Bishop Bledsoe Announces Clergy Change
On May 20, 2012, Rev. Mark Craig, senior pastor of Highland Park United Methodist Church, announced that he will retire effective July 1, 2013. On that date, the Rev. Paul Rasmussen will be appointed as senior pastor of the second largest church in United Methodism.
“Serving Highland Park United Methodist Church has been the greatest vocational gift of my life,” said Rev. Craig. “Though I will miss Highland Park very much, I know that Paul Rasmussen will provide great spiritual leadership for years to come.”
Rev. Paul Rasmussen commented, "As I consider the legacy of this church, and the extraordinary leadership that has filled its pulpit over the past century, I am humbled by the assignment. I love this church dearly, and I will work prayerfully to be a great steward of the opportunity."
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, Episcopal leader of the North Texas Annual Conference, offered these details on the appointment. “This early announcement is both unique and unusual in the way annual appointments are made; however, it is part of a strategic effort to better serve large churches going through transition under the leadership of a long-term senior pastor.”
“This early identification offers additional benefits,” he continued. “It eliminates competition among the clergy and lessens anxiety in the congregation as to “who” will be appointed. It minimizes what occasionally happens in some large churches where self-appointed “pulpit committees” form to “help the bishop and cabinet out” by visiting other churches, listening to their sermons and making informal inquiries about a potential candidate’s willingness to come serve “their church.” And, it allows a senior pastor who has worked long and hard to grow a congregation feel that he/she can help lead transition and then let it go.”
Jack Kinnebrew, chair of Highland Park UMC’s Pastor Parish Relations Committee, expressed gratitude, saying, “Highland Park United Methodist Church is very appreciative of the guidance and leadership that Bishop Bledsoe has brought to this unique transition process. We are grateful for Rev. Craig’s leadership over the past two decades of service, and are looking forward to a seamless transition to the leadership of Rev. Rasmussen as senior minister.”
Dr. Clara Reed, Superintendent of the Metro District, added: “It is believed that this process for transition will be helpful to Highland Park UMC. It may become a useful model which could aid in promoting stability within large churches when a pastoral change occurs. We are hopeful that good fruit will come from this strategic action.”