Bishop Laurie Haller reports on a recent visit made by Bishop Judy Craig to the NCJ College of Bishops.
BISHOP LAURIE HALLER
I distinctly remember when Bishop Judy Craig was elected to the episcopacy in 1984 and was assigned to the Michigan Area. As a young pastor who did not grow up in a denomination that permitted women pastors, let alone bishops, I was fascinated by how Bishop Craig led the West Michigan Annual Conference. She was authentically herself, made annual conference fun, and did not take herself too seriously. At the same, she would hold us accountable as an annual conference and was not afraid to “take Thou authority” when needed.
One of my fondest memories of Bishop Craig was when she baptized our two youngest children at a district event at Ludington United Methodist Church. It was May 17, 1987. As the picture below indicates, our children were a handful, but Bishop Craig took it all in stride! Last week, when I had the opportunity to be with Bishop Craig after many years, the first thing she said was, “Oh, how I remember your children. What a bundle of energy they were!”
The North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops was meeting in Columbus, Ohio, where Bishop Craig lives with her niece. She is not able to travel far but was able to spend an hour with the College of Bishops and share dinner with the women bishops. What joy filled our hearts to be in the presence of this saint of the church! Bishop Craig was the third elected woman to the episcopacy in The United Methodist Church after Marjorie Matthews, elected in the North Central Jurisdiction in1980, and just hours after Leontine Kelley, the first African-American woman bishop, who was elected in the Western Jurisdiction in 1984. Bishop Craig served eight years in the Michigan Area, followed by eight years in the West Ohio area.
One by one, we greeted Bishop Craig with hugs, kisses, words of endearment, and great joy. Bishop Craig’s characteristic playfulness was in full force when she responded to our first question, “How are you?” “For the shape I am in, I’m terrific! My heart is full because I am with you. How much a part of me you are! Across the quadrennia, there remains a belonging. It’s the mystery of connectedness.”