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Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan

Garrett Biblical Institute 1960

Retired Bishop, Iowa Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church; Bishop-in-Residence, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California

In his current role, Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan provides, first and foremost, a ministry of presence. As Bishop-in-Residence at Claremont School of Theology, his role is neither faculty nor administrative; instead, he provides an informal space for persons to seek advice, information, or counsel. He often says, “If there isn’t anybody else you can think of, come see me.” Faculty members often ask him to guest lecture, students seek him out for ministerial insights, and even the Claremont President relies on him for suggestions to improve the way the school handles issues of diversity and inclusion.

Bishop Jordan’s understanding of faithfulness fuels this ministry of presence: “My faithfulness is a commitment to the understanding of the Word, and the incarnational nature of that Word, through the life and ministry of Jesus—and to share that with people, not only by word, but also by deed.” He never sees faithfulness as something focused solely on himself or others as individuals. Incarnational ministry leads, always, to relational ministry, which, for Bishop Jordan, is a ministry of sharing hope. This notion of shared hope relies on the work of God’s Spirit. He is motivated by his ability to see the deeper potential for God’s people in his work with them. Particularly, he draws inspiration from listening in novel and unusual ways to the Holy Spirit and is filled with joy and hope as he witnesses people led by the Spirit to acts of justice and peace.

Although he graduated from Garrett Biblical Institute (GBI) more than fifty years ago, Bishop Jordan continues to use the education and experience he received in his life and ministry. Particularly, he notes GBI’s role in sensitizing him to the need to stay informed and relevant regarding developments in the Church and the world. As he interacts with students, faculty, and administration, he understands more deeply the relationship of theology and theological education to the life and experiences of the present Church.

He understands the role of CBE, which originated after he graduated from GBI, as one of attempting to create new paradigms in how seminaries explore the Black church and community. Instead of a Black studies program, CBE set out to explore the relationship of the whole Church to the Black experience, not simply the Black church and the Black experience. Referencing the work of Maceo Pembroke, Bishop Jordan notes that the Black experience is not simply one ingredient in the recipe, but the whole leaven for the loaf that is the Church. His hope is that CBE continue to live out its goal of understanding the Black community and the Black experience but also of exploring its relationship to the whole Church.

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