March 15, 2017 | HAMBURG, Germany (UMNS) – The Rev. Harald Rückert, senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Redeemer in Reutlingen, Germany, has been elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the Germany Central Conference meeting.
Rückert, 58, was elected March 15 at the quadrennial meeting in Hamburg, Germany. On the fourth ballot, he received 57 of the 81 votes cast to reach the required two-thirds majority.
"We are a church together,” said the newly elected bishop in his first statement after the election. "I am very pleased to be able to shape and carry on the way of the church together with you.”
The 58-year-old theologian will succeed Bishop Rosemarie Wenner as bishop of the Germany Central Conference of the United Methodist Church on May 12.
In Germany, bishops are elected for a four-year term and can be re-elected for an eight-year term for a maximum of 12 years. If they are serving at the time of their retirement, they are considered a bishop for life. If they are too young to retire after 12 years, they return to the pastorate. Wenner is retiring after Rückert takes over.
Rückert was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and after completing his high school diploma, he began studying food technology before moving into the pastoral ministry of the United Methodist Church.
After an internship with the South Germany Annual Conference in Munich, he studied theology at at the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Reutlingen (now Reutlingen School of Theology). Before becoming pastor at the Church of the Redeemer, he served the northern Bavarian United Methodist churches at Hof-Stammbach and Schweinfurt-Würzburg.
He served as superintendent for the Reutlingen district for 10 years, during which time he chaired the Committee for New Mission, for church planting projects and activities involved in establishing new churches. He also played a major role in setting up and organising the Youth Church Karlsruhe.
Since starting his pastoral work in the United Methodist Church Hof-Stammbach, where he was responsible for church growth and redeveloping the church at Stammbach, Rückert has looked in depth at issues of establishing churches, church leadership and development management.
The new bishop will preach on March 18 at the conclusion of the Germany Central Conference and will be blessed for his service as supervisory bishop of the Germany United Methodist Church.
There are seven central conferences — Africa, Central and Southern Europe, Congo, Germany, Northern Europe and Eurasia, Philippines and West Africa. Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference re-elected Bishop Christian Alsted last October, the Philippines Central Conference re-elected its three bishops in December and West Africa elected a new bishop for Liberia in December. The Congo Central Conference will be electing three new bishops this week to replace retiring bishops and Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda of the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area is also a candidate for re-election. If Unda is re-elected, he is a bishop for life. There were no bishop elections in Africa Central Conference or Central and Southern Europe.
What bishops do
Bishops are elders “set apart for a ministry of servant leadership, general oversight and supervision,” states the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document.
United Methodist bishops appoint clergy. They also are the first stop when clergy face complaints under church law.
They oversee general church agencies as board members and sometimes agency presidents. They represent the denomination in ecumenical and interfaith relationships. They also frequently represent the church in the wider community and before state and national governments.
Klaus Ulrich Ruof is a communicator with the United Methodist Church in Germany.