By Wayne Rhodes*
WASHINGTON — The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the Chapel and Religious Life at Emory University in Atlanta, has been elected to succeed James E. Winkler as chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. The appointment will be effective at the February 2014 board meeting of the agency.
Church and Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The agency’s prime responsibility is to seek implementation of the United Methodist Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata, the agency’s board president who made the announcement, said he is pleased that the board overwhelmingly affirmed the consensus of the search committee by electing Henry-Crowe.
“Under Dr . Henry-Crowe’s leadership, we will build on GBCS’s strong legacy of advocacy for social justice,” the bishop said. “I am confident that we will also create a clear direction into the future of the board and its ministries of connecting people in the pews with the concerns and needs of persons and communities in the global context in which we live.”
Henry-Crowe offers considerable gifts that will be crucial to the future, according to Hoshibata. “I respect and appreciate her many contributions to the Church and her ministry at Emory University,” he said. “Her strong insistence on building bridges that connect people of diverse backgrounds, cultures and theological perspectives will serve us well as we now address the ministry of GBCS in its global context, widening and strengthening our efforts to embrace and address the social concerns of both Central Conferences and United States conferences.”
Committed to justice ministry
Henry-Crowe said she is committed to the long-established ministry of Church and Society through advocacy, education and justice-seeking. “The opportunity to support the communities and lives of real people around the world in their struggles for justice is the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and one in which I am privileged to serve,” she said.
Henry-Crowe said she gladly assumes the legacy of advancing the ministry of social holiness, inspired by John Wesley, articulated by every General Conference, carried forward by these and many other distinguished and often unnamed successors: Mary McLeod Bethune, Frances Willard, Dudley Ward, George Outen, Haviland Houston, Thom White Wolf Fassett and Jim Winkler.
“I am now very happy to ask Bishop [L. Jonathan] Holston of my beloved South Carolina Conference to appoint me within the UMC as the General Secretary of GBCS,” Henry-Crowe said. “Ordained into the ministry of the Church, I am hopelessly in love with the communities with which I have been entrusted safekeeping through Word, Sacrament and Order. This new one will be no different.”
The Church and Society board, which consists of 63 members located around the world, elected Henry-Crowe through a ballot this month. The election followed a search conducted by an international committee of board members. Bishop Hoshibata and Dot Ivey, a Virginian who heads the board’s personnel committee, led the search.
Hoshibata commended the members of the search committee for their extraordinary work. “Each person brought honesty and mutual respect to our conversations, our prayerful discerning and our decisions,” he said. “I am grateful for the dedication and faithful efforts that allowed us to work collaboratively with God’s Holy Spirit surrounding and guiding us.”
To facilitate a smooth transition, Hoshibata said the search committee will bring a recommendation to the September board meeting requesting that Winkler continue as general secretary until the February 2014 board meeting.
22 years at Emory
As dean of the Chapel and Religious Life at Emory for the past 22 years, Henry-Crowe conducted a ministry to and with a diverse constituency of 12,000 students and 2,400 faculty members. She has focused on interfaith and ecumenical work, mentoring and vocational formation of a new generation for social-justice ministries, and stewardship and fundraising. A key aspect of her work at Emory has been to foster interreligious dialogue in the ever-changing world of religious pluralism.
Henry-Crowe established the hallmark “Journeys” program that has attracted more than 500 students, faculty and staff to participate in 34 immersion programs into various countries and cultures. In those immersions, participants examined the root causes of conflict and injustice, and searched for ways toward reconciliation.
For 16 years, Henry-Crowe served as a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s “Supreme Court.” She is the first woman elected president of the Judicial Council, serving in that role from 2008-2012. Being a member of the Judicial Council required her to have intimate knowledge of doctrine, Discipline, and history of the denomination.
Henry-Crowe was ordained an elder and continues to be a member of The South Carolina Annual Conference. In South Carolina she served in three pastoral appointments, and as associate director and then director of the Conference Council on Ministries.
As associate director, Henry-Crowe held the outreach portfolio, which included the Boards of Church and Society, Global Ministries, Health & Welfare, and Ethnic Minority Local Church Concerns. As Conference Council Director she had responsibility to oversee the visioning, implementation and evaluation of programs and processes of the Annual Conference as well as reviewing goals and objectives, budget planning and accountability.
Delegate to 3 General Conferences
A clergy delegate to three General Conferences, Henry-Crowe served on the Legislative Committee on Administrative Order, helping to examine and write the legislation on membership of boards and agencies, and on the Committee on Plan of Organization & Rules of Order.
Henry-Crowe was co-moderator of the Spiritual Formation Committee in preparation for the 9th Assembly in 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, of the World Council of Churches. She was a member of the International Peace Conference Planning Committee for the assembly in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2011.
Recipient of a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Henry-Crowe also holds a Doctor of Divinity from LaGrange College. She has served on the Board of Trustees for Claflin University, Columbia College and Santiago College.
Henry-Crowe also serves as adjunct faculty at Candler School of Theology, where, in 1995 she was recognized “in appreciation for her years of service to the School of Theology and Emory University, for her leadership in the seminary, the university, and the Church.” In 2000, she was named Chaplain of the Year by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. She also has been recognized for her work in her commitment to social justice.
In addition, Henry-Crowe was recently recognized as one of the 175 History Makers during Emory University’s 175th anniversary celebration.
Church and Society’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.
*Rhodes is director of communications for the Board of Church and Society.