an important time in my journey and gave me the opportunity to expand and further clarify my calling.”
What advice or encouragement would you share with someone discerning a call to ministry?
“It is critically important to first of all acknowledge that our call to ministry is not self-generated. A call to ministry is God at work in and through us and is one that is confirmed by others in our United Methodist system. Those two things: acknowledgement of the source of the call and accountability to the confirmation of the call by others, are gifts that keep us grounded in humility and relationship.
“Beyond that, I would say to anyone exploring a call to ministry that this is a critically important time for servants of Christ to emerge who are willing/able to help the church navigate its current reality AND point the church to what God is calling the church be in the future. If all we focus on is the current need, we will never be open to the Spirit’s guidance. And, if we only focus on the future, we will never be able to bring the church and its people along on the journey.
“From a personal standpoint, I would encourage someone discerning a call by saying that it has been a journey that has been filled with joy and blessing, even in the midst of chaos and struggle. To witness God at work in and through called servants of Christ is an amazing gift.”
Is there anything else you would like to share?
“I believe that there is a way through the morass and confusion of the present age. There has never been a time in the history of the church when the conditions were optimal for us to do our work. We have always been called upon to lead in the midst of challenges and chaos. In this present age, a time when the conditions are far from perfect or easy, the church needs to be at its best and the church’s leaders need to be at their best in allowing God to work in and through us to transform the world with grace, hope, joy and justice.”