The Rev. Laura Merrill, Capital District Superintendent in the Rio Texas Conference, has been elected as bishop in The United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Delegates elected Rev. Merrill on November 2, 2022 at the jurisdiction’s meeting in Houston, Texas, on the first ballot. She received 99 votes.
“It is a profound honor to be elected by colleagues to serve as a bishop in The United Methodist Church,” stated Merrill. “It is a critical time in the denomination and I look forward to offering my gifts and graces to a conference. With God’s help, we will work to create a fruitful United Methodist Church where the focus is on mission and ministry. I would like to thank the Rio Texas Conference for supporting me in numerous ways over the years. Rio Texas will always be home.”
“I am thrilled for Laura. She will serve The United Methodist Church with great distinction and courage,” said Rio Texas Annual Conference Bishop Robert Schnase.
Merrill was elected by the South Central Jurisdiction’s total delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity, from the eight states forming the South Central Jurisdiction. The assignments of bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction will be announced once all bishops are elected, usually Friday evening.
Her service as bishop begins January 1, 2023. In the United States, bishops are elected to serve for life tenure and assigned to serve in 4-year periods until retirement.
Rev. Merrill was the endorsed candidate of Rio Texas Conference. She was ordained an elder on June 1, 1999. She has served in numerous leadership roles in the Rio Texas Conference and in the United Methodist connection. She has served as a member of the Committee on Episcopacy and the Commission on General Conference. She is a former member of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. She currently serves as the board secretary for the Texas Methodist Foundation. She was previously endorsed as an episcopal nominee by the Rio Texas Delegation in 2022 and by the South Central Jurisdiction Women’s Leadership Team in 2020.
Rev. Merrill received her undergraduate degree in International Studies from Southwestern University and her Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University where she was named the valedictorian. She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and Theta Alpha Kappa honor societies. She is the proud mother to Caroline and Joe. She enjoys music, theater, thrift shops, and daily walks with her dog.
In The United Methodist Church, bishops are ordained elders who are called to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church.” Bishops, in consultation with district superintendents, are responsible for appointing clergy. They also preside at annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.