By Rev. Dawan Buie*
On the afternoon of March 24, 2022, the Black Pastors’ Fellowship in East Ohio assembled people to celebrate Bishop Tracy S. Malone having been elected president-designate of the Council of Bishops with the term starting in May 2024. She is the first Black female elected to that position. The genesis of the celebration event came from a conversation between Canal District Superintendent the Rev. Angela Lewis and Black Pastors’ Fellowship President the Rev. Dawan Buie.
After discussion, prayer, and discernment, the Black Pastors’ Fellowship leadership team for this event was President the Rev. Dawan Buie, Vice President the Rev. Gerald Cameron, Treasurer the Rev. David Whitt, the Rev. Ivy Smith, the Rev. Darlene Robinson, and District Superintendent Angela Lewis. They agreed to invite the following people to present at the virtual event: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, the resident bishop of the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church; Bishop Julius Trimble, the resident bishop of the Indiana Conference; Dr. Crystal Lewis, life coach and clinical therapist; the Rev. Danita Anderson, pastor of Woodridge UMC in Illinois; the Rev. Tony Love, chairperson of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and the assistant to the bishop for Bishop LaTrelle Easterling in the Baltimore-Washington Conference; Dr. Michael Bowie, president of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century; Mahoning Valley District Superintendent the Rev. Abby Auman, dean of the East Ohio Conference Cabinet; the Rev. Ed Peterson, assistant to the bishop for Bishop Malone; Director of Connectional Minstries the Rev. Ed Fashbaugh who was represented by Kaye Wolfinger, director of Young People’s Ministries; Derrick Malone, Bishop Malone’s husband; the Rev. Marilyn Coney, pastor of Tiffin UMC; the Rev. Yvette Massey, president of Black Clergy Women of The United Methodist Church and pastor of Kelly Chapel UMC in Decatur, Georgia; and the Rev. Dennis Oglesby, pastor of Sherman UMC in Illinois and president of the North Central Jurisdiction Black Methodists for Church Renewal. The East Ohio Conference Cabinet, the Extended Cabinet, Black Clergy Women members, and Black pastors of the Conference were invited to the live Zoom event.
During the event, those who presented showered Bishop Malone with words of admiration, affirmation, and congratulations. Mr. Malone said, “I always look at her as the hardest working woman or person that I have ever seen in my life.”
Rev. Massey said, “Someone has to shine the light and that someone for the Black Clergy Women is Bishop Tracy Smith Malone. Her dedication, her love, her encouragement, has been the wind beneath our wings.” She went on to share a resolution in the Bishop’s honor. Part of the resolution stated, “having served as the sage lending her skills and talents to the deliberations and decisions made by the organization. And, whereas, Bishop Malone is a role model, mentor, and encourager to many clergywomen.”
Bishop Trimble said that in the Council of Bishops meeting, “when we are coming to the point in the meeting where a decision has to be made or to remember what the purpose was there’s always a voice that brings us back to the primary purpose of our meeting … It is Bishop Tracy Smith Malone … She is both confident and collaborative. She is unapologetically Christian. She is unashamedly United Methodist.” He went on to say she had a habit of “breaking barriers left and right … She looks out for her friends … thank her for her friendship, her leadership.”
Bishop Palmer shared, “Bishop Malone, in every respect and aspect of your life, personal and vocational, you have distinguished yourself with your curiosity, your dedication to the mission, to collaboration, and to hard work. It is a great privilege to work alongside you for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and it is as much a joy to call you a friend. Your exceptional leadership skills have been recognized in every respect. So, your episcopal colleagues have affirmed our collective belief that you should be the next president-elect of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church effective at the adjournment of the spring meeting of the Council of Bishops.”
The live event included an expression of love through gifts and song. Mrs. Hawa Buie sang her favorite song entitled “God Provides” by Tamela Mann. The Black Pastors’ Fellowship in East Ohio presented Bishop Malone with flowers and a gift.
President the Rev. Buie stated that, “we did this event to honor Bishop Malone. We want to give her flowers while she is still living. Tanya Tucker in her country music hit “Bring My Flowers Now” sings:
“Bring my flowers now, while I’m livin’,
I won’t need your love when I’m gone.
Don’t spend time, tears, or money on my old breathless body.
If your heart in them flowers, bring ‘em.”
These lyrics hit me in a deep way when I first heard them because they were sung at the Grammys soon after the tragic death of NBA international superstar Kobe Bryant. I deduced from that experience that it is good and honorable to praise people for their works while they are still alive. We wanted Bishop Malone to know the segment of love that many have for her in The United Methodist Church.
It was evident by her surprised response that Bishop Malone was shocked and overjoyed by the expressions of love and gratitude. Bishop Malone said, “I am so honored that you would see fit to plan such an occasion to celebrate me.” Then, in characteristic Bishop Malone fashion, she stated, “many people have shaped my life and ministry within The United Methodist Church therefore this event is not about me but the people of God.”
If you would like to join in the appreciation for Bishop Malone, please reach out to her to express your appreciation for her life and ministry.
*Rev. Dawan Buie is associate pastor of Medina UMC and president of the Black Pastors’ Fellowship.