Ethnic Background: White
Conference: Mountain Sky
Probationary Date: 06/13/2004
Full Membership Date: 06/17/2007
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 6
1999, B.A., Economics, Western State College, Colorado
2002, M.Div., Iliff School of Theology, Colorado
Dean of the Cabinet, Mountain Sky Conference, 2022-present
District Superintendent, Mile High Metro District, 2020-present
Co-Lead Pastor, St. Luke’s UMC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, 2016-2020
Pastor, Cameron UMC, Denver, Colorado, 2010-2016
Interim Pastor, St. Paul’s UMC, Denver, Colorado, 2015-2016
Pastor, Lamar UMC, Lamar, Colorado, 2008-2010
Associate Pastor, Arvada UMC, Arvada, Colorado, 2002-2008
Jurisdictional Conference Delegate & General Conference Reserve Delegate, 2020
Jurisdictional Conference Delegate & General Conference Reserve Delegate, 2016
Board of Directors, United Methodist Communications, 2012-2016
Board of Ordained Ministry, 2008-2020
Chair, Conference Relations, 2011-2018
Chair, Residency in Ministry Program, 2008-2011
Clergy Young in Ministry Academy Design Team, 2014-2018
Conference Conflict Transformation Team, 2012-2018
Exploration 2013, Workshop Presenter
General & Jurisdictional Conference Clergy Delegate, 2012
Western Jurisdiction Nominations Committee, 2012
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Ecumenical Ministries, Inc., UMC Representative, 2020-present
Together Colorado Metro Denver Caucus, 2020-present
S. Pearl St. Business Association member, 2010-2016
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado Church Partner, 2012-2016
Parent-Teacher Association, McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School, 2012-2016
Vice President, 2014-2016; President, 2012-2014; Treasurer, 2011-2012
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, All Options Counselor, 2010-2017
Board of Directors, Kids Discover Days Preschool, 2004-2008
Other Relevant Experience:
In the World, Board of Directors, Chairperson, 2014-2016
Student Chaplain, Hospice of Metro Denver, 2000
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?
This is a time of change and opportunity. The UMC is stuck in a liminal time and space, needing to move beyond what the church has been but not yet knowing what it will be. Liminal space is difficult, and yet it is a space filled with resurrection potential. This is why I am called to the episcopacy at this time.
The consensus of many in the church seems to be ‘wait and see what happens at General Conference 2024.’ One challenge facing our denomination is the stuck-ness and this ‘wait and see’ mentality. This is an opportunity for the Western Jurisdiction to live into who we claim to be, not waiting until 2024, but now. It is our opportunity to live out the values of justice, inclusion, reconciliation, transformation and multicultural communities of love. We have a chance to lead the UMC into something new as a jurisdiction.
Throughout my ministry I have found myself serving in positions where I am asked to bridge – bridge what was with what is to come. I’m accustomed to standing with one foot planted in the known, and the other foot seeking steady enough ground to venture forward, even if only one small step, into the unknown. I am an invitational leader, discovering ways to create space where people are not only welcome, but where people know they belong.
I believe the willingness to call out the church on the harm it has done and continues to do, does not negate a healthy appreciation for the potential good of the institution. I am not afraid of hard truths and hard conversations, and the hard work ahead of us as we unapologetically claim our values and then live into them.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began I was serving a suburban church south of Denver. The early months of the pandemic called for adaptive leadership, quick decision making, non-anxious leadership, emotional intelligence, and resiliency. Ministry always calls for these skills, but the pandemic heightened the need for adaptive and creative leadership in a profound way.
In July of 2020 I began serving as the District Superintendent in the Denver metropolitan area, moving from serving one church to connecting with more than fifty churches and ministries. After a year of resourcing and supporting churches through a pandemic, one observation stuck with me: churches who had clear mission statements, who had a vision that united and motivated the congregation, and who were focused outward on serving their communities weathered the storms of the pandemic better than churches who did not. I find this to be true even as we emerge from pandemic ministry and develop a new normal for church life.
