Ethnic Background: Black
Conference: Mountain Sky
Probationary Date: 07/01/1985
Full Membership Date: 07/01/1985
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 1
Regis College 1976-1980 Major: Sociology, Minor: Political Science
Iliff Theological Seminary 1981-1985 Master of Divinity
Peoples UMC, Colorado Springs, CO 1985-1988
Scott UMC, Denver, CO 1988-1996
Delegate to General Conference 1992
Parker UMC, Parker, CO 1996-1999
Delegate to General Conference 2000
Erie UMC, Erie, CO (part-time) 2001-2004
Delegate to General Conference 2004
Burns UMC, Aurora, CO 2004-2006
Western MI Conference UMC – Conference Council Director, 2006-2008
Wheat Ridge UMC, Wheat Ridge, CO 2009-2016
Redland UMC, Grand Junction, CO 2016-2019
Christ UMC, Fort Collins CO 2019- Present
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Denver Ministerial Alliance
Colorado Council of Churches
EMLC of the Rocky Mountain Conference (Ethnic Ministry Local Church)
City-wide Representative and President, Denver Public Schools Board of Education 1993-1996
Chairperson, Leadership Development Committee, 2021 – Present
Circuit Leader, Peaks and Pike Peak District, 2020- Present
Member, Racial Justice Movement and Ministries Task Force, 2021-Present
Other Relevant Experience:
Epworth UMC, Denver, CO, Interim Pastor Jan. 2009 – June 2009
Substitute Teaching (as able) 2009 – Present
Established semi-monthly Food Bank at Wheat Ridge UMC, Wheat Ridge, CO.
Expanded weekly summer Farmer’s Market, Redlands UMC, Grand Junction, CO
Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time? What is it that you especially bring to the role of bishop with the current challenges facing our denomination and the Western Jurisdiction right now?
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ and am grateful for your prayers and discernment.
“So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2 Cor. 5: 17 NRSV
These words from Paul are a source of strength and encouragement for my ministry. They are filled hope that what we see is not all there is. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is the desire to be about new beginnings; it becomes a unique call to the people of God. As I think of new beginnings, I see a Church that is transformed from the bottom up instead of the top down. It will also take communication because we desire to affirm the words of scripture: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. Prov. 29:18 KJV.
I would have two objectives. The first one is that the local Church will be the primary focus. The size of the community won’t matter, as there will be opportunities for the clergy to strengthen themselves, to be prepared for leadership and the different forms it may take. For Laity to be able to introduce themselves to each other, I strongly believe in circuits where local Churches have a connection and training is offered. This can strengthen the Laity for their involvement in their local Church, and in the United Methodist Church as a whole. They can become leaders and connect with Pastors, where new creativity in spiritual growth and church growth is possible. The desired result is that people who are searching for a church or to grow in their faith, will find a place to belong.
My second objective is to realize how many people are living on the margins of life. When we speak of being inclusive, this is where we need to be. The people on the margins include all races and ethnicities. Some are rejected because of false and dangerous misunderstandings regarding human sexuality. Women are discriminated against in many ways and now also regarding the right to have control over their own bodies. There is mental health, drug use, alcohol use and domestic abuse issues. More and more guns are creating a culture of violence and now we are fearful for our schools and churches, to the point we need to take precautions. Our ministries must have the courage to express our love and support for those living on the margins. Working with other faith communities, this can be an opportunity to unite our voices and our efforts to follow through on the principles we all share.
As an Episcopal leader, I would take on the role of leadership with great humility and to be known as a servant leader. I would be a listener to the pastors, to keep aware of what their needs are, in the variety of places where they serve.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
In March 2020, Bishop Karen Oliveto, involved in meetings about the pandemic, concluded it was not safe to worship together and instructed all pastors to close our churches. The new guiding principle was that we would do no harm.
I cannot describe that moment, after being a preacher for 35 years, my life’s work being turned upside-down. Remembering Sunday mornings, welcoming members and visitors to Church, the excitement of seeing someone who had not been in Church for a while coming in the door. I was consumed by a feeling of loss. The Sunday morning service is the culmination of my work each week and this was suddenly taken away. And I was missing moments being with people in times of need – times of sickness and death. Moments of being present with them to offer prayers and comfort.
