BUCKHANNON, West Virginia – From a small town in West Virginia, to the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College to leading United Methodist Conferences in Pennsylvania and the New York Annual Conference, Bishop Tom Bickerton ’80, Hon. ’15 is now representing the United Methodist Church on a global stage.
In his two-year term as president of the Council of Bishops, Bickerton will coordinate the work of the Council of Bishops and shepherd the 68 bishops across the globe. In addition to presiding at all Council of Bishops meetings, Bickerton has become the spokesperson for the United Methodist Church and the Council of Bishops.
“It’s a very high-profile position in all parts of the world where Methodism resides,” he said.
As a long-time bishop in the United Methodist Church, Bickerton sees more than issues of separation facing the church.
“Everyone wants to talk about issues of separation currently facing us,” he said. “However, the denomination is also facing issues of sustainability and relevancy. We are an older denomination that is really struggling in some sectors to stay alive and be relevant to the emerging needs across the world. In my mind, those issues are just as important as the issue of separation. We have to figure out how to inject a sense of new life and purpose in, what is, an old denomination. Those are very real concerns. As I have said in my new role, I want to spend more time positioning our church for the future than I do talking about the issues of separation.”
As a bishop in Western Pennsylvania, Bickerton served on the board of trustees.
“I loved every second of it,” he said. “I love my school. I genuinely take a lot of pride in being a bishop of the church who is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College. I don’t ever take that lightly.”
It was at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where Bickerton forged some of the leadership qualities that led him to where he is today.
“I find that leadership demands an ability to be relational and an ability to be transparent,” he said. “My time at Wesleyan was marked by relationships and the nurturing of relationships in the smaller venue of a small liberal arts college. I am an Appalachian, born and raised in a small town in West Virginia, and educated at a school in the heart of our state. And yet, here I sit as the bishop of New York which includes regions that include some of the most urban settings in the world.
“What served me well are the facts that I am from Appalachia. I am a storyteller, I value people. I value relationships. Mountaineers are always free. Mountaineers are a unique breed of people. We rally around each other, we care deeply for one another. All of that was nurtured and accentuated when I was at Wesleyan. The value that I place in people – the deep respect that I have for people- the longing to build relationships – all of that was nurtured and accentuated when I was at West Virginia Wesleyan College.”
In the United Methodist Church, bishops are appointed for life, but Bickerton’s turn as president of the Council of Bishops will go through the General Conference in 2024.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE
West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) is a private, four-year residential liberal arts college in Buckhannon, West Virginia. A tradition of excellence for more than 130 years, West Virginia Wesleyan is home to 14 Fulbright Scholars. The Princeton Review ranked Wesleyan one of its 2022 Best Colleges in the Southeastern Region of the United States. U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best College Rankings designated Wesleyan a “Top 20” Best Value – Regional Universities (South) and one of the “Top 75” Regional Universities (South). WVWC offers students more than 40 majors and 40 minors; graduate programs in athletic training, business administration, creative writing, and nursing; 22 NCAA Division II athletic programs; multiple performing arts groups; and more than 70 organizations. Founded in 1890, the College is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church and abides by the Wesley doctrine that emphasizes service to others. For more information, visit wvwc.edu.