State's Methodists get new bishop

Bishop Larry Goodpaster was tapped Friday night to lead the 293,000-plus United Methodists who worship in Mecklenburg and 43 other counties that make up the Protestant denomination's Western N.C. Conference.

Goodpaster, 60, a Mississippi native who has served the past eight years as leader of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, will take office Sept. 1 for a four-year term in Charlotte.

He succeeds Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey, 67, who will retire. The former senior pastor at Charlotte's Myers Park United Methodist Church was assigned as bishop of the Western N.C. Conference in 2004.

Goodpaster was approved by delegates attending a conference of the denomination's Southeastern Jurisdiction in Lake Junaluska.

As resident bishop, Goodpaster will lead 293,772 members of 1,126 United Methodist churches in a conference that stretches from the Tennessee border to Greensboro. He will work in Charlotte, headquarters for the Western N.C. Conference – one of 56 such conferences in the United States.

In April, Goodpaster was elected to a two-year term as president of the United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops, which includes United Methodist bishops from around the world. He will take office in 2010. He will represent the United Methodist Church around the world, said conference spokesman Mark Barden.

Before becoming a bishop in 2000, Goodpaster served as a pastor and district superintendent in the Mississippi Conference. He pastored rural churches, a new congregation and several larger churches. He has also been a teacher and author.

He is married to the former Deborah Cox. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.

Also Friday night, the following bishops kept their current posts: Alfred “Al” Gwinn, N.C. Conference in Raleigh; Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor, S.C. Conference in Columbia; Charlene Kammerer, former bishop in Western N.C., Virginia Conference; and William “Will” Willimon, former dean of the Duke University Chapel, North Alabama Conference in Birmingham.