George Edd-Bennett (he/him/his)

Ethnic Background: European-American

Conference: California Nevada

Probationary Date: 06/17/2011

Full Membership Date: 06/20/2014

Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4


Education:
D.Min. (Spiritual Growth, Contemplative Practice & Strategic Leadership) Claremont School of Theology 5.22.2018; M.Div. Pacific School of Religion 5.24.2009; Bachelor of General Studies University of Nevada, Reno 5.22.2006

Ministry Experience:
Local Church: served 2018 – present Lodi 1st UMC; 2013 Merced UMC; 2009 Sanger UMC.

Conference: 2020 – present Core Team Convener of Compassion and Justice Mission Focus Area; 2019, 2020 and 2021 New Church Plant Discernment Team Leader; 2019 “Called to Wholeness” beta test group for clergy development; 2022 helping to create a Climate Justice Ministries Task Force within the Conference Committee on Advocacy and Justice; 2017, 2018 Core Team Convener of Leadership Development Mission Focus Area; 2010 – 22 Lay Servant Ministry Trainer; 2012 –22 Certified Lay Minister Trainer; 2015 Palestine Delegation with Bishop Brown; 2012 Fresh Expression of Ministry at Cambridge U.K.; 2009-13 District Committee on Ministry Chair (developed Second Saturday’s Lay Servant Ministry Trainings).

Jurisdiction: 2019 and 2020 Western Jurisdiction Conference Summit and Structural Change Task Force; 2019 Western Jurisdiction Fresh Methodism Summit.

Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Lodi CA – Presently the Lodi Church is studying the text “You are Only Human” by Dr, Kelly Kapic; partnering with Rise Against Hunger for the second event in 2022; raising funds to purchase an arc for Heifer International; donating food to our community pantry at Salem UMC; and volunteering to serve the unhoused at a new Emergency Access Center.

2018 and 2019 Hosted the Lodi Breakthrough Project for Social Justice. The Breakthrough Project encourages local peacemakers and civil servants in Lodi, by recognizing and rewarding their devotion to making Lodi a better place for all. Students in fifth and sixth grade are encouraged to take part in the district wide Art Raab essay contest. Art Raab was an original founder of Breakthrough Project (24 years ago), and the purpose of the contest is to honor his commitment to education and ensure that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of wisdom are not lost amongst Lodi’s youth.

2018 and 2019 Walked with Lodi Peace Walk. The Lodi Peace Walk is a newly founded event that is aimed at coalition building in the community. The Breakthrough Project along with The Lodi Salvation Army, The First Baptist Church of Lodi, The California Islamic Center, and the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple worked together to host this event, alongside other diverse organizations in Lodi, to encourage all members of the community to connect and march in solidarity, in the name of peace.

Merced CA – 2017 Developed the Merced Compassion Project – This was a gathering of multiple faith traditions and ethnic groups: Muslim, Christian, Hmong, Latinx, Methodist, Atheist, Jewish Reformed, and Bahá’i. The group came together to discover how barriers to experiencing compassion might be lowered in diverse communities using shared stories, connectional icebreakers, and contemplative practices. After 12 group gatherings, barriers to experiencing compassion were reduced by 27% (as measured by a questionnaire designed for the project evaluation).

2016 Hosted Community Immigration Services Fair, which included immigration attorneys present for consultation, DACA application and renewal workshops, a course on Rights for Migrants when I.C.E comes knocking (led by Faith in the Valley / PICO) and onsite Notary Services to create Child Safety Plans when deportation threatens a home.

Sanger CA – 2012 Served as Rotary Club President and organized the Sanger Unified School District, the Sanger City Council, and the Rotary Club in creating a technology hub with internet access and computer stations for students and families who lacked technology resources at home. This utilized the rotary 501 (c)(3), the city tax appropriation for preventing gang violence, and a building on campus at an elementary school in a more historic part of town. Now technology access in the older neighborhood is closer to what was being experienced in the newly developed school sites.

Other Relevant Experience:
Prior to ordained ministry – 1999 – 2007 District Supervisor for Tires Plus; annual budget over $15 million, 14 locations in Colorado and Nevada, general managers of retail locations were my direct reports, more than 200 employees. 1992 – 99 General Manager of restaurants, $1- $2 Million annual budget, area managers were direct reports, more than 100 employees.


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 have been given three specific gifts which I offer, in service, to be deployed in the future of the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church; a vision of missional strategy, a resilient optimism, and in-depth fiscal management experience. These gifts are supported by my commitment to rely upon partnerships and collaboration as our God given means to thrive.

The vision of passionate and motivated laity engaged in meaningful ministry has come to me through many trusted voices. I feel called to tap into the greatest provision God has given the church. Lay ministries are a calling from God that are underutilized and underappreciated in the institutional church. Our Annual Conferences celebrate the calling to ordained ministry every year with uplifting effect. What if our commitment to celebrating and equipping the calls to lay ministries like educators, caregivers, essential workers, food providers, and community safety were given the same attention? With intentional strategies to develop and appreciate the power God has given our lay people, a revival of Wesleyan spirituality is in the making.

God has given me the gift of believing that failure and crisis are the thin places where God’s own Spirit lights our path forward – where the results are greater than anything we could have planned ourselves. This truth has helped me to lead with optimism through difficult times in every stage of my life, always pointing to the hope we have in Christ. The church needs leaders with this gift in the years ahead.

Unique skills: I have not spent my entire adult life in ordained ministry. I have extensive experience managing both personnel and financial resources strategically. This experience has helped create sustainable ministry. My studies include theologies that are healing to those who suffer with mental illnesses and how practicing compassion is a practical path for leading and building communities of faith.

