Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai Assigned to the Iowa Area

Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai Assigned to the Iowa Area

November 05, 2022

By Rev. Cindy Gregorson

Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai has been assigned as the resident bishop for the Iowa Area, effective Jan. 1, 2023. She was elected to the episcopacy at the 2022 North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Before her election, she served as the chief connectional ministries officer of the Connectional Table for the United Methodist Church since 2018.

Bishop Bigham-Tsai, has served as a district superintendent in the Michigan Annual Conference and as a local church pastor in Kalamazoo and East Lansing, Michigan. 

Bigham-Tsai said of her vision of the church: “I envision a United Methodist Church that fully claims its identity as a church that centers grace. This is a church that is open and inclusive of all people. It is a church that addresses racism in the church and in society and actively seeks reconciliation, healing, and justice for its LGBTQIA+ children. Such a church approaches ministry with an outward-facing and invitational love.” She describes her leadership as a “relational, collaborative, and innovative leader who makes my own physical, emotional, and spiritual health a priority. I am a visionary who is mission-directed and willing to experiment. I believe in surrounding myself with strong leaders, then equipping and allowing them to lead. I enjoy leading with people who are open to the creative movement of the Spirit, and I enjoy mentoring and developing new leaders.”

Bishop Bigham-Tsai is married to Kee Tsai. They have two children, Keeton and Kandem Bigham-Tsai, and a German Shepherd, Kylo. 

The North Central Jurisdiction’s Episcopacy Committee is responsible for assigning bishops—a process that begins immediately after all bishops are elected. The committee includes two people from each annual conference. The announcement of the assignments of all nine bishops was made on Saturday morning at the end of the consecration service for the three new bishops. Their assignments take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Bishops are normally assigned for a four-year term, but this will be a shortened assignment, as the Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled to meet in its regular sequence following the General Conference in July 2024 to elect and assign bishops for the 2024-2028 quadrennium.

Rev. Carol Zaagsma and Dave Nuckols represented the Minnesota Annual Conference on the committee. Rev. Zaagsma said of the process, “This was my first experience serving on the NCJ Committee of Episcopacy. The process of assigning bishops to their episcopal areas was difficult work, and yet the committee did this work thoughtfully and with prayer. Surveys were distributed in each area, with results compiled to highlight key initiatives and prioritize leadership characteristics most needed right now. Interview notes were also reviewed to understand strengths and passions each bishop brings to this season of ministry. All these steps lead to careful discernment around where to assign our bishops. I am very excited about the bishop assigned to the Iowa area and look forward to joining together in ministry.”

Bishop Sally Dyck, in her sermon at the consecration service, charged the new bishops and the body to remember first and foremost their primary identity as a child of God. Everything else we have received, our certificates, ordinations, and consecrations, are only tools to build up the body of Christ. Don’t dare let it be your identity. 

“You were not elected to save the church,” she told the new bishops. “But what did Jesus do? He taught people to live and to love and to forgive and to share what had happened to them—how they had been healed, how they had been transformed through the power of God through him. And he built up his people. We get confused sometimes.” Dyck then recounted the story of St. Francis, who heard God say, “repair my church,” and went off to start putting rocks on top of one another. Then he realized what God was calling him to do was to bring new life to the church. 

Dyck concluded, “yes, you are called to help inspire and equip and bring new life into our beloved United Methodist Church!” 

Each bishop, upon their consecration, received a stole as a symbol of their servant ministry and a crosier as a symbol of their call to shepherd God’s people.

Here is the complete list of assignments for Jan. 1, 2023, to Aug. 31, 2024:

  • Dakotas-Minnesota Conferences: Bishop Lanette Plambeck
  • East Ohio Conference: Bishop Tracy Smith Malone
  • Illinois-Great Rivers Conference: Bishop Frank Beard
  • Indiana Conference: Bishop Julius C. Trimble
  • Iowa Conference: Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai
  • Michigan Conference: Bishop David Bard
  • Northern Illinois Conference: Bishop Dan Schwerin
  • West Ohio Conference: Bishop Gregory Palmer
  • Wisconsin Conference: Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

Rev. Cindy Gregorson is the director of connectional ministries/clergy assistant to the bishop for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.