As a DS, I’ve worked to align my ministry and leadership in the district with this observation and launched an initiative to increase intercultural intelligence in the district leadership and churches. It is partly about leadership development of clergy and laity and increasing emotional intelligence and resiliency, but even more it is about creating communities and church who reach into their neighborhoods and communities in ways that are culturally respectful. It is about building multicultural communities of faith where all people are welcome and have a sense of belonging.
The pandemic made clear something many of us have been watching for years, we cannot continue with the status quo and remain relevant to our world. Adaptive leadership in our laity and clergy will continue to be a requirement, which means stepping outside of our cultural experiences and building relationships in new ways.
Endorser: Rev. Cathie Kelsey
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague
Jessica Rooks enjoys the unglamorous work that we desperately need our bishops to do effectively in the midst of great change. The work of knowing the gifts and limitations of individual clergy so they are deployed for joy as well as for the thriving of congregations and ministries. The work of vision-casting, delegating, and following up. The work of paying attention and asking uncomfortable questions without being anxious about uncomfortable answers. Jessica’s deep trust in the grace of God emerges in her curiosity and confidence in the face of thorny difficulties. She greets human frailty and strength with gentle amusement, imbued with Christ’s love. Because she expects that the Spirit is actively at work in structures, she carefully attends to the health of organizations and relationships. These are qualities that I experienced daily while working with Jessica as my colleague on BOM and as my DS. We need bishops who are glad to do the day-to-day work, who listen particularly closely to younger perspectives, who leverage what resources they have to create church cultures that are actively anti-racist, who build communities in which all people can thrive and grow. Jessica Rooks does all that well, the foundation of great leadership.
Cathie Kelsey, Mountain Sky Elder appointed as Dean of the Chapel and Schlessman Professor of Methodist Studies, Iliff School of Theology
Endorser: Rev. Bich Thy (Betty) Nguyen
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague
I believe that Rev. Jessica Rooks will serve the Western Jurisdiction and the denomination well as Bishop because, she has had experience serving in different ministry settings (small, large, rural, urban, etc.). Jessica is pastoral and also I believe equally important, is very knowledgeable in the area of UMC polity and gifted in administration. She has the capacity to bridge across difference and is invested in continuing to grow in her intercultural capacity. Jessica has exhibited leadership skills and is respected by her peers. She is also humble and has a posture of mutual learning. Perhaps most evident, her ministry is grounded in her faith in God and God’s love for all of creation.
As our denomination is going through these tender and unpredictable times, Jessica has been and continues to be a grounded and not anxious leader. She is hopeful for the future but does not shy away from the realities of our current state and the tension that comes with it.
Rev. Bich Thy (Betty) Nguyen
Multicultural and Advocacy Ministries Developer, Mountain Sky Conference of the UMC
Conference Staff Colleague
Known each other and colleagues serving in ministry for 16 years
Endorser: Rev. Brad Laurvick
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague
Rev. Rooks embodies the wisdom and grace of the Spirit through humble service, attentive care, and relationship. She brings humanity to systems, enabling expansive process that actively seeks out marginalized voices. It is rare to find someone so gifted in the ministry of administration.
She facilitates reconciliation and repentance in places of privilege, never shying away from difficult conversations. Her ability to bring forward the best of our tradition, while never letting the Church escape growth through critique, breathes life into our Wesleyan ways. She has done the self-work to avoid reactivity and sees healthy boundaries as sacred gifts. She is comfortable letting others have the spotlight while she nurtures and supports.
Jessica’s capacity to bring theology to life means every decision is well thought out. Her deep respect for the ability of local churches to transform the world means she creates space and offers support.
In every conversation we have had in over 20 years in ministry together, long before the episcopacy was a possibility, I have always known this role was part of how God gifted her to serve.
Rev. Bradley Laurvick (he/him)
Lead Pastor, FUMC – Fort Collins, CO
General Conference Delegate 2004, 2012, 2016, 2019