White Smoke for Disciples?

INDIANAPOLIS (DNS) -- April 18, 2005 -- An Oklahoma minister and veteran church leader has been nominated to serve as General Ministerand President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, 50, Senior Minister, DisciplesChristian Church of Bartlesville, Okla., was unanimously endorsed by the church's General Board on Sunday, April 17 as its choice to serve asGeneral Minister and President of the 770,000 member denomination.

"I am enormously pleased with the recommendation of the General Boardand believe that the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins possesses the gifts,talents, grace, intellect, and strength to lead our church, said Dr.Charisse Gillett, church moderator and presides over the General Board.

"I am honored to be the person nominated to lead our denominationduring a period of such exciting change and possibility," commentedWatkins. "As a life-long Disciple, I know our church has a unique God-given mission for these times - a mission that has to do with the extravagant hospitality of the communion table. We welcome and nurture whoever comes through our doors, and then send those people back out inthe world to be and to share the good news of God's love."

Rev. Watkins name was approved at the denomination's annual General Board meeting, in Indianapolis, Ind. She will stand for election during the Disciples General Assembly, which will be held July 23-27, in Portland, Ore. If elected, she will be the first female to head the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). "Sharon is smart and committed to the church. She has a vision, she's excited, and she has experience and will bring a pastor's heart and sensibility to the office of the OGMP," said the Rev. Dr.LaTaunya Bynum, Chair of the Search Committee.

Added Rev. Dr. Wm. Chris Hobgood, who is presently serving as GeneralMinister and President: "I believe the church is blessed to have aleader like Sharon Watkins emerge. She is a very gifted leader andperson of deep faith. Because she calls on God before she does anything else, the faithful leadership she will give will stand this church in very good stead."

Rev. Watkins has an extensive background of service to the church andits related institutions. She was Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary and Director of Church Relations andAssociate Vice President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the General Board, the GeneralBoard Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the ChristianChurch (DOC) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue group,which looks, in part at the traditions and history of the Disciples.

Rev. Watkins has been engaged in ecumenical discussions over the years,conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study, and women in the ministry. She has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocations, history, theology and practice of worship, as well as spiritual dimensions. She has traveled extensively, and served for two years as a missionary in the Congo, working on adult literacy programs.

Rev. Watkins was ordained in 1984 at Hamden, Conn. She has a Doctor ofMinistry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a master's ofdivinity from the Yale Divinity School, and a bachelor's degree in French and Economics from Butler University.

She is married to the Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Lowery, Professor of Old Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary. They have two children,Bethany, 21, and Christopher 19. Rev. Watkins has served and worshipped at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla., since 1997.

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