Bishop May Comes to Mission Agency from
Unique Center at Historically Black College
New York, NY, October 12 -- Bishop Felton E. May comes to the position of interim chief executive of the General Board of Global Ministries, the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, from the leadership of a center unique among the mission and educational institutions of the denomination.
In 2004, following his retirement from the active episcopacy, he became the founding dean of the Harry R. Kendall Science and Health Mission Center at Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Arkansas, a United Methodist-related historically black college. The center has multiple relationships with the mission board.
"To have Bishop May as general secretary of Global Ministries continues and deepens the already strong ties between the board and Philander Smith College and its Kendall Center," said Bishop Joel N. Martinez of San Antonio, president of the mission agency. "We thank the college for lending us one of its valued faculty members."
Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Jr., president of the college, said that the "selection of Bishop May is very important for Philander Smith and for all of the historically black colleges and universities affiliated with the church. Bishop May's work is known internationally and has had a tremendous impact on the church."
Bishop May, who retired three years ago as presiding bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference, was elected interim general secretary of the global mission board on October 9. He was introduced to and greeted the staff of the agency headquartered in New York City on October 11. He thanked the staff for its energy and enthusiasm and challenged all employees of the board to continue to "give life and lift" to global mission.
The facilities of the Harry R. Kendall Science and Health Mission Center at Philander Smith College were built in large part with a grant from an endowed fund managed by the mission board. The Kendall fund, named for an insurance company founder, provides grants for health services and training beneficial to African Americans.
The work of the center has college-based, community, national, and international components. It is an integral part of the college's program, relating to the Division of Natural and Physical Sciences. It promotes health and allied vocations and encourages in academic settings and the community the connection between healthy minds, bodies, and spirits.
Global health is an emerging priority of The United Methodist Church. The General Board of Global Ministries has decades of service in the health arena both in the United States and around the world.
The Kendall Center is part of a consortium of historically black colleges that works with the General Board of Global Ministries in addressing alcohol and drug abuse and addiction prevention among college students. This consortium is part of the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV). Bishop May laid the foundations for the program while on special assignment by the Council of Bishops in the early 1990s.
Kendall also relates to the Memphis Methodist Hospital system and to the health care division of Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution in Zimbabwe with students enrolled from 26 African countries. Bishop May, along with his wife, Phyllis, has traveled extensively in Africa and is a member of the board of directors of the university.
Speaking of Bishop May and the Kendall Center, President Kimbrough of Philander Smith said, "All of us, especially our students, have benefited from his experience and connections that have enabled us to build credible programs related to health, link our students to internships with Methodist health care institutions, and facilitate the matriculation of students from the Congo in the college.
"I doubt that many of our Methodist-related institutions have had someone of his experience and expertise on their campuses, so his appointment will give the entire denomination a new found respect and appreciation for the quality of experience provided by Black College Fund institutions. There are jewels all throughout the Black College Fund institutions, so we must continue to support them all."
The Black College Fund provides assistance to the 11 historically black colleges and universities related to The United Methodist Church. It is managed by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
President Kimbrough sees Bishop May's role at Global Ministries as a partnership through which the college can "continue to find new and creative avenues for our students to be involved in the work of the church as it relates to global initiatives, particularly related to health. Bishop May will be able to bring some of the new initiatives of the Kendall Center to the broader church, and likewise, link church initiatives for our involvement here. So while Bishop May will not be here as regularly, he still will be able to make a vital contribution to Philander Smith College."
Felton Edwin May was born in 1935 and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Judson College in 1961 and held pastorates in the Northern Illinois Conference following his ordination as deacon. He transferred to the then Peninsula Conference in 1968 and in 1970s received the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary, then located near Chester, Pennsylvania, and now merged to form the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York.
He was superintendent of the Easton District of the Delaware-Peninsula Conference from 1975 to 1981 and director of the conference council for three years, until he was elected to the episcopacy in 1984 by the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. Bishop May initially served the Harrisburg (PA) Area of the denomination. He retired in 2004 from the Baltimore-Washington Area.
During the years of his episcopal service, Bishop May was instrumental in organizing Communities of Shalom, a program of community building that emerged from the violent response to the acquittal of police officers caught on film beating motorist Rodney King while in police custody.
The bishop is a former director and vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries and has held many offices within The United Methodist Church. He has been a trustee of American University in Washington, DC, and a member of the Board of Governors of Wesley Theological Seminary, also in the nation's capital.
He has also held numerous civic posts, including in 1999 the White House Presidential Mission on Children Orphaned by AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Bishop May married the former Phyllis Henry, a native of Odessa, Delaware, in 1963. Phyllis May holds degrees from Bennett College and the Boston University School of Theology, both United Methodist-related schools, and is by profession a Christian educator. She is the founder of the Phyllis May Child Development Center in Washington, DC.
The Mays have two children, Felton E. May II and Daphne Endrea Sneed, and nine grandchildren.
Date posted: Oct 16, 2007