By Kristen Caldwell and Selby Ewing
The Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, assistant to the bishop in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, has been elected a bishop by The United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdiction. He is the first Filipino American bishop in The United Methodist Church, and the first U.S. bishop who was ordained in a central conference — a United Methodist region outside the U.S.
Delegates elected Rapanut, 48, on Nov. 4 at the jurisdiction’s meeting at Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, on the what 13th ballot. He received 67 votes out of 95 valid ballots cast. He needed 64 to be elected. Current Western Jurisdiction rules require two-thirds of valid ballots.
Rapanut was the first bishop elected at the Nov. 2-5 meeting.
“I stand here today on the shoulders of Filipinos all across the globe,” Rapanut said in his first remarks after being elected. “I stand on the shoulders of those who had a vision that even, maybe, a Filipino can be bishop in the United States. I honor them today. I honor that vision today.”
Rapanut was elected by the Western Jurisdiction’s 96 total delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity from the eight annual conferences — church regional bodies — forming the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction encompasses the 12 westernmost states in the U.S. and the territories of Guam and Saipan.
The assignments of bishops in the Western Jurisdiction for the next two years will be announced later in the week.
His term of service begins Jan. 1. In the United States, bishops are elected to serve for life.
Rapanut, an elder in the Pacific Northwest Conference, has served as assistant to Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky in the Greater Northwest Area since 2021. The area encompasses the Alaska, Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho conferences. As assistant to the bishop, he takes on various projects in ministry leadership.
Since 2014 until May this year, he also served as co-dean of the Greater Northwest Area bishop’s cabinet and conference superintendent of the Alaska United
Methodist Conference. As superintendent, he supervised clergy over Alaska’s vast geographical area and helped envision the conference’s transition into a mission district in a decolonized and values-driven way. He also was the Alaska Conference’s director of connectional ministries from 2014 until becoming assistant to the bishop.
In the early days of the pandemic, he led the Greater Northwest Area’s COVID Response Team, which helped provide online worship resources and aided churches in securing federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.
He previously served as pastor of United Methodist Church of Chugiak, Chugiak, Alaska.
Rapanut grew up in Baguio City, Philippines. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in management from the University of the Philippines. He also has a Master of Divinity from Wesley Divinity School in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. Before moving to the U.S., he was senior pastor of Baguio City First United Methodist Church and later assistant to now-retired Bishop Benjamin A. Justo.
In The United Methodist Church, bishops are ordained elders who are called to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church.” Bishops, in consultation with district superintendents, are responsible for appointing clergy. They also preside at annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.
Bishop candidates typically are endorsed by their home conference or other groups within the denomination. This year, the Western Jurisdiction invited each of its annual conferences to lift up multiple potential candidates, with the hope of drawing the circle wide. The elders interested in being considered for election were then asked to signal their willingness to be considered by Sept. 1. Throughout, the jurisdiction has put an emphasis on discernment by both the candidates and the voting delegates.
He and other new bishops are coming aboard as the denomination deals with the continuing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising congregational disaffiliations amid a denominational splintering.
Rapanut, joined by his wife Radie and son Titus (son Caleb is in en route from college), thanked the delegates for reading about him, listening to him on Zoom calls and ultimately, voting for him. He described himself as a work in progress and is excited for where the spirit will lead.
“Let us pray that the road ahead would give us beautiful surprises of how God can work among us,” Rapanut said.
Caldwell is the communications manager for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, and Ewing is the director of communications of the California-Nevada Conference.