STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - United Methodist Bishop Edward Paup has been elected to lead the church's Board of Global Ministries, which oversees global missions and is the denomination's largest agency.

The election came March 11 during the board's spring meeting. He will assume the post of general secretary on Sept. 1. Until that time, Bishop Felton May will continue as the interim top executive.

Paup, 62, is bishop of the Seattle area, which includes the Pacific Northwest Conference and Alaska Missionary Conference, and is president of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops. He said he will tender his resignation from the episcopacy, effective Aug. 31, when the United Methodist Council of Bishops meets in April. The denomination will elect new bishops during jurisdictional meetings in July.

Paup told United Methodist News Service that he strongly believes in the importance of the role played by the general secretaries of the denomination's agencies and commissions and the need for him to resign as bishop in order to be "in the same category" as his fellow chief executives.

The election of an active bishop to oversee a church agency is unprecedented in the 40-year history of The United Methodist Church.

U.S. bishops are elected for life and, while some have resigned for various reasons, none has left for full-time leadership of a church agency. Paup said he wants to "model the possibility" of moving beyond the episcopal role. "There are times when some of us are called to lead a particular ministry in our church," he said.

Paup said his interest in mission grew through his longtime involvement with the work of the Advance for Christ and His Church, the denomination's second-mile giving program. He served as chairperson of the Advance from 1996 to 2000. Paup said he has been drawn "to the importance of the mission opportunities that we have in Jesus Christ across the globe."

The mission agency's previous chief executive, the Rev. R. Randy Day, was dismissed during the board's annual meeting last October. Its personnel committee did not re-nominate Day and instead called for a vote on May as interim leader.

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