By: Christa Meland
Members of the 2015 Minnesota Annual Conference session endorsed Rev. Dr. David Bard as their episcopal nominee.
Bard, who has been at First United Methodist Church in Duluth since 2005, has been in ministry for more than 30 years and served in many roles within both the Minnesota Annual Conference and the General Church.
Bard was a General and Jurisdictional Conference delegate in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. He was an episcopal nominee in both 2004 and 2008.
“I feel a call in the sense that I have gifts that could be helpful to the church at this time as a bishop,” said Bard, who is heading the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation from Minnesota. “I have a good combination of relational and strategic and visionary skills—and I have experience with the church across the world.”
Within the Minnesota Conference, Bard is chair of the Episcopacy Committee and the Higher Education Ministry Team, and he serves on the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Congregational Response Team. He’s also the conference parliamentarian. He was a district superintendent from 1998 to 2005 and spent three years on the Commission on Religion and Race.
Within the General Church, Bard serves on the Study on Ministry Commission, the Committee on Faith and Order, and the North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy. He has also previously served on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the Commission on General Conference, and the Commission on Theological Education.
“Leadership matters,” said Bard when asked what type of episcopal leader he wants to be. “I’d be very committed as a bishop to try to find good leaders for every congregation. I would also really like to help a conference identify what it’s doing well and build on that—and from there look at places where they’d like to grow in new areas. I think it’s important to ask churches to look at who they are and their community, and identify one or two things they could do differently that would make an impact.”
Bard’s leadership in the local church has resulted in growth for his congregation. First UMC has increased its membership by more than 10 percent over the past five years. During that period, the church started several outreach ministries—including a school mentoring program that a nearby community later modeled through a similar program that it began.
“I want to meet people where they are,” said Bard. “That would be true for me as a bishop as well. To hear where people are and to begin there matters.”
Those who have worked closely with Bard say he has extensive knowledge of the United Methodist Church, a deep and abiding faith, and a commitment to including all people and voices.
“David has a big heart for people, for the church, and for the mission of the United Methodist Church to be a church of open hearts, open minds, and open doors,” said Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of connectional ministries for the Minnesota Conference. “His faith is always evident in what he’s doing and how he’s leading. He has great integrity and intentionality.”
Gregorson, who served on the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry with Bard, said he is an excellent listener and someone who seeks out a variety of perspectives. Additionally, he has strong people skills and a proven ability to help those with different perspectives find common ground.
“He can help people move forward together, and that’s needed at this time in the church,” she said.
Rev. Woojae Im, a clergy member of the 2016 Minnesota Conference delegation and the pastor of Osseo United Methodist Church, echoed that sentiment.
“He really tries hard to include everyone and make sure that even small voices can be heard,” said Im. “He’s a strong facilitator—and he’s very devoted to our denomination.”
Faye Christensen, a lay member of the 2016 Minnesota Conference delegation, has known Bard for more than a decade. She told members of the 2015 conference session that Bard has “a deep and abiding spiritual foundation and love for God” and “a strong desire to see the church minister to all people with acts of compassion and justice.”
Christensen called Bard a “reconciler” and said he helps people think through issues and explore how people on the periphery will be impacted.
“He’s the best person to lead the church into the future,” she said. “He knows our history, and he’s so astute at looking toward the future and helping people understand how they can come together for the betterment of everybody and the glory of God.”
Bard acknowledged that this is both an exciting and challenging time to be in ministry within the United Methodist Church, and he welcomes the opportunity to help the church navigate the changes ahead. That includes finding a way forward around the issue of human sexuality.
“I am strongly committed to trying to help the church work through this together,” said Bard, who was part of a conference team that developed a marriage study guide for all Minnesota churches. “At a time when our country is so fractured, if we are a model of working amid differences, the church can be a strong witness to the power of the gospel. The Methodist stream of the Christian tradition, the Wesleyan stream, has a lot to offer.”
Bard has a wife, Julie, and three adult children. In his free time, he enjoys music, reading, baseball, and walking outside.
About Jurisdictional Conference:
Within the United States, The United Methodist Church is divided into five jurisdictions (or regions). Every four years, the jurisdictional conferences meet to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies. The North Central Jurisdiction includes the Dakotas, Detroit, East Ohio, Illinois Great Rivers, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, West Michigan, West Ohio, and Wisconsin. The 2016 North Central Jurisdiction Conference will take place from July 13-16, 2016 in Peoria, Illinois. Four bishops will be elected at that gathering, to succeed the four bishops who have announced that they will be retiring: Michael Coyner of the Indiana Area, John Hopkins of the East Ohio Area, Jonathan D. Keaton of the Illinois Area, and Deborah Lieder Kiesey of the Michigan Area. Eight delegates will represent Minnesota at the Jurisdictional Conference. Clergy members of the Minnesota delegation are David A. Bard, Judy A. Zabel, Woojae Im, Carol Zaagsma, Jeffrey Ozanne (reserve), Amy Jo Bur (reserve), and Paula Colton (reserve). Lay members of the Minnesota delegation are Faye B. Christensen, Sara Ann Swenson, Dave Nuckols, Leslie Hobson, Walker Brault (reserve), Karen Thompson (reserve), and Shirley Durr (reserve).
2016 North Central Jurisdiction website
Other North Central Jurisdiction episcopal nominees
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church