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United Methodists elect new NC Conference bishop

The Rev. Gray Southern of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy is pictured at left with Bishop Connie Mitchell Shelton, the Rev. Joey Shelton and Emily Innes of the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy. Contributed photo

GARNER — United Methodists across eastern North Carolina are welcoming newly elected Bishop Connie Mitchell Shelton as their episcopal leader.

A native of Picayune, Mississippi, Shelton was elected a bishop in the United Methodist Church on Nov. 2 at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference held at Lake Junaluska and was assigned to the North Carolina Conference,effective Jan. 1. She will serve until the next SEJ Conference convenes in 2024, when she may be reassigned to the N.C. Conference or receive another assignment.

She replaces Bishop Leonard E. Fairley, who has led the N.C. Conference on an interim basis since September 2021.

When elected as a bishop, Shelton served as district superintendent and chief mission strategist for the East Jackson District in the Mississippi Annual Conference. She was the second of three bishops elected by conference delegates. In addition to North Carolina, the Southeastern Jurisdiction includes the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. 

A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Shelton received the Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in 1997. Following a seven-year tenure as executive director of the “United Methodist Hour” broadcast, she returned to Duke Divinity School, along with her husband Joey, to serve as field education director, a position she held for three years.

Upon her return to Mississippi, Shelton was appointed pastor of Galloway UMC before serving in leadership roles for the Mississippi Annual Conference. In 2013, she was appointed as director of connectional ministries and communications. During her time in that role, she helped lead the conference in discerning and developing a new structure and casting a new vision and purpose.

She was appointed to lead the East Jackson District in 2015. She also helps to co-lead the Hattiesburg District along with three other superintendents as part of a new initiative begun by the Mississippi Conference in July of this year.

“We are excited for Bishop Shelton to join us in North Carolina. She has God-given energy and vision as well as deep ties to our annual conference,” said the Rev. Gray Southern, assistant to the bishop and a member of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy.

There are 209,680 members of 779 United Methodist Church congregations in the North Carolina Conference, which encompasses 56 counties from Burlington to the coast.