Last updated: September 6, 2023
From 7th grade onward, Bishop Mark Webb grew up in a United Methodist Church that he describes as “an amazing place for young people,” especially those aspiring to ministry. A Pennsylvania native, Bishop Webb attended Shippensburg University and, through the Christian Fellowship on campus and the Holy Spirit’s prompting, sensed a call to ministry.
Webb read books about healing by Dr. David Seamands, who was then faculty at Asbury Seminary. Through these books, and through a pastor’s referral, Webb gained a clear sense that Asbury Seminary was the right place for him. He attended Asbury Seminary from 1986 to 1989, earning his M.Div. “I began to discover the amazing wealth and depth of faculty at Asbury,” he says. He learned under David Seamands, David’s brother J. T. Seamands, Stephen O’Malley, and – Webb’s favorite professor – Donald Boyd. Webb’s time on the Kentucky campus allowed for amazing friendships that continued through the years. “I’ve run into some friends from Asbury in the last year or so, and it’s like you never stopped being around each other.”
Growing Small, Struggling Churches
For 15 years, during his pastoral ministry, Webb was a volunteer dean of a one-week junior high church camp, a role he chose because church camp was a formative part of his spiritual journey as a teenager. He entered pastoral roles in Pennsylvania, beginning as an Associate Pastor ministering to youth. When Webb met with his District Superintendent to discuss his next appointment as Pastor, Webb was told, “Have at it. You can’t hurt it.”
“That’s just what you want to hear your D.S. say, right?” says Webb. There were maybe 40 congregants when Webb and his family arrived. The church was struggling, and it was in a location that had no parking. But in three years, they were approaching 200 people and had added a second service. “We saw just some amazing movement of God’s spirit and people responding to the call of the gospel at that church…young families were coming to be a part of it, all without a parking lot.”
Webb was then asked to take an appointment as Lead Pastor with a new church plant that was in the midst of difficulties and needing a restart. Webb accepted and began what would become a 14-year appointment. When he and his family arrived, they found 80 or so folks worshiping there. “When we left, our worship attendance was over 500. So we really saw God do amazing things there over the years,” he says, noting that people were attracted to their community of small groups. In 2002, while in the midst of this appointment, Webb received the Harry Denman Evangelism Award from the United Methodist Conference.
Called To Be A Bishop
It was during this same appointment that Webb began to discern what might be next. In 2004, he attended an event during which the preacher spoke about God’s call. Through this sermon, Webb sensed that God would someday be inviting him into a different form of leadership. He had always been involved in district and conference leadership, and in 2007 he was asked to be District Superintendent in what was then called the Central Pennsylvania Conference. He served for five years. “But there still seemed to be something else,” Webb says.
And there was. In 2008, Webb was asked to be the candidate for the Episcopacy. He declined, having just moved with his wife and kids to be the District Superintendent. Four years later, Webb was again asked to consider. Some folks said to him, “We think this is something that God may have for your life; would you be willing to put yourself into that process?”
This time, Webb agreed to become his conference’s Episcopal nominee. “That sense of call was there for me. I don’t want to run from that,” he says. He went to the jurisdictional conference, never really expecting to get elected. “But God had other ideas,” says Webb. He was elected Bishop in Charleston, West Virginia, then assigned to the Upper New York conference.
According to Webb, he used to get a newsletter from the Confessing Movement that, on the back, had the words, “Don’t leave the United Methodist Church. Stay and work for its renewal and reform.” Webb believed heeding these words was a part of his ministry. In 2016, though, he began sensing God would call him in a different direction. He’d been part of the conversations of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and then of what the Global Methodist Church would look like. So, after serving as United Methodist Bishop in the Upper New York area for over ten years, Webb retired in January 2023 in order to, in his words, “live out my ministry and my call in a new traditional expression of Methodism.” This meant accepting a role as Bishop of the newly launched Global Methodist Church.
Webb, however, has heartfelt gratitude for his over 45 years of being part of the United Methodist Church.
“The United Methodist Church has shaped every aspect of my life. It was at a United Methodist Church camp I came to know Christ as Savior… It was my home church where I preached my first sermon, and people lied and said it was good… I have great friends who are still part of the United Methodist Church, and I pray that God will use the United Methodist Church to bring people to Jesus.”
Webb chose retirement as the pathway of transition out of his previous role. “I wanted to have a clear ending of that chapter of my ministry – a wonderful chapter – that could demonstrate that, to the best of my ability, I had lived out my consecration vows as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church.”
Webb says his period spent in retirement “may have been a little less than 24 hours” before his official start date as Bishop of the Global Methodist Church.
“It’s Like a Revival”
Webb is now one of two active Bishops in the Global Methodist Church. Bishop Scott Jones and Bishop Webb are living out the Episcopacy as itinerant general superintendents – a model that resembles that of early Methodism. “We’ve divided the world, basically,” says Webb. They are each assigned to various regions in the United States, Webb has Europe , Jones has the Philippines, and they’re working together to offer leadership and partnership to Africa. “So, you know, it’s really kind of an exciting season. It’s very different. I’m learning how to do the Episcopacy in a very different way… We have over 3,100 congregations now. We’re having conversations with folks in other parts of the world that want to become part of the Global Methodist Church.”
Webb loves the aspect of his role that involves meeting with other GMC leaders and president pro tems, and he loves the gatherings. “Every gathering I’ve been a part of, it’s like a revival… We want to be a Holy Spirit-driven movement that grabs the best of our Methodist DNA and allows us to recapture Wesley’s mission of spreading scriptural holiness across the land.”
Webb describes with enthusiasm what his role as Bishop means. “Bishops are, first and foremost, guardians of the faith; we’re teachers and equippers, vision casters.” The Global Methodist Church is built on three values, according to Webb: submission to the Lordship of Christ, groundedness in the authority and primacy of Scripture, and multiplication. These values will allow the GMC to be consistent and accountable to the orthodox tenets of the Wesleyan tradition of the Christian faith while multiplying disciples, leaders, and congregations.
Webb speaks to what will multiply people in the Global Methodist Church: a commitment to transformational discipleship. According to Webb, this means going deeper and helping one another be accountable to spiritual disciplines; it means the work of evangelism; and it means making disciples at the local church level. “We’re not interested in building this big bureaucracy or having these layers of structure above the local church, then the local church ends up feeding that structure, but how does an annual conference or a district come alongside local churches and really partner with them and equip them to be more effective and fruitful in living out the mission?”
Bishop Webb is, without a doubt, enthusiastically tackling this question head on as he faithfully walks in his call.
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