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Remembering Rev. Junius Dotson

Posted: March 2 2021 at 03:57 PM
Author: By Heather Hahn, UMNS


Dotsonlaity2018

Rev. Junius B. Dotson was the keynote speaker at the 2018 NIC Laity Convocation sharing more on the "See All the People" initiative. Photo by Aquilino Javier.

The Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, died  Feb. 24 surrounded by family, less than a month after announcing his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 55.

His unexpected death brought together United Methodists of varied theological views in an outpouring of grief and love for a leader whose ministry touched lives across the denomination.

“He had an indelible way of pulling leaders to their full potential,” said longtime friend Toska Medlock Lee, who has known him since they were undergraduates at the University of Texas at Arlington. Lee organized prayers for Dotson during his illness. United Methodists around the world signed up to pray. “His other legacy is his ability to see a hopeful future for our denomination.”

Dotson held multiple denominational leadership roles in addition to helming Discipleship Ministries since July 2016. He also was one of 16 church leaders who negotiated the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, the widely endorsed proposal that seeks to resolve the longtime United Methodist debate over homosexuality through a denominational split. As part of the negotiations, Dotson represented multiple centrist advocacy groups that seek greater freedom in church policies related to same-sex weddings and gay ordination.

The protocol needs the approval of General Conference to go forward, but the legislative assembly is now postponed
until 2022. In the Northern Illinois Conference, Dotson most recently led three online Bible studies for the 2020 Annual
Conference,
was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Laity Convocation, and was a regular speaker for the Institute for Congregational Development and traveled with the group to South Korea in 2019. Leaders say he will be truly missed.

“He had an amazing spirit and engaging presence and passion when it came to encouraging people to ‘remember the why’ and to ‘see all the people,’” said Bishop Sally Dyck, who retired from the NIC December 2020. “He will be greatly missed in the church, especially during these uncertain times because he always kept focus on our mission. He assured NIC that our three strategic goals are exactly right for these times and to hold fast to them.”

The NIC Board of Laity also expressed their deep sadness about the passing of Rev. Dotson. “We have lost a good friend,”
said NIC Co-Lay leader Mark Manzi. “His strong voice for making Disciples has been heard not only across our conference but throughout our denomination. Let his passionate guidance continue to encourage us now and into the future.”

Before coming to Discipleship Ministries, Dotson was both a church planter and a megachurch pastor. He planted Genesis United Methodist Church in California’s Silicon Valley in 1996, four years after his ordination, and saw it grow to nearly 500 members. At the time, the area saw plenty of technology startups, and Dotson saw church as “a spiritual startup.” He later was senior pastor of 3,500-member Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, for 14 years. While at Saint Mark, he expanded the church into a multi-campus ministry.

In his time at Discipleship Ministries, he led the agency’s restructuring. He also initiated its “See All the People”
initiative to help churches — as the nursery rhyme says — see the people in their communities and make world-transforming disciples of Jesus Christ. In promoting the initiative, he has been a frequent speaker at annual conference sessions around the denomination.

Dotson told Discipleship Ministries staff Jan. 28 that he was battling pancreatic cancer. He said he first learned something was wrong with his health earlier in January when searing pain in his back and stomach sent him to the emergency room.

Doctors informed him — and tests confirmed — that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer with metastasis to the liver. He said he hoped to use his experience to raise awareness of how pancreatic cancer especially afflicts African Americans.

Council of Bishops President Cynthia Fierro Harvey said Dotson will have a long legacy. “His passion for justice and full inclusion impacted the life of the UMC as he made his voice clearly heard and known in every place he served,”
she said.

View the March 6 Memorial Service at UMCdiscipleship.org/Junius.

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