In Faculty Spotlights, Spiritual Life, United News

Bishop Mike Lowry

Get to Know the Bishop-in-Residence

On Monday, January 10, 2022, United Theological Seminary will welcome Bishop J. Michael Lowry as the seminary’s first Bishop-in-Residence. We recently spent some time with Bishop Lowry, asking him about his journey in ministry and his hopes for the road ahead.

How did you realize God was calling you into ministry?

As a student at Earlham College, I had a Road to Damascus–type conversion in a required class called Christian Beliefs. I was planning on going to law school, and God and I had a wrestling match and, the best way I can put it is, I lost. I went to Perkins [School of Theology] for seminary, but I tried to quit after the first year. People kept calling me to come back, and it felt like the hand of God reaching out.

A Bishop-in-Residence was part of your journey into ministry. Can you tell us about that encounter?

I entered seminary as a Quaker, but at the end of my first year of seminary, I went to see the Bishop-in-Residence, Kenneth Pope. I had done research on 12 different denominations, and I went in and sat down. I had no idea what a bishop was. I just thought that was his first name. I had decided I couldn’t stay with the Quakers, though I loved them. So, I gave Bishop Pope my 2- or 3-page paper of denominational research. He took one look and threw it in the trash. He said, “You should be United Methodist.” To make a long story short, I did eventually become a United Methodist, though the road had many bumps and turns. Bishop Kenneth Pope, the Bishop-in-Residence, ultimately played a very important role in helping me sort through my own vocational calling.

As you prepare to retire at the end of December, what will you miss most about being Bishop?

In June [2021], I started my 48th year in active ministry. What I’ll miss most is the sense of being part of a larger team in the conference that’s working on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I love the sense of being together, working on a holy mission given by and consecrated by God.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as Bishop-in-Residence at United?

I am very excited about being part of the United learning community. I am a firm believer in life-long learning. I have so much to learn from the faculty, administration, and students of United.

After an incredible career in ministry, any advice for someone just starting on this journey?

John Wesley talked about “Do Good, Do No Harm, and Stay in Love with God.” The thing that is easiest to lose in ordained ministry is staying in love with God. Part of that is being constantly open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As Mr. Wesley taught us, you never do that alone. Get in some form of a small group where you nurture each other in love and grace and help each other walk in faith. Be open. The Holy Spirit has led me in ways I never thought I would go, including to the office of Bishop.

Anything else you’d like to share with the United community?

I want to be available. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of this opportunity, and I want to be available in a way to the greater United community. I feel blessed to be a blessing.

Join the United community on January 10, 2022, for a special service of installation for Bishop Lowry. The worship service will be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person: united.edu/bishop-in-residence-installation.

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