Dear United Methodists of the New York Annual Conference:
You may have heard about the death of Bishop James K. Mathews at age 97 on September 8th. Bishop Mathews served as the resident bishop of the New York Conference from 1995-1996. I hope you will keep his wife, Eunice, in your prayers. It will be my privilege to be present for a memorial service tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.
Bishop Mathews was truly a spiritual giant and a pillar of Methodism. Born into a parsonage in Pennsylvania, his legacy of service to Christ and Christ's Church is legendary. The son-in-law of the world renowned evangelist, E. Stanley Jones who was also a confidant of Gandhi and other prominent figures, Bishop Mathews first heard the call to missionary life while a graduate student at Boston University. Following several years in India as a pastor and district superintendent, he served in the army during World War II and then joined the staff of what is now the General Board of Global Ministries. During his time in New York City, Bishop Mathews completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University, doing his dissertation on Mahatma Gandhi which was later published in India.
He was first elected to the episcopacy in 1956 by the Southern Asia Central Conference, but declined the position. He was elected again in 1960 and served for twelve years in the Boston Area and eight years in the Washington Area before his retirement in 1980. Of course, Bishop Mathews never fully retired, being called back into episcopal leadership for short periods in Zimbabwe, the Albany Area and our New York Area. In every place he went, Bishop Mathews brought a passion for mission, social justice and interfaith cooperation and witness.
It was indeed my privilege to have had the personal opportunity to know Bishop Mathews and his incredible legacy in and through the College and Council of Bishops.
We will miss Bishop Mathews personally and his abiding influence, even in retirement, on the Council of Bishops. We give thanks to God for giving the world the faithful follower of Jesus Christ, James K. Mathews.
Jeremiah J. Park