In the initial merging of The Wesleyan Church from the Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness churches in 1968, it was decided that four General Superintendents would best serve as church leadership, so as to allow for parity from both backgrounds.
Prior to the merger, however, the individual leadership of the Pilgrim Holiness and Wesleyan Methodists were each served by three General Superintendents.
When General Superintendent O.D. Emery retired in 1992 from The Wesleyan Church, his position was not filled, as “parity had long since ceased to be an issue.” The decision to not fill the vacated position required a restructuring of leadership for the three remaining General Superintendents: Earle Wilson, Lee Haines and H.C. Wilson.
At the time, each of the districts across North America (northeastern, southern, north central and western) were overseen by one of the General Superintendents. When only three remained, leadership within the church needed to be redrawn, dividing the assignments that were Emery’s responsibility previously among the remaining three.
This effort proved to require special attention to the needs of each region, as the divisions had originally served administrative, educational and representative areas.
In The Story of The Wesleyan Church, Robert Black and Keith Drury explain, “It was not the wish of the body, though, to redraw the map for educational areas (the regions served by the liberal arts colleges and considered to be their best support bases) and representative areas (those used to elect area representatives to the General Board of Administration). Previously, all three maps — administrative, educational and representative — had been identical. With the administrative map redrawn into thirds, some districts had to get used to a different kind of realignment, but the new design proved to be manageable.”
This design remained in effect until 2012, when The Wesleyan Church approved the transition of three General Superintendents to one, with Dr. Jo Anne Lyon elected as the single General Superintendent — making her, at that time, “the only woman in the evangelical world to hold the highest office in her denomination.”
As GC20 draws nearer, stay tuned for a deeper look into some of the monumental decisions that made The Wesleyan Church what it is today and be in prayer about a collective unity of purpose and heart for those tasked with voting.