Bishop Linda Adams was 17 years old in her hometown of Spring Arbor, Michigan, when she first felt the Lord calling her to ministry. The occasion was hearing a woman missionary preach. A powerful, two-year revival at her church, a spillover from the Asbury College revival of 1970, had just wound down.
“As I was walking forward to just commit my life to Christ in whatever way, it was like signing a blank check,” she recalls. She thought perhaps she would someday be a pastor’s wife, a missionary or a Bible school teacher. “Those were my categories for women who were called to ministry.”
It took Bishop Linda about 12 years to clarify what her calling meant. In that time, she came across students, authors, and Christian speakers she respected who felt that “it would be an act of rebellion for a woman to move on toward leadership in the church,” she explains. Bishop Linda didn’t want to be in rebellion against God and “was happy to be a volunteer at the church and be a mom and a wife and just take care of life.”
But when she and her husband John became part of a church plant team, Linda got the chance to use her gifts and see that the Lord was smiling on her. She finally knew that the true act of rebellion would be for her to say no to God’s call. She knew His opinion, the only one that mattered. She stopped doubting His calling on her life and considered where to go to seminary.
Bishop Linda attended a seminary in New York part time for four years because her husband was working in New York City. During that time, she preached at Asbury Seminary for a Women in Ministry chapel. While praying in a prayer chapel on the Asbury Seminary campus, she felt the Lord call her to come there.
Her husband supported her calling, and they went to Asbury Seminary for two years while she finished her M.Div.
Upon graduation, Bishop Linda served in three pastoral appointments in Spring Arbor, Michigan; St. Charles, Illinois; and as lead pastor of New Hope Church in Rochester, New York. During her ten years at New Hope, the church incorporated more than 30 refugees from Central Africa into the congregation, opening her eyes to the reality of global poverty and the migration of people because of war and ethnic strife.
Bishop Linda was then invited to serve as Director of International Child Care Ministries (ICCM), which she did for eleven years. ICCM, based in Indianapolis and a ministry of the Free Methodist Church, is a child sponsorship initiative serving approximately 20,000 children around the world through education, residential care, and after-school programs. According to Bishop Linda, there are children in parts of the world that can’t take for granted nutritious meals, education, and medical care. “God sees our care for vulnerable children as a central act for justice and mercy because that’s His heart,” she says.
Bishop Linda visited 40 countries during her time as Director of ICCM and says she got to see the global church at its best. She recalls meeting leaders around the world who had once been sponsored children through ICCM. She looks back and says it taught her a lot about leadership and helped prepare her for the work she is doing now.
In July 2019, Bishop Linda was elected as the first female bishop in the 160-year history of the Free Methodist Church USA. Her territory oversees the northern United States from eastern Montana to West Virginia, as well as the Free Methodist work in all the countries in Latin America that have not yet become General Conferences.
When Bishop Linda was deciding whether to let her name stand for Bishop, she sought the Lord’s will, just as she had done at every other juncture in which a new opportunity for ministry arose. She heard clearly from the Lord that this appointment was from Him.
According to Bishop Linda, when we are committed to being obedient and to listening for His voice, the answer to God will be “yes.”
Bishop Linda was Asbury Seminary’s 2019 Distinguished Alumna of the Year, an award designed to honor alumni who, in their personal lives and public ministries, exhibit the values of a theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic ministry to spread scriptural holiness across the world.
Linda and her husband John live in Holland, Michigan. They have been married for nearly 46 years and have two grown children.
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