The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, M.Div. '84, Nominated to Head Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, a 1984 graduate of Yale Divinity School, has been endorsed by the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to serve as general minister and president of the 770,000-member denomination. She will stand for election during the Disciples General Assembly July 23-27 and, if elected, will be the first female to head the denomination, according to an announcement from the church.
Watkins (pictured left), senior minister at Disciples Christian Church of Bartlesville, Okla., was endorsed by a unanimous vote of the General Board on April 17. Two other Yale Divinity School graduates currently lead major denominations: John Thomas, M.Div. '75, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; and Clifton Kirkpatrick, B.D. '68, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“I am enormously pleased with the recommendation of the General Board and believe that the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins possesses the gifts, talents, grace, intellect, and strength to lead our church,” said Dr. Charisse Gillett, church moderator, who presides over the General Board.
“I am honored to be the person nominated to lead our denomination during a period of such exciting change and possibility,” commented Watkins, 50. “As a life-long Disciple, I know our church has a unique God-given mission for these times—a mission that has to do with the extravagant hospitality of the communion table. We welcome and nurture whoever comes through our doors, and then send those people back out in the world to be and to share the good news of God's love.”
“Sharon is smart and committed to the church,” said the Rev. Dr. LaTaunya Bynum, chair of the Search Committee. “She has a vision, she's excited, and she has experience and will bring a pastor's heart and sensibility to the office of the OGMP.”
Watkins has an extensive background of service to the church and its related institutions. She was director of student services at Phillips Theological Seminary and director of church relations and associate vice president for university relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the General Board, the General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, moderator of the Christian Church (DOC) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue group, which looks, in part at the traditions and history of the Disciples.
Over the years, Watkins has been engaged in ecumenical discussions, conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study, and women in the ministry. She has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocations, history, theology and practice of worship, as well as spiritual dimensions. She has traveled extensively and served for two years as a missionary in the Congo, working on adult literacy programs.
Watkins was ordained in 1984 at Hamden, CT. She has a D.Min. degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and a bachelor's degree in French and Economics from Butler University.
She is married to the Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Lowery, professor of Old Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary. They have two children, Bethany, 21, and Christopher, 19. Watkins has served and worshipped at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, OK since 1997.