Rhymes H. Moncure Jr.: Methodist leader was people's bishop
07:26 AM CDT on Monday, August 21, 2006
By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News
Rhymes H. Moncure Jr. quickly became known as a people's bishop, preferring hugs to handshakes, washing the feet of new pastors during ordination services and making time to visit families in crisis.
Bishop Moncure, the first black man to lead the United Methodist Church in North Texas, died Saturday night at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, where he'd been since having surgery for a brain tumor on Aug. 7.
He was 61. Services are pending.
"We're all sort of devastated," said John Fiedler, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Dallas. "If Bishop Moncure's arms had been long enough, he would have embraced the world. He had that sort of heart for people."
Methodist bishops are clergy who are elected by their jurisdictional conferences to provide executive and spiritual leadership to congregations in a given area.
Bishop Moncure, an Oakland, Calif., native, earned advanced ministry degrees and served as a parish pastor for 32 years before his election as bishop in 2000.
He was a bishop first in Nebraska, and then he was assigned two years ago to lead the 160,000-member North Texas Conference. He also served as a trustee of Southern Methodist University, and he was a director of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, chairing its Africa, Europe and Middle East Section.
Colleagues said he played down his distinction as the first black United Methodist bishop here, and instead ministered to all with unusual personal warmth.
"You would reach for his hand, and he would embrace you with a loving hug as an expression of his love of Christ in you," said Pastor Joe Pool of First United Methodist Church of Rockwall.
During Sunday services at Northaven United Methodist Church in North Dallas, one parishioner recalled how moved she was by seeing Bishop Moncure wash the feet of new pastors during the Annual Conference of Methodist clergy and laity in North Texas.
"That was a ritual he instituted here," said Joan LaBarr, communications director for the North Texas Conference. "He wanted to model true servanthood for them."
Though Bishop Moncure had considerable administrative duties supervising 325 congregations, he still responded to requests for pastoral care. One came earlier this year from Willie Tichenor, a 19-year-old from Highland Park who was dying of cancer.
His mother, Lisa Tichenor, had served with Bishop Moncure on a development board for Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution in Zimbabwe. Willie got to know the bishop well when they both had a role in a confirmation service and rally for sixth-graders held at Highland Park United Methodist Church.
Willie Tichenor died March 15. In February, he had come home from the University of Texas, having run out of treatment options.
"He woke up one night and said he felt very strongly that God had told him to have people pray with him and for him," Ms. Tichenor said. "He asked that Rhymes be one of those people. So Rhymes came to our house and sat with him and talked to him and prayed with him.
"He was still making house calls. He knew his friend needed him, so he came."
Bishop Moncure appeared to have come through his own health crisis with the Aug. 7 surgery. He emerged alert and able to communicate with his family. But bleeding and other complications soon made a second operation necessary. He never regained consciousness.
The United Methodists' Council of Bishops will choose a replacement for Bishop Moncure. They will likely act on a recommendation from bishops within the church's south central jurisdiction, which includes North Texas, said Stephen Drachler, executive director of public information for the United Methodist Church.
"They can name a retired bishop to fill the vacancy, or they can take an active bishop and add this area to that bishop's responsibility," Mr. Drachler said.
He would not predict how long the selection would take. Whoever is assigned will serve until 2008, the next scheduled election of bishops.
Bishop Moncure is survived by his wife, Jewell Moncure of Plano; a daughter, Roxanne Moncure of St. Louis; a son, Jason Moncure of Atlanta; a brother, Robert Moncure of St. Louis; and two grandsons.