Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai installed as Iowa UM Conference's New Episcopal Leader

Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai installed as Iowa UM Conference's New Episcopal Leader

February 24, 2023

Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
Liz Winders
Director of Communications
(515) 974-8907

For Immediate Release

Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai installed as Iowa UM Conference’s New Episcopal Leader

February 19, 2023, Des Moines, Iowa —"This is the church Wesley envisioned when he said, 'Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike.'  Wesley said we may not be of the same opinion, but can't we be of the same heart? Can't we have hearts centered in love?" asked Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai during her installation service at Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation on Sunday, February 19, 2023.  She preached from Matthew 16: 13-18 asking the hundreds gathered to reflect on their identity as United Methodists in her sermon titled "Remembering Who We Are." 
Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai was elected to the episcopacy by the North Central Jurisdiction in November 2022. She began as the resident bishop of the Iowa Area in January 2023. She is the first Black woman to serve as Iowa's Episcopal leader.

Before her election to Iowa, Bishop Bigham-Tsai was the Chief Connectional Ministries Officer for the Connectional Table, the visioning body of the United Methodist Church, and the steward of resources to carry out that vision worldwide. Before her time at the Connectional Table, she served local congregations in East Lansing and Kalamazoo, MI, bringing a pastor's heart and strategic vision to her appointments. She also served as a conference district superintendent.
During the Installation service, Bigham-Tsai was presented with "Signs of Episcopal Ministry," including a pastoral staff, Bible, water for baptism, bread and cup for communion, towel, and basin for service, a stole to be pastor, preacher and teacher, a Book of Discipline, and a gavel. 

In her sermon, Bishop Bigham-Tsai spoke about Bishop Will Willimon, whose book, Remember Who You Are, provides an answer to who we are as Christians. Willimon writes in his book, "You are baptized." Remembering our baptism is key to remembering who we are.

"I came to understand that, through the waters of baptism, we come into a new family—the family of Christ. Through baptism, we take on a new identity in Christ," said Bigham-Tsai. "The old is gone. The new has come. We become a royal priesthood—the Body of Christ, sent into a broken world as hope."
Remembering who we are is also knowing that United Methodists are people who center grace.
"We are a people emersed in grace, washed in grace, upheld by grace, embraced by the grace of God, and called to be extenders of that grace to the world," said Bigham-Tsai.
She continued by saying that out of lives empowered by our love of God comes the sacrificial love of neighbor—which leads us to share with our neighbors the Good News of our faith in Jesus Christ. 
"We care about living out the dictates of Micah 6:8 to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. We do this out of our love of God and neighbor and out of our commitment to extend God's grace to the world," said Bigham-Tsai.
Bishop Bigham-Tsai said that as United Methodists, we make a place at the table for everyone. Because in Christ's Church, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, Black nor white, male nor female, Queer nor straight. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Christ invites us all to the table and calls us to make space for everybody.
"Now that also means this—those of you who are more traditional in your understandings of the faith, there is a place at the table for you. Those who are more progressive in your understanding of the faith, there is a place at the table for you. Those who are middle of the road or who defy such descriptors all together, there is a place at the table for you," said Bigham-Tsai.
The ecumenical greeting, given by Bishop Amy Current, Southeast Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, was followed by a section dedicated to "Marking This Moment of Women in Leadership." Bishop Bigham-Tsai is the first African American woman assigned to Iowa Annual Conference.
Three special guests who are influential in Bishop Bigham-Tsai's life and path to episcopacy included Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, retired bishop of the Michigan Conference and Iowa resident, Bishop Linda Lee, a retired bishop also from the Michigan Conference and first African American woman elected as bishop in the North Central Jurisdiction and Dawn Wiggins Hare, the General Secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. They each gave her advice on leading as a woman.
"Because out of our identity as grace-filled Christians, will come direction for how to live into our mission to inspire, equip, and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ," said Bigham-Tsai. "Out of our identity as grace-empowered Christians will come direction for how to live out our vision to see God's hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people. We must first claim and celebrate our identity, and we must BE UMC."

Rev. Dr. Michel Lundula, an Africa University graduate, asked the congregation to give to scholarships for students. 

"There was a time that I prayed and prayed, and my friends prayed and prayed, that we would receive the funds to continue our education," Lundula said. "Those prayers were answered by a scholarship through the university."

About $3,500 was collected and will be sent to help students like Lundula in honor of the Bishop's installation.
In conclusion, she asked, "You remember who we are, don't you? We are the baptized. And we are United Methodists. Help me spell it.
U-Unifiers in Christ Jesus 
N-Navigators of his love 
I-Incubators of the faith
T-Tillers of God's mission field 
E-Exhorters of the Good News 
D-Drum majors for justice.
M-Manifesters of God's Mercy 
E-Edifiers of the Body of Christ 
T-Toilers in the Kin'dom of God 
H-Healers of a broken world
O-Overcomers of despair 
D-Deliverers of hope
I-Imitators of Christ in the fullness of his joy 
S-Seekers after his righteousness
T-Testifiers to God's grace revealed to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Iowa Annual Conference, remember who you are!"
The Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church is a connection of 740 congregations across five districts (regions) of the state of Iowa. Served by 462 clergy, the 136,311 members of United Methodist communities of faith are part of the 12 million worldwide denomination. The mission of the Iowa Conference is to Inspire, Equip, and Connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ. The vision of the Conference is to see God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people.