Delegates who will represent the South Carolina Annual Conference at the 2020 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference voted Sept. 22 to nominate the Rev. Kenneth L. Nelson for election as a bishop of The United Methodist Church.
The delegation – which comprises 16 clergy delegates and 16 lay delegates, as well as two clergy alternates and two lay alternates – voted unanimously to approve a motion by the Rev. Tim Rogers to make Rev. Nelson’s nomination by acclamation.
“As a bishop, Rev. Nelson would bring a vital and renewing spirit, an enquiring mind, a vision for the church, and a passion for the unity of the church,” said Jackie Jenkins, chairperson of the delegation and a member of St. Mark UMC in St. George. “For more than 25 years, he has demonstrated to South Carolina United Methodists what it means to be a servant minister with a commitment for the transformation of the world and gifts for the ministry of administration.
“Rev. Nelson is a person with a deep, abiding faith, a love for Jesus Christ burning in his heart, and compassion for his neighbor. It is our honor to nominate him for the episcopacy.”
Jurisdictional conferences, which meet every four years, elect United Methodist bishops. The 2020 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference will meet July 15-17 at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in North Carolina.
“The beauty of a defining moment is that it usually forces us to face our fears head-on and take action; now is such a moment for me,” said Rev. Nelson, coordinator of the Conference Office of Clergy Services and secretary of the Annual Conference. “I am profoundly humbled and gratified to be the episcopal nominee of the South Carolina delegation.
“We stand at a pivotal point in the life of The United Methodist Church and in the life of our world. I am convinced that God still has a mission in the world – a vision of a world redeemed and ordered anew. This vision inspires in me a hope that the way things are is not the way things have to be.
“I am genuinely heartened about the possibilities that lay ahead, because God is not done with the church or the people called Methodist. I invite those who share in this hope to join me as together we seek to follow where God leads us.”
Rev. Nelson, 51, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina. He graduated from Newberry College in 1990 with a bachelor of arts degree and earned a master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in 1993. He has completed coursework for a doctor of ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary and has performed additional studies at the Center of Theological Inquiry.
He was ordained in the South Carolina Conference as a deacon in 1993 and as an elder in 1995. He served 12 years at four South Carolina United Methodist churches: St. Mark–Mt Zion (1993-1994), St. John’s-Aiken (1994-1998 and 2000-2002), Centenary-Kingsville (2002-2006) and Silver Hill Memorial-Spartanburg (2006-2007).
Rev. Nelson also served for seven years (2007-2014) as a congregational specialist and the African-American coordinator for the conference, and for two years (1998-2000) as assistant dean and director of religious life at Duke University Chapel.
In 2014, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston appointed Rev. Nelson to his current position of coordinator of the Conference Office of Clergy Services. He was elected secretary of the Annual Conference that same year and has continued in that service since.
In addition to Rev. Nelson’s work in local churches, he served on district committees on ministry from 2002 to 2012, and on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry from 2004 to 2014 – including three years as registrar and five years as chairperson.
On the General Church level, his service has included membership on the General Board of Church and Society from 2012 to 2016, and on the Connectional Table from 2016 to the present. He has been elected by the South Carolina Annual Conference as a clergy delegate to five General Conferences and four Southeastern Jurisdictional Conferences, beginning in 2008.
His ministry has taken him to Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Norway and the Holy Land.
Rev. Nelson is married to the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in Camden.