New Methodist bishop hopes to further church unity

Robert Schnase will succeed Ann Brookshire Sherer as leader of the Missouri Conference.
Monday, July 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:25 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

He may be taking on a higher leadership role, but Robert Schnase, the newly appointed bishop of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, has no intention of giving up his commitment to direct involvement at the local level.

“I hope to be able to leave the office and put on the work clothes from time to time,” Schnase said. “I love hands-on work projects. I want to help local congregations to be stronger, more vital and confident in their mission as disciples of Christ.”

Schnase was elected to the episcopacy and assigned to serve Missouri during the United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdiction conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, July 14-17. Representatives from United Methodist churches in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico elected and assigned four new bishops during the conference.

Schnase and his family — his wife, Esther, and their two sons, Karl, 15, and Paul, 12 — will live in Columbia, where the offices for the United Methodist Church’s Missouri Conference are located.

“We are thrilled and excited to be coming to Missouri,” he said. “We think it will be a good thing for our family and a good thing for the church.”

Schnase said he hopes that his collaborative, inclusive leadership style will help further the goal of unity in the church. “My vision is of a strong and growing United Methodism that is confident in its mission of ministering with passion and building a church that is reflective of the diversity of our communities,” he said.

Multicultural ministry is something Schnase, who has spent four summers studying Spanish in Costa Rica, said is close to his heart and would like to promote during his term in Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri’s Hispanic population increased 130 percent from 1980 to 2000.

The Rev. Nick Campbell, pastor of Fairview United Methodist Church, said his congregation is looking forward to Schnase’s expertise in Hispanic ministry. “One of our new ministries is a Hispanic initiative — we want to either incorporate the Hispanic community into our congregation or to start a new congregation,” he said.

Schnase said the experience of living and working in southern Texas — he’s been the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of McAllen for the past 15 years — has taught him that congregations can adapt to make their worship and fellowship more inclusive. “The future of our church depends on our ability to invite and develop diverse leadership and ministries,” he said.

Schnase said his own devotion to church leadership grew from ministry experiences he had as a teenager in Del Rio, Texas. “To be invited to take part in service projects and activities that really made a difference in the lives of others — there was a real sense of satisfaction in that,” he said. “I found a real love for helping people to organize in a way that allows them to sustain one another and reach out to the community.”

In his free time, Schnase enjoys kayaking and canoeing, studying Spanish, running marathons and photographing birds. But most of all, he said, he loves spending time with his family and as bishop will carve time out of his schedule to be with his wife and sons. “I’ll be making time for choir concerts and Scout camp-outs,” he said.

“It presents a different image to the role of bishop than many conferences are accustomed to,” he said. “But I don’t see it as a contradiction at all for a bishop to have a younger family. In fact, I think it’s important for clergy and members of the congregations to see that balance being made.”

Schnase succeeds Ann Brookshire Sherer, who has served Missouri since 1992. Bishops may serve one episcopal area for up to 12 years, with the traditional tenure being two four-year terms.

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