When you look at the modern history of the Methodist church, a name that stands out as having a tremendous impact is Bishop Scott J. Jones. Throughout his life, Jones has displayed his passion for the church and his faith through his leadership, teaching and mentorship.
“There is nothing better than being a Methodist preacher,” Jones said. “What has tied my whole life together is a passion for the renewal and revitalization of the Wesleyan movement. It's been an incredible blessing for me to be involved as a leader of the church.”
Jones was born in 1954 in Nashville Tennessee. Despite growing up in the Methodist faith, Jones had an “unusual calling” into ministry. In the summer of 1969, Jones worked in the inner city of Tampa, Florida where he witnessed the church tackle major issues like poverty, racism and the Vietnam war, which sparked his desire for ministry work.
Later in his adolescent years, Jones had what he described as a “crisis of faith” where he stepped away from his faith for over a year until he received a spiritual calling to return to the church.
“I wasn't a Christian for a year and a half,” Jones said. “Then I got a nudge by the Holy Spirit to come back to the church. All that time, I was committed to being a pastor and involved in the church, but now I was doing it for Jesus.”
After returning to faith, Jones enrolled in Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University to follow his calling to ministry. While studying for a master’s in theology, Jones said that he discovered true Methodism.
“During my college years… I discovered what it means to be a Methodist, Christian,” Jones said. “I was always a Methodist but … I studied under Albert Outler and when he was talking about John Wesley, I said, ‘that's me, I'm home’.”
After graduating from seminary, Jones went into the PhD program for religious studies at SMU, in part sparked by his love for writing. During school, Jones penned a dissertation on John Wesley’s conception and use of the Bible and has since become an author of co-author of 11 books. Although writing was his passion, Jones said that finishing his dissertation was one of the hardest challenges he has had to overcome.
“After 10 years in the Ph. D program I was stuck” Jones said. “I had read everything John Wesley had ever written but sitting down and cranking out the dissertation was really hard. I have to give my wife credit. She said, ‘Scott, I'm sick and tired of this dissertation, you need to finish it’. She rented a trailer for me up on Lake Texoma… and said, don’t come home until you have a first draft. That's what pushed me over the edge and allowed me to finally graduate.”
During his time in education, Jones’s path turned to pastorship. Jones served as a pastor at Perkins seminary as well as an adjunct professor and then later a full-time faculty member, teaching classes on United Methodist doctrine and history for 20 years. Then, in 2004, Jones was elected as a Bishop of the United Methodist Church and assigned to Kansas area, which later joined with Nebraska to become the Great Plains area. For 12 years, Jones resided as the Bishop in Wichita, Kansas until, in 2016, he was transferred to Houston and became the Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference.
In the past decade, tension began to rise in the UMC, stemming from disagreements on the disciplines on the church. According to Jones, the UMC, which he described as a “big tent over the Wesleyan faith,” had gotten to the point where splitting was the best available option.
“Starting in 2016, leaders of the church began engaging in deliberate, principled disobedience to the order and discipline of the church,” Jones said. “The ties that held the church together were being cut by the leaders. I came to the understanding that splitting the church, while it was a bad option, was the least bad option available.”
After the division of the UMC, at the end of 2022, Jones retired after 18 years of service to the Lord as bishop. But after nine days of retirement, Jones decided that it was time to go back to work and on January 9, 2022, Jones was elected as the Bishop of the Global Methodist Church.
“[After the division], I had to make a decision about what I was going to do personally,” Jones said. “John Wesley once said, ‘Don't go where you're needed, go where you're needed most.’ And I decided that I was needed most with the Global Methodist Church.”
As for why Jones supports the GMC, he says that they hold true to the Wesleyan values.
“I'm a Wesleyan Christian,” Jones said. “I want the church I belong to, to be as faithful and fruitful as possible. I think the Global Methodist Church is traditional Methodism and will leave behind some of the baggage that the United Methodist Church accumulated over time.”
Jones is already seeing the fruits of his labor. According to Jones, the new GMC is thriving with spirit and passion, and he has blessed to be a part of the revitalization.
“The gatherings of the Global Methodist Church… have been some of the most spirit filled, inspirational Methodist meetings I have ever been to,” Jones said. “When I get to stand up front and see the Holy Spirit moving in a group of people, it is an incredibly powerful experience for me. These are different from anything I've experienced before.”
In addition to being one of two active bishops of the GMC, Jones is also a fellow with the John Wesley Fellow’s program. As a John Wesley scholar in school, Jones said that the program significantly helped him finish his PhD degree. During the 11 years in school, Jones found the John Wesley Fellows program which he said had an important impact on his education and helped him continue to follow his passion for writing.
“My Ph. D. program was really, really, really difficult,” Jones said. “It was the group of John Wesley Fellows who were practicing Christians, and committed Wesleyans that gave me encouragement and helped me keep my purpose and my sense of direction when I thought about dropping out of school and just being a pastor.”
Since graduating, Jones has continued to stay immersed in the program by being a mentor to younger fellows, collaborating with other fellows on academic research projects and attending the annual Christmas conferences.
Moving forward, Jones knows that the new church needs new passionate and faithful leaders to carry forth God’s mission, which he believes can be led by the John Wesley Fellows program.
“The Global Methodist Church and the entire Wesleyan movement needs competent scholars who have excellent training and are prepared to address the challenges facing the future the church,” Jones said. “The John Wesley Fellows Program has an incredible opportunity to continue the work that's been done for the last 50 years.”
Jones has since returned to the teaching, as a pastor theologian in residence at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University but his main mission is to continue to help build the GMC and lead it in a new direction as their Bishop. Jones said that this process is like that of his wife, Mary Lou Reece, a highway contractor of 35 years, building bridges.
“We are engaged in building a new expression of Methodism, creating a new church,” Jones said. “However, we are building this bridge as we walk on it… There are a lot of challenges and a lot of things that we don't have answers for at the moment. But we know where we're going. We'll get there, it just takes time and a lot of effort.”
Jones, a husband, and father of three now resides in Dallas and enjoys spending time with his seven grandchildren. With retirement on the horizon, Jones hopes to lead and develop the younger generation of Wesleyan scholars and leaders so that the future of the church is in good hands.
“I want to help the Global Methodist Church hold on to the parts of the Wesleyan tradition that are very important,” Jones said. “I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. After some period of time, I'm going to retire, really retire this time, and spend time with my grandchildren. And there will come a time when I hang it up and let a younger generation of people lead.”