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Janice Riggle Huie (1946–)

Janice Riggle Huie was the first woman to serve as United Methodist bishop in Arkansas and the second female bishop in the eight-state South Central Jurisdiction, which includes Arkansas.

Janice Kay Riggle was born on December 15, 1946, in Beeville, Texas, to Frankie Rosalie Luthringer Riggle and James Riggle. She is the eldest of three sisters, all of whom were raised on the family’s farm and ranch. Huie attended First United Methodist Church in Beeville with her family.

After graduating cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1969, Huie enrolled in the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, despite having never encountered a female clergy member. She received the Flinn Award as outstanding senior and the DeJernette Award in homiletics while earning her master’s degree in theology.

In 1970, she married Robert (Bob) Huie, also a Methodist minister and a pastoral counselor. The couple had two children, Matthew and David. In 1994, at the age of thirteen, David died in a go-kart accident.

Huie received her first appointment in 1973 as an associate pastor at University United Methodist Church in Austin. She and her husband were asked to co-pastor St. Mark United Methodist Church in Austin and then the First United Methodist Church in Mason, Texas. She went on to receive a Doctor of Ministry degree with a focus on homiletics and liturgy in 1989 from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and also served as superintendent of the San Angelo (Texas) District of the Southwest Annual Conference.

In 1996, Huie was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church by the 332 clergy and lay delegates attending the South Central Jurisdictional Conference meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. She was then assigned to the Arkansas Area United Methodist Church by the jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy to replace Bishop Richard Wilke, who had retired. She assumed the role of bishop on September 1, 1996, and was officially welcomed by the Arkansas Area Committee on the Episcopacy on September 14 at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At the time of Huie’s election, her husband was a pastoral counselor at the Samaritan Center in San Angelo, Texas. After their move to Arkansas, he became a pastoral counselor at the Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center in North Little Rock (Pulaski County).

As bishop, Huie made pastoral assignments, helped initiate Methodist programs, and served as a spokesperson for the church. In 2003, she oversaw the merger of the Little Rock and North Arkansas annual conferences into a single statewide church body, a process that took several years. The Little Rock Conference, which covered the southern half of the state, and the North Arkansas Conference, in the northern half of the state, had existed separately since the early 1900s. However, one bishop had served both conferences. During her time in office, she also worked to expand the conference’s Latino outreach efforts and started the “Connected in Christ” program to build stronger relationships between clergy and laity.

Huie remained the bishop for the new Arkansas Conference until 2004, completing two four-year terms. She was succeeded by Charles Crutchfield and appointed bishop of the Houston-based Texas Annual United Methodist Conference. As she had been in Arkansas, Huie was also the first female bishop to lead that conference. She retired on August 31, 2016, after holding the position for twelve years. During her tenure, she focused on attracting young clergy and succeeded in tripling the number of pastors under age thirty-five in the conference.

After retiring, Huie and her husband returned to her family’s farm in Beeville, Texas, which their son Matthew had begun managing. In January 2017, she joined the staff of the Austin-based Texas Methodist Foundation in a newly created role with a focus on strengthening its leadership ministry for clergy and laity.

Other leadership positions held by Huie throughout her career include president of the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (2000–2004), president of the Council of Bishops (2006–2008), president of the United Methodist Committee on Relief Board of Directors (2008–2012), and president of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops (1998 and 2013).

For additional information:
“Arkansas United Methodists Combine Annual Conferences.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 30, 2002, p. 2B.

“Bishop Janice Riggle Huie.” United Methodist Church. http://www.umc.org/bishops/janice-riggle-huie (accessed September 11, 2017).

“Janice Kay Riggle Huie.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 4, 1997, pp. 1D, 7D.

“Methodists Elect Texan Area Bishop.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 19, 1996, p. 3B.

“Methodists Welcome New Arkansas Bishop.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 14, 1996, p. 3B.

“State’s Methodists Merge Seek ‘Strength in Numbers.’” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 13, 2003, p. 2B.

Turner, Allan. “Houston’s First Female Methodist Bishop Set to Retire.” Houston Chronicle, August 6, 2016. Online at http://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/houston-belief/amp/A-champion-for-women-and-the-young-Houston-s-9126800.php (accessed September 11, 2017).

Sarah Bost
UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture

Last Updated 9/11/2017

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