John Tucker

Ethnic Background: White

Conference: Oregon Idaho

Probationary Date: 06/15/1995

Full Membership Date: 06/08/1998

Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4

BA in Religion and Philosophy from Samford University, 1991 – Mabry Lunceford Award for Outstanding Student in Philosophy
MDIV from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, 1996 -cum laude with independent study project “Masculinity and Femininity as Symbol and Metaphor”

Ministry Experience:
Newsite UMC in the North Alabama Conference (1996-1997) Pastor
Cedar Bluff UMC in the North Alabama Conference (1997-2001) Pastor
Woodstock UMC in the North Alabama Conference (2001-2002) Pastor, part time as I attended a semester at the University of Alabama School of Law
Payette UMC in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference (2002-2008) Pastor
Medford UMC in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference (2008-2016) Lead Pastor
Crater Lake District in the Oregon Idaho Annual Conference (2016 to present) District Superintendent

Committee on Religion and Race in North Alabama Conference 1997-2000
Healthy Vital Church Team in Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference (2012-2014)
Board of Ordained Ministry in Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference (2008-2016)

Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Board Member at Rose Haven Center for Victims of Domestic Violence – Gadsden, Alabama (1998-2001)
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Malheur County, Oregon (2006-2008)
Numerous partnerships between churches I have served and community agencies such as Western Idaho Community Action Program (WICAP), Maslow Project, Southern Oregon Pride, Not Straight/Not Sure, Habitat for Humanity

Other Relevant Experience:
Leadership Workshop Leader for Southern District (2006)
Developed the “Tucker Quadrilateral” communication tool for non-shame based clergy accountability – 2016
Led Congregational Health Seminars (213 Light) in churches of Crater Lake District (2017-2018)
Author of “Zero Theology: Escaping Belief Through Catch 22s” (Cascade Imprint of WIpf and Stock Publishing (2019)
Appeared on Bart Campolo’s podcast “Humanize Me” in November 2019, episode 436 to discuss book
Led OrdinaryLife webinar based on my book, March 2021 (OrdinaryLife is a progressive spiritual exploration group associated with St. Paul’s UMC in Houston, Texas.
Contributed article for WESTAR’s magazine “The Fourth R” entitled “Getting Over Belief (And Unbelief) March-April 2001

Created a unique district paid position called the “Eugene Area Innovator” that works in the Eugene, Oregon area networking with advocacy groups, non-profits, and local churches to build connections, create belonging spaces outside of traditional congregations, and consult with pastors.

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?
As my colleague on cabinet and Director of Innovation in the Greater Northwest Area, Dr. Leroy Barber likes to say, “Innovation occurs at the intersection of differences.” I believe that it is in these innovative spaces that God is most present because such spaces challenge us to expand our thinking, our loving, and our acting. If we commit ourselves to ensuring that these spaces are characterized by inclusion, then the safety of relationship envelopes the risks we are called to take as followers on the Jesus path. My personal experience with the gospel is all about liberation from whatever binds us.

I understand that the burden of leadership should be light. It is a burden because a bishop needs to carry the grief that permeates our denomination. It is light because while serious times call for serious measures, they also call for playful creativity. If we lead with only a heavy burden, we lead into despair. If we lead without any burden at all, we lead into denial. I am very comfortable with grief, but I am often associated with laughter.

I moved to the northwest from the southeast twenty years ago because I value authenticity, inclusion, liberation, and creativity. I was raised a fundamentalist in another denomination but became an atheist after reading scripture critically and studying philosophy in college. I overcame the fundamentalism/atheism trap by studying the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein who showed me that religious language is doing something different than other vocabularies. I made my way back to the Jesus path after reading black theologian, James Cone, womanist theologian, Delores Williams, and eco-feminist theologian, Sallie McFague. I am committed to inclusivity as the manifestation of God’s Beloved Community and appreciate the welcome that extends even to theological misfits like myself. In some ways, my book “Zero Theology: Escaping Belief through Catch 22s” is autobiography, as well as philosophy or theology.

I am developing as a leader. I started as a generalist/reformer pastor in Alabama. I became more of a reformer/growth pastor in Payette, Idaho and Medford, Oregon. I have grown as a coach and strategic ally to pastors as a district superintendent. I am good at diagnosing systems, creating work arounds so that innovation is not stifled by institutional bureaucracy, and articulating organizational clarity. I believe these gifts and skills are essential if we are to make progressive and liberationist values more influential in our culture. The challenges we face require a robust progressive voice that needs to be stronger logistically in order to become more impactful.

Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
God has blessed me with excellent colleagues. I am surrounded by gifted people on the Greater Northwest Cabinet. Each has gifts and knowledge in areas that far exceed my own. Despite this, I have noticed the opposite of synergy often occurs. Our collective work is often less than the sum of our parts. This is not any single person’s fault. I think there are elements of our institutional culture that make us less creative than we actually are, less authentic than we want to be, and less trusting than we need to be. This institutional culture permeates all levels and impacts clergy serving in congregations, as well as laity and clergy serving on boards, agencies, teams, and committees. If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be “distrust.” This is not distrust of individuals, but distrust in the system that influences our relationships.

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky has provided excellent leadership in bringing in innovation through work from people outside our system like Dr. Leroy Barber and centralizing cross cultural competency by empowering people like Kristina Gonzalez. The persistent challenge that remains however is distrust and the miscommunication that flows from it. I have learned that good intentions and thoughtful strategies are not enough. I have come to conclude that playful experimentation, greater collegiality, and improved organizational clarity around roles and responsibilities would enhance our ability to achieve our goals of inclusion, innovation, and multiplication. Part of this would require that I, if elected, take responsibility for these challenges seriously without taking myself seriously. This would involve trusting staff and district authorizing and empowering them to do their work without fear of micromanagement. I would seek to decentralize my role as bishop because when bishops are too central, their limitations become the limitations of the areas they serve. This would require delegation of authority without abdicating responsibility and accountability.

My last two years on cabinet have highlighted the need for ego to get out of the way, for communication and trust to take center stage, and for authenticity to be a consistent way of being with others. I have learned from Dr. Leroy Barber that a leader listens to the community rather than bringing in a prefabricated agenda. I have learned from my cabinet colleagues that I did not know as much as I thought I did when I first came on cabinet. I have learned from my clergy that they want to be heard and appreciated. I have learned from laity that they are ready to work if we partner with them in leadership.

Endorser: Dr. Leroy Barber

Relationship to Candidate: Cabinet Colleague and Director of Innovation

John Tucker is a leader for the times we face in the church. He is a proven leader with the capacity to listen and bring creative solutions to meet the needs of the context he may be dealing with at the time.. He has done this as a pastor, leader, DS, and I believe he can as a bishop. Some of the incredible strengths that John brings is his love for people, his ability to think critically, and his humor.

John’s unique ability to listen shows up in his humor. I believe his ability to make people laugh is a compliment to his strength. John can dissect a situation, bring a creative solution, and relate deeply by dissipating the tension through humor. It’s a brilliant gift that I have seen operate for the past 5 years in intense conversations around the church and its present need to innovate. John’s renewed love for Jesus and his excellent leadership abilities will serve well. The church is in need of new approaches and John Tucker brings that with respect, dignity, and passion. I completely and confidently endorse him to serve in the office of Bishop.

Endorser: Ria Galo

Relationship to Candidate: Crater Lake District Lay Leader

I have known John Tucker for over 10 years, however, my working relationship in being the District Lay Leader under his supervision has only been since 2020. I am not surprised that his name has been recommended for a position as Bishop. I have known him to only make decisions about the Crater Lake District that would bring about positive changes for the church. I watched him advocate and implement projects within the District that brought people together from different communities. I’ve watched John speak up and advocate for people without hesitation, especially for those who identify as Queer, women, people of color, and low-income. John does not play favorites when it comes to different members in the District. I have not heard him change his tone of voice from one person to the person. This reassured me that John is a genuine person and that he serves in his role with his full heart. Finally, I feel excited knowing that John might potentially become Bishop. I think he will find ways for the church to expand and to worship in ways that encourage people. This is such a desperate need and John has taken it on with full – force.

Endorser: Rev. Richard Fuss

Relationship to Candidate: Clergy colleague who served in Crater Lake District

Rev. John Tucker has the rare ability to speak truthfully but lovingly as a leader in our current societal and denominational contexts. He has the ability to both listen to and respond to the very real concerns and hopes of our churches while still holding fast to the need for institutional evolution. He is devoted to empowering and supporting clergy and helping congregations discern faithful and fruitful ways forward while staying grounded in the reality of our challenging situations. John is a creative and playful problem-solver, which helps model this approach for our churches and denominational institution. His background allows him to be broadly knowledgeable about both our unique PNW culture and context as well as the culture and worldview of other parts of our country and denomination.

My personal experience of John is as a clergy colleague and District Superintendent. In both of these, John has been patient and kind. He never forgets that our churches, while being institutions themselves and part of a larger institution, are made up of real people with real human needs and hopes. He is passionate about helping churches and our denomination discover a new sense of joy and purpose and would make an excellent Bishop.

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