Bishop Palmer to provide interim leadership to IGRC


By Paul Black
A familiar face will be providing interim leadership to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference during Bishop Frank J. Beard’s medical leave.
The Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, in consultation with the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, announce that Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer has been selected to serve as interim bishop of the Illinois Area of The United Methodist Church, effective July 1. Palmer, episcopal leader of the Ohio West Area of the church, will serve on an interim basis for the final six months of 2021 while continuing his residential responsibilities in Ohio.
Bishop Palmer is no stranger to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, having served as Bishop of the Illinois Area from 2008 to 2012.
“I am humbled to take on this short-term assignment. My respect and affection for Bishop Beard and for the IGRC can have me do no less,” Palmer said.  “My prayers for his wholeness will continue to be ongoing. I have always gratefully accepted the appointment of a bishop or an assignment by the Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy or the Council of Bishops.”
“I have labored to build a strong and nimble team in West Ohio in whom I have great confidence. The IGRC has strong leaders that I can support and encourage in the work of Jesus the Christ.”
On April 30, Bishop Beard announced that he had applied for and had been granted a request for a personal Medical Leave, effective July 1, to care for his eyesight.
“It is my intention to use the six months to care for my eyes and be back Jan. 1 to lead with or without eyesight,” Bishop Beard said.
The request was shared with the IGRC Extended Cabinet April 23 and was approved April 24 by the NCJ College of Bishops. The Council of Bishops were also notified of the request.
Bishop Beard suffers from glaucoma and has lost 95 percent of his sight in his right eye and 80 percent of his sight in his left eye. The medical leave will allow him the time needed to work with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in caring for his sight and making necessary adjustments for future ministry. The leave of up to six months is offered to active bishops by the Book of Discipline, paragraph 410.4.
The IGRC Committee on Episcopacy, chaired by the Rev. Victor Long, and the North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) Episcopacy Committee, chaired by Rev. Sara Isbell, supported his request. The NCJ College of Bishops, after consultation with the Council of Bishops, assigned Palmer as interim bishop and will work with IGRC leadership in Bishop Beard’s absence.
Bishop Beard has named an interim advisory council to assist Bishop Palmer during his medical leave. Members of the advisory council include:

  • IGRC Lay Leader Lorene King
  • IGRC Committee on Episcopacy Chair, Rev. Victor Long
  • IGRC Board of Ministry Chair, Rev. Sheryl Palmer
  • Co-Chair, IGRC Order of Elders, Rev. Beverly Wilkes-Null
  • IGRC Cabinet Co-Dean, Rev. Nic Showalter
  • IGRC Director of Connectional Ministries, Rev. Dr. Curtis Brown
  • IGRC Director of Communication Ministries, Paul Black
  • At-large lay representative, Pamela Hammond-McDavid
  • Executive Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Janice Griffith
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Born and reared in Philadelphia, Palmer is a “child of the church,” the son of the Rev. Herbert E. and Mrs. Charlotte Sue Hewitt Palmer. Palmer’s father is a retired United Methodist pastor; his mother (now deceased) was a schoolteacher in the Philadelphia Public School system. Rev. Herbert Palmer and his wife Peggy reside in Philadelphia.
Bishop Palmer received his undergraduate degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School, Durham, N.C. Baldwin-Wallace College, Iowa Wesleyan College, Simpson College, Hood Theological Seminary and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary have awarded him honorary degrees.
He was ordained a deacon and elected a probationary member in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference in 1977. In 1981, he was elected to full membership and ordained an elder in the East Ohio Annual Conference.
Elected to the episcopacy by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in 2000, Palmer served the Iowa Area until assuming responsibilities in the Illinois Area in 2008. Palmer served as president of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry from 2004 to 2008 and president of the Council of Bishops from April 2008 to May 2010. Palmer served on the Commission on a Way Forward.
Currently, he is a member of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and chair of the Comprehensive Africa Plan. He also is a board member of several organizations, including The United Methodist Publishing House, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, United Theological Seminary and OhioHealth, a family of nonprofit hospitals and health care facilities.

Married for 44 years to his wife Cynthia, they are the parents of two adult children. Monica is a public school principal in Charlotte, N.C., and Aaron is a senior product owner for an interactive technology company based in Charlotte, N.C.
(West Ohio Conference Director of Communications Kay Panovec contributed to this report)