I do not expect to find the resources needed for the leadership of the church solely within myself. There are brilliant leaders in every conference already working hard at making connections and building discipleship. Created by God with both profound limits in our individual beings and significant longings for meaningful connection, we combine these traits to answer the calling of Christ – a calling that brings light to the darkness. Inclusion, cultural humility, and correcting past injustice are the basic ingredients for the ministry of Christ. To these means and ends, I am committed.

Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
It was Spring 2020 when she was diagnosed – pancreatic cancer. Hospice was the only path from there. Linda, a beloved teacher and pillar of the church, was dying and California was in lockdown – shelter-in-place, no visiting, no gathering, no comforting embrace. I had a congregation feeling helpless, hopeless, and afraid. Pray-connect-encourage-wait.

Unable to comfort in the usual ways, Judy suggested folding origami cranes for Linda who was of Japanese heritage. Cranes symbolize, honor, loyalty, and good fortune. The church worked together to speak the only language that mattered – love. From there, everything changed. The church’s purpose was clear – Reveal Hope.

We questioned both how and why we were communicating. Communities needed hope, and we knew the connection we have in Christ was the message that mattered most. Isolation was everywhere; seniors losing the ability to gather with friends and family, children missing developmental stages in school, resources drying up for the unsheltered, gathering implied high risk, and political wedges made conversations awkward.

The church missional direction changed to “Hope is Found Here.” We found a system to leave two-minute recorded messages on all connected phones weekly. We instituted a food distribution system (emptying trunks and filling cupboards) We sent an email to community households 7 days per week filled with humor and prayer. We did "stoop visits" at peoples’ homes singing a joyful song and making connections. We learned to broadcast worship and found means to render a high-quality production. Having communion at every service: our connection to hope was found in our connection in Christ.

Now gatherings make us feel more whole. With improved systems, we remain connected to those who are homebound – hybrid meetings are the norm, allowing participation from home. Children and seniors are connecting more intentionally. In the end, we grew both spiritually and numerically.

The church has come out of the pandemic with a strong sense of identity, ministry priorities, and community values. Our summer focus was connecting with children and families. Children led the way and motivated the church to raise money for Heifer International. The outcome will be more than $6000 to Heifer and we have created lasting relationships between seniors and children. Our gatherings focus on the goal of harvesting hope in Christ through prayer, story, and study; reaching beyond the church's members. Our values are shown through the church's journey toward becoming fully solar powered in the fall and through a new partnerships within the city to support a low barrier access center for the unsheltered.


Endorser: Rev. Dr. Mary Maaga, PhD

Relationship to Candidate: Elder in Full Connection CNUMC (colleague within my circuit)

Our biggest challenge as a denomination is relevance. What do we have to offer that will transform individual human lives and the communities we serve? George Edd-Bennett has theological clarity about the importance of a strong lay ministry in our denomination. This is partly because he is a second career clergy, so knows the challenges of being a lay Christian. He will bring a needed voice of Episcopal encouragement for the laity of our denomination to own their power as disciples. He enthusiastically initiates ministries that touch the community he now serves. For George, his local Church is a springboard for grace. I would love to see what he could do with a whole Conference! He understands story and the way that stories make the invisible visible. He helps people to write the messier parts of their lives into their stories in a way that is healing. George’s comfort in talking about mental health is refreshing and a way forward for the United Methodist Church to become relevant as a place of sanctuary and healing for those struggling with anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental, emotional, and spiritual brokenness.


Endorser: Claire H. Hashimoto, M.D.

Relationship to Candidate: United Methodist Church member, Merced, CA

Reverend George Edd-Bennett has been and still is a powerful inspiration during and after his ministry in Merced. People of all backgrounds flock to his church, eager to listen to his sermons and join in song with his beautiful voice. He builds comradery with active congregational participation, both in prayer and sharing of inspirational personal stories. He makes everyone comfortable through his keen compassion and makes everyone laugh with his quick humor. Every one of his sermons draws attention from people of all ages and backgrounds, by pointing out how God is present in everyone’s life, in everyday circumstances. My father who is turning 100 years old next month and a lifelong United Methodist Church member, says that Reverend George Edd-Bennett’s uniqueness stems from not only his exceptional qualities as a leader, speaker, and teacher, but also his prior valuable extensive background, working with hundreds of people as their supervisor/manager, and dealing with huge financial budgets. Since we cannot clone him to be a minister in every church, the next best thing is for him to become Bishop, to teach others how to get people excited about God.


Endorser: Rev. Maggie McNaught

Relationship to Candidate: Present Colleague / Former Coach of George Edd-Bennett

George Edd-Bennett is a creative visionary whose desire to invite the Church to a deeper collective intimacy with God leads us to a more profound immersion into the hurts of our neighbors and the desire to care for them.
George’s Wesleyan style of leadership links grounded spiritual practice with community outreach. More “discernamentary” in approach, the question of “What is God calling us to do?” leads George to reflect in prayer and engage people to discover their deepest heart’s desires. He is skilled at listening to those whose voices have not been heard while creating the most diverse Table around which all are invited to listen, hear and create the ministries that will change people’s lives for the better.
George has become a wise sage to many of us in the conference as we look to him for spiritual guidance. His sense of fairness, fair play, and his willingness to use his personal power and authority from the Church FOR everyone speaks volumes of an inner and centered integrity that I personally trust. George trusts that God is leading us to this deep form of love for neighbor and strangers a like.

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