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New Women Bishops of the UMC: Bishop Lanette Plambeck (GCSRW)

At age nine, Lanette Plambeck was hospitalized for six weeks with  the H2N2 flu virus. While she was in the hospital, she woke up with the assurance that God had a plan for her to be a storyteller.

Her first part-time appointment as a pastor covered areas of missions, evangelism, and student ministry. With a one-year-old daughter in tow, and with her gifts of connection and storytelling, the church knew that God sent her specifically to them.

Plambeck recalled that throughout her ministry she has “never not enjoyed” where she was appointed. Churches have always appreciated her for who she was and were refreshed by her leadership style. She engages in ministry from a posture of kindness, integrity and personal responsibility.

During her time in ministry, Plambeck fondly remembered several of her proudest moments. She received the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Athena Award, a national leadership award for women, in 2015 while she served in the Atlantic First Mission. She created relationships and built an emerging lay ministry with Micronesian immigrants in Iowa where on their first Sunday as a worshipping community they had 80 attendees to learn more about the Wesleyan Way. She also acknowledged her ministry with veterans, as she shares that status with those whom have served in the military. She appreciated the ability of the veterans’ ministry to hold space to name moral trauma and readjust to returning home. She sponsored “Sister to Sister,” a ministry with women who were survivors of sexual assault, where women could lift up women in a sacred safe space. She also celebrated “Tuesday’s Ministry,” a ministry for people who were unhoused for a space of support, education, housing, and medical offerings that became entirely lay-led. In these ministries, Plambeck loved to see generative lay leadership from her congregations engaging in community ministries with significant impact.

Preceding her election, Plambeck most recently served as Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Clergy Excellence for the Iowa Conference. She had no plans to present herself as a candidate for the episcopacy. However, in July 2022, she attended the orientation for new district superintendents and directors of connectional ministries at Lake Junaluska. While there, a colleague shared that they had a vision of her as a bishop, which began an initial consideration of the role. She followed up with Bishop Trimble (who was then serving in Iowa) to discuss it further. Before she knew it, she heard the whispers: “Why not you? Why not now?” She chose to abide with God through the process, regardless of the outcome, and submitted her paperwork late in the night close to the final deadline for the North Central Jurisdiction.

While at Lake Junaluska, Plambeck experienced a moment that stayed with her and connected her further to the ability to serve people through The United Methodist Church. While she and some colleagues went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, they encountered a woman who had severe back problems. During their encounter, the group encouraged the woman, but they also pooled their resources to help her. When the woman joyfully received their gift, Plambeck said she could feel transformation happening at the table. The table, for Plambeck, is a place of encounter and sacredness, and a place to which we are all called.

As a self-proclaimed “mother hen,” Plambeck can quickly designate the strongest gifts that she will bring to the episcopacy. Her prime driver is imago Dei, that all people are created equally in God’s image, which helps her stay centered. She also follows her “four greats” of Scripture: the great commandment, the great commission, the great requirement (that equals a great proclamation), and the great invitation (Acts 1-2). She laughed that she is unapologetically Wesleyan; she is naturally evangelistic and she believes in social holiness and personal piety. She loves empowering people, but she can also have difficult conversations.

Bishop Plambeck was elected in November 2022 out of the Iowa Conference by the North Central Jurisdiction. She has been assigned to the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences. She is only the second clergywoman elected out of the Iowa Conference, following Bishop Deborah Kiesey’s election in 2004.

Plambeck has a vivid vision for the future of women in leadership in The United Methodist Church. She hopes that all people hear their invitation, just as she has, that the world is their parish. In order to do this, people must pay attention to crises happening across the world, especially to women. She wants to see women re-establish the Naomi and Ruth relationship and be supportive of each other. She hopes people understand where God has placed them and take advantage of their holy platform to relieve burdens from girls to the eldest, to reach every generation, and to be intentional about work for inclusivity and anti-racism.

Bishop Plambeck has begun her story, but she is still actively writing its chapters, and inviting everyone to share their own story to the world.

GCSRW celebrates the election and consecration of Bishop Lanette Plambeck and we are grateful for the ministries of The United Methodist Church that have elevated her to leadership in the Council of Bishops! We pray for Bishop Plambeck as she continues to extend the Table of Grace to all those she serves and encounters and we hope to see her vision of the UMC brought to fruition.