We join together, as siblings in Christ, mourning the death of Rev. Junius Dotson. Junius leaves a remarkable legacy. He led one of our largest churches in the Great Plains Conference before taking on the role of General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries. He was a member of the Great Plains General Conference delegation and co-convener of UMC Next.

Junius was an outstanding and inspiring preacher, a great leader and a faithful friend. He loved the United Methodist Church with its emphasis on evangelism, discipleship and social justice and devoted himself to helping churches to live into this vision.

As we grieve together, Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli, a co-convener of UMC Next, offers a pastoral message.

Jesus said, I am the resurrection and I am life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live,
and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus who is our hope, our life, and our salvation.

This morning I give thanks for the wisdom of our tradition whose scriptures and liturgies hold us and give us words when our own strength and speech fails. The news of Junius Dotson’s death reached me early this morning and I found myself in a swirl of emotions, struggling and speechless. I opened our Book of Worship and remembered…

Together we praise God and witness to our faith as we celebrate the life of Junius.

There is so much to celebrate! Junius Dotson’s gifts are well-known—a powerful and visionary leader, gifted writer and preacher, a generous and discerning colleague and friend, a loving parent. His faith was deep and inspiring, honed through a life of loving service, commitment to justice, and authentic relationship with God and with others. In sharing the news of his diagnosis, that deep faith and love shone through.

Junius’s presence shifted the energy in any room. He was able to be strong and humble, courageous and compassionate, and able to be at once clear about the larger picture and ever mindful of those so often overlooked. As one colleague articulated, Junius had a rare ability to engender trust very quickly. He was spiritually mature, a complete person, with the soul of an artist. Junius loved music. In many ways, his life was a song of love and praise.

We come together in grief, acknowledging our human loss.

Today the United Methodist Church has lost an extraordinary leader who loved the church and was committed to help the church become who God calls us to be. In a sermon preached at Foundry last summer, Junius proclaimed: “I’ve come this morning to issue a prophetic challenge to the people called Methodist. I humbly submit to you that though we have a host of new struggles and fights for freedom in our midst, and the struggle for liberation IS NOT over, there is a reason for hope. Our mission field is not merely across the sea, it’s across the street – in

D.C., Minnesota, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, in Atlanta, in Little Rock, in Lincoln, in Baton Rouge, in Kansas City, in Houston, and in your community.”

Through his leadership in the local church to Discipleship Ministries to UMCNext to the mediation team that developed the Protocol, Junius was committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and to making the UMC more alive, equitable, and just. His influence and contributions have changed our connection for the better and will continue to bless us for the ongoing journey.

We have lost a beloved colleague and friend. This morning I’m mindful that every other time I have composed a message to share through UMCNext, Junius has been my partner in the work. His absence from all our calls, tables, meetings, and sanctuaries will be deeply felt. But I trust Junius will be present with us now among the communion of saints, praying for us, guiding us, and cheering for us even as he sings the unending song of God’s praise.

Today we also extend love and prayer to Junius’ children and family as they begin to traverse this painful part of the journey, learning to live in a world forever changed. May they know the deep presence of the Comforter and receive strength from the storehouse of God’s abundant grace and love.

May God grant us all grace, that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow hope, in death resurrection.

In that sermon last July, Junius ended with some words I will share now, a fitting end for this pastoral letter because, as usual, Junius always came through as a partner in the work and always had the right message to share:

“There is a reason to hope. Even when my heart is breaking because of the circumstances of life, it does not change the truth about God: ‘I am convinced that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. Not life, not death, not angels, not demons, not our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow. Not even the powers of hell can separate us from the love of God.’” (Romans 8:38-39)

May the peace of Christ be upon you all. And may our brother, Junius, be held eternally in the light of God’s face.

In Christ,

Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli
Co-Convener, UMCNext