A gifted member at church informed us he could stream a full, live service for Sunday mornings with words on the screen. Giving the message while looking into my computer was difficult, as I am an emotional speaker at times. I felt I was performing and couldn’t connect with people’s feelings. I was embarrassed at forgetting words to the Lord’s Prayer occasionally.
I was still able to feel somewhat connected as the Church building didn’t close during the week. I still went to the office most days. My office is large, and it worked for social distancing. I will never forget people coming in to ask if they could pray in the sanctuary. Or the older lady who asked if we had the Upper Room, as her Church was closed.
I remember Easter Sunday, April 2020. Preaching into the laptop at our dining room table at home, our gray kitten jumped on the table behind me to smell the Easter lilies. Worship was different, yet, in celebrating Communion, it was very special to break bread and say those words, “this is my body broken for you”. Then, the blessings over the cup and inviting those watching to share in communion together. There was a spirit of unity I could feel deep within.
During the summer of 2020, I was approached by some members asking to have a worship service in our Peace Garden, a beautiful space outside the Church. This would be held after the main service on Zoom. They missed being together, and by the grace of God, we found a way to make it work. We wore our masks and waved to each other while keeping our distance.
I believe, most of all, what I have taken with me is that the Church is not the building. The Church is the people.
Endorser: Patricia A. Bell
Relationship to Candidate: Church Member and Interim Office Manager, Wheat Ridge UMC, Wheat Ridge, CO
Letter of reference for Rev. Aaron M. Gray:
As the Interim Office Manager, a member of Wheat Ridge United Methodist Church of Wheat Ridge CO, and the Chairperson of the Care Committee, I worked closely with Rev. Aaron Gray. He was the Senior Pastor and a leader with an infinite number of “gifts” to offer churches.
Some of his outstanding skills that come to mind are:
1. He has exceptional communication skills and can quickly devise new church programs
2. In meetings, Rev. Gray would always wait until others had spoken before offering thoughts
on the best solution to a specific problem.
3. He developed many friendships from attending community events.
4. During times of crisis, he always spoke with those needing comfort and helped with their
5. Rev. Gray was instrumental in getting a food bank established at Wheat Ridge UMC.
6. He activated the Stephen Ministry program where several members became Stephen
Patricia A. Bell
Endorser: Rev. Hughlan Harris
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague and Friend
To: The Rev Aaron Gray
From: The Rev Hughlan Harris
Date: August 30, 2022
Re: Letter of Reference
The Rev. Aaron Gray and I have been friends and colleagues in ministry for thirty-plus years. During that time, my wife and I have had the opportunity to be cared for under his pastoral leadership.
He is a person of character with exceptional leadership abilities.
– His humility is evidenced by him striving to remain grounded.
– He is one who takes the commitment of his faith and ministerial duties to heart for the
greater good for the church.
– He is an individual with integrity, who holds moral values regardless of personal cost.
His leadership abilities have been demonstrated on three fronts.
First, as a pastor of diverse congregations within the conference, as well as serving on numerous boards and committees.
Secondly, he has represented the MSC at the Jurisdictional and General Conference level. He also was employed as a staff person in another conference of the church.
Lastly, he was elected to serve on the Denver Public School Board, for the purpose to enhance our children’s education.
With much prayer and joy, I submit this letter of reference.
Endorser: Rev. Walter (Skip) Strickland
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague and Friend
Endorsement for The Rev. Aaron Gray
The Rev. Walter (Skip) Strickland
Retired Elder, Director of Mission and Ministry and former District Superintendent,
Mountain Sky Conference
Aaron Gray is a skilled orator and seasoned clergy executive leader. He’s passionate about racial ethnic diversity, equality and social justice. Aaron’s heart cares about the least, last and lost. He hears voices of people on the margins, always has. He believes, Jesus’s teachings and way opens doors for liberating people, embracing them in love and providing a path to freedom.
As episcopal leader, Aaron envisions serving in team with laity to create a positive local church presence and denominational future. He understands the Western Jurisdiction has the chance to help shape the future of the United Methodist Church. He will tackle the malaise of racial inequality and diversity within the denomination and invite it to be a voice for change in society. He will work hard to deploy leadership that enhances local church vitality and growth and work to grow the ranks of people of color in ministry while deploying leadership through contextual options.
As President of the Denver Public School Board, Aaron proved he is an innovative leader and team player. He’s faced challenges and I feel his voice is an important one to hear during the episcopal election process. He will listen deeply, act boldly, think broadly!