Ethnic Background: Caucasian/White
Conference: California Pacific
Probationary Date: 06/16/2012
Full Membership Date: 06/18/2016
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4
M.Div. Claremont School of Theology, 2011
2005-2006 – First UMC Fillmore & Piru UMC – Part Time Local Pastor
2006-2007 – First UMC Pasadena – Assistant Pastor (not under appointment)
2009-2011 – La Habra UMC – Pastoral Intern (not under appointment)
2011-2014 – Trinity UMC, Grand Island NE & UM4GI (cooperative parish) – Associate Pastor
2014-2020 – Pacific Beach UMC, San Diego CA – Lead Pastor
2020-Present – La Jolla UMC, San Diego CA – Lead Pastor
2014-2016 – South District, Cal-Pac Conference – District Planning and Strategy
2012-2017 – California-Pacific Annual Conference – Sessions Legislation Chair
2018 – California-Pacific Annual Conference – Sessions Agenda Chair
2019-Present – California-Pacific Annual Conference – Conference Secretary
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
2011-2012 – Board Member, Grand Island Habitat for Humanity
2012-2014 – Ecumenical “U2charist” community Worship service (incl. 2014 community arts award)
2012-2014 – Supporting partner of Hope Harbor (transitional shelter for women & families)
2014-2020 – Pastoral administration for Project Grace, a free community meal for all including medical and dental clinics and social services for persons experiencing homelessness
2014-2019 – Annual participation in the San Diego Pride Parade and San Diego Pride Festival
2014-2020 – Ecumenical clergy gatherings focused on ecumenical Ash Wednesday and Thanksgiving Worship, and coordination of services for persons experiencing homelessness
Other Relevant Experience:
Software integration engineer for 6 years with Fortune 100 company, and freelance IT support for another 6 years
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?
In truth, I have been wrestling with a call to the Episcopacy for a few years. I still wonder if I am clearly discerning God’s will or if I am mis-interpreting. I am immensely grateful for a process through the Conferences and Jurisdiction that aid in this discernment.
In my cross-conference appointment in Grand Island, NE, I experienced a new way of doing ministry in creative collaboration. Four clergy across three appointments worked together as a team to be creative in ministry. We reached the community, we served together, we grew together. I believe that this kind of collaboration is both essential for the future of The United Methodist Church, and is modeled in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. God the Creator works in collaboration with the redeeming Christ and the empowering Holy Spirit to draw creation into the new thing that is already underway.
I believe that God is already doing a new thing, and that the struggle so many churches and denominations face is how to step into that newness. I recently heard Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins note that the church has been changing since Pentecost! This is not to say that there is no value in our rich traditions, but that God continues to call us forward. The world has changed and is changing, and I believe that God is responding—and calling the church to respond.
We are learning new languages around gender and sexual identities, we are learning new languages around neurodiversity, and we are learning new languages around harmful systems. What more can we learn as we listen to God’s people, and how can the church speak for justice as we grow and take on these languages with tangible commitment?
Episcopal leadership must guide us forward to this good work and more, and Episcopal leadership will do so more effectively by modeling collaborative styles. I believe that the days are gone when each church competes with another, when each District stands alone, when each Conference is its own silo, when each Bishop carries the mantle of leadership without collegial support and guidance. In the same way that Paul reminds us of the diversity of strengths as the body of Christ, our Clergy and Episcopal leaders must remember and embody this diversity. I believe this is our best and most theologically rich path forward.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was privileged to be serving a congregation that had already done the technical work of developing an online livestream ministry. Recognizing the sudden change thrust upon churches with limited resources (and following the model of some other large churches around the country), we invited other local congregations to join in joint and collaborative online Worship until technical and other resources could be found. The Result was a creative time of multi-congregational interaction that was life-giving in a time of isolation.
I also experienced an appointment change in 2020 during a time that I wouldn’t be able to actually meet those with whom I was sent to be in ministry. And so we had to be creative and adapt. I went from a congregation that had been live-streaming effectively for some time to a congregation that had no technical infrastructure to support any kind of video Worship. Keeping healthy practices in mind, we found a way to produce a pre-recorded video Worship with familiar elements and music for a congregation isolated to their homes. We instituted ways to interact during the Worship service using live-chat features (via YouTube) and Zoom. We continued the practice of “choir rehearsal” using digital means in order to maintain important relationships, and expanded this practice to study groups and pastoral care.
We eventually began live-streamed services and then hybrid services, which continue today. We continue to seek language and practices to remind both in-person and online participants that God’s Spirit connects us however we Worship. With combined numbers, we have found a slight increase in our average attendance, and we regularly meet new people in-person who first found us online.
All of this has reminded me of the importance of creative flexibility and to being open to the newness that God continues to place before us. In doing so, we are finding new ways to explore core concepts of our faith and spirituality like: How do we read our Bibles? What do the ancient creeds mean to us today? Where might we hear God’s voice in the world? How should we respond? In doing so, my own faith has grown and I have had the privilege of journeying alongside faithful lay persons who have found new life on this journey.
Endorser: Rev. Lori Leopold
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague
Rev. Bob Rhodes is a colleague and previous pastor of the church I currently serve. Bob has a passion for the gathered and scattered community. He leads with warmth and energy and is steadfast in his commitment to inclusion. At Pacific Beach UMC, Bob demonstrated unwavering advocacy for those experiencing homelessness as well as for LGBTQIA+ full inclusion. While clear and consistent in his commitments, Bob makes respectful space for a wide diversity of theological perspectives, honoring each individual voice and story.
Bob not only cherishes the gathered community but he leads by example as he points disciples back to the community in service and love. Bob has natural gifts as a spokesperson and he is articulate and courageous in his witness about the church and its work in the world. Bob is adept at building relationships, caring for and collaborating with a wide variety of people, including those considered “most powerful” in the community as well as those who might be considered “least.” Bob has gifts and grace that would strongly support the jurisdiction and denomination in the capacity of bishop during this critical time.
Rev. Lori Leopold
Pacific Beach UMC
Endorser: Charles D. Wurster
Relationship to Candidate: Church Member
I am honored to endorse Pastor Bob Rhodes as Bishop of the Western Jurisdiction. I have known him more than two years; since his arrival as Senior Pastor at La Jolla UMC.
He applies a strategic and collaborative approach to the broad range of challenges at this congregation and in the community. He has shown an ability to size up situations, prioritize actions, and follow-through with lasting solutions. Early on, he defused an emotional situation when aggressive parishioners bullied a very-successful long-term employee. He dampened tempers, assuaged hard feelings, and succeeded in retaining this key employee in a critical job.
He is ready to apply his considerable leadership, administrative, and managerial skills to energize pastors throughout the Jurisdiction. He has repeatedly displayed his own skill as pastor, teacher, and leader in the sanctuary, church family, church governance, and the broader community. His preaching and teaching are exemplary, combining accurate theology, thoughtful reflection, interesting delivery, and challenging outreach to the listener. He has forged new links between LJUMC and other congregations and has developed broader community service.
Given his experience, ability, and potential, Pastor Bob is fully prepared for exceptional service as Bishop. I wholeheartedly recommend him for this essential office.
Charles D. Wurster
Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)