By Jeff Finley
General Conference 2023 delegates elected Pastors Edward Kenneth “Kenny” Martin and Kaye Kolde and re-elected Bishop Keith Cowart to serve as the three members of the Free Methodist Church USA Board of Bishops for the next four years.
In the third round of voting for the first bishop to be elected from the seven bishop candidates, Bishop Cowart was re-elected with 52 percent of the votes. He was initially elected to the Board of Bishops at General Conference 2019.
On the next vote, more than 50 percent of delegates selected Martin, who will become the denomination’s first African American bishop. He is the lead pastor of the Kingdom Cathedral church plant in San Bernardino, California. He previously served as the executive pastor of leadership development for Chapel of Change in Paramount, California, and as lead pastor of John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis along with leading Free Methodist congregations in Maryland and Missouri.
After five rounds of voting for the third bishop selection with a pause in voting for prayer, nearly 53 percent of delegates chose Kolde as the third member of the Board of Bishops. Bishop-elect Kolde is the lead pastor of The Arbor Church in Spring Arbor, Michigan. She previously served as the executive pastor of ministry, the pastor of connections, and pastor of discipleship at Sage Hills Church in Wenatchee, Washington.
Other candidates included Bishop Linda Adams, Bishop Matt Whitehead, Rev. Dr. Amelia Cleveland-Traylor, and Superintendent Michael Traylor.
Bishop Cowart addressed the gathering first after the election concluded.
“We love the Free Methodist Church. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.” – Bishop Keith Cowart
“I will just simply say it has been an incredible joy to serve these four years with my colleagues, Matt and Linda. It is a privilege to serve God’s church. We thank you for the confidence you have put in us in electing us in this role,” Cowart said. “We will work together. We will submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit. We will lead with all of our hearts, and we love God’s church. We love the Free Methodist Church. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.”
Bishop-elect Martin addressed the gathering next.
“I will serve the Lord in this church with all my being.” – Bishop-elect Kenny Martin
“I am honored and humbled to serve Christ and His church. I do not take this lightly, and I’ll be praying for you as I know you’ll be praying for me,” Martin said. “For the gifts and graces that God has given me, I will serve the Lord in this church with all my being, and I am honored to serve in this capacity. God bless you, church.”
Kolde shared about her background and quoted Scripture in her first public remarks as bishop-elect.
“I am filled with love and joy. Peace will come.” – Bishop-elect Kaye Kolde
“I have said since I arrived on Sunday night, I really have been filled with joy. If you haven’t heard my story, I didn’t grow up in the church, and so being together with a church is not something that I take lightly. It’s something that fills me with joy,” Kolde said. “I am filled with love for the church. This is part of what God did to me when He called me to ministry, so I look out, and I am filled with love and joy. Peace will come.”
She told GC23 delegates and other participants that in recent months, she has said “I surrender, Lord” and turned to passages such as Romans 11:33-36 and Romans 12:1-2: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. … Therefore, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices.”
Bishops serve as the general overseers of the Free Methodist Church USA. The Board of Bishops provides primary pastoral leadership of the denomination with ecclesiastical authority to lead and direct the FMCUSA and also to develop and articulate the purpose, vision, values and expected outcomes.