Then there were five candidates

The West Michigan Conference delegations to the 2008 United Methodist General and Jurisdictional conferences has endorsed the Rev. Laurie Haller for the episcopacy. Haller currently serves as superintendent in Grand Rapids District, the host district to the July 2008 North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

Haller, 53, is highly regarded in the Michigan Area and beyond as a leader of deep spiritual integrity. Her weekly column, "Leading from the Heart," has become a regular source of encouragement and strength for laity and clergy alike.

Haller, who has a broad range of local, regional, and global experience in a variety of settings, believes that leadership in the church involves the "risky business" of surrendering to God's intentions:

"I am humbled by the many opportunities that God has given us to help shape a future of hope. My prayer for The United Methodist Church is that we would be passionate leaders, working together to shape a world where all can experience the discipleship journey as one of grace and shalom."

In addition to her church and community leadership, she is an avid marathoner and tri-athlete and an accomplished musician. She and her husband, the Rev. Gary Haller, have three young adult children.

Haller joins four other previously announced candidates for bishop from other conference delegations to the 2008 North Central Jurisdictional Conference coming July 15-19 in Grand Rapids, Mich. They include:

  • The Rev. Randolph Cross of the Dakotas Conference. As a pastor with 28 years of experience in a wide range of ministry settings, he has held appointments across both North and South Dakotas and currently serves as both the Lower James River District Superintendent and Dakotas Conference Director of Leadership Development and Connectional Ministries.

  • The Rev. Dr. David Alan Bard of the Minnesota Conference. Bard is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Duluth, Minn., and has served as superintendent of the conference's Northwest District (1998-2005). He was ordained an Elder in 1986.

  • The Rev. Dr. Timothy Bias of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Bias is directing (senior) pastor of First UMC in Peoria, Ill. He was ordained an Elder in 1981 by the West Virginia Conference and has served churches in West Virginia and Illinois and as Director of Evangelism Ministries, General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, Tenn.

  • The Rev. Dr. Larry Pickens of the Northern Illinois Conference for 23 years, having been ordained as an Elder in 1987. He has served as a pastor in Illinois, on the United Methodist Judicial Council and as the General Secretary of the General Commission of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, from July 2004 to Dec. 2007.