Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins serves as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She is an inspirational preacher, teacher and facilitator who shares her considerable skills in a variety of religious and ecumenical settings.
As General Minister, she is general pastor of the denomination, responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity. Her work includes interpreting The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and convening tables for cooperative work.As General President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the church’s various structures. She strives to help the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remain faithful to God’s calling and to do its work effectively and efficiently. Upon her election in 2005, she was the first female head of a mainline denomination. At the 2011 General Assembly, she was re-elected to a second six-year term, which will extend to July 2017.
Dr. Watkins is regarded in the ecumenical world as “head of communion” and as the chief representative of the church in national and world ecumenical councils. Disciples often speak of the GMP as the Disciples’ primary leader.
She is the author of a 2014 book, Whole: A call for unity in our fragmented world (Chalice Press). In the book, Dr. Watkins brings stories from her wide experience in Christian and interfaith circles, as well as a distinctly Disciples ethos. She shares an invitation to live out God’s unconditional love that heals divisions and divisiveness in both North America and the global community.
Dr. Watkins has an extensive background of service both in this country and abroad. She is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, having been re-elected to that body during the 2013 assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea. As chair of the WCC programme committee, she also serves on the executive committee.
She served for two years as a missionary in the Congo early in her professional career, working on adult literacy programs. In 2008, she returned to the Congo, renewing her ties with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo there.
She serves on the National Council of Church’s governing board, based in Washington, DC. In 2014 she serves as Chair-Elect for that board. Dr. Watkins also a former board member of Sojourners, a Washington, DC based group which seeks to build a movement that puts faith to work for justice.
At the invitation of then President-Elect Barack Obama, Dr. Watkins preached at the National Prayer Service in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2009, the day after his inauguration. She also served a term on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and offered the call to worship at the President’s second National Prayer Service in 2013.
She is former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla. where she served for eight years. In the academic world, she held positions as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice-President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the Church’s General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group, which looks, in part, at the traditions and history of the Disciples. She also served as pastor of Boone Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Boone Grove, Ind., and Assistant Minister at Spring Glen Church (United Church of Christ) in Hamden, Conn.
Dr. Watkins has been engaged in a number of ecumenical discussions, conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study and women in the ministry. She also has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocation, history, theology and practices of worship as well as spiritual dimensions.
She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s Degree in French and Economics from Butler University. She is a graduate of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Ind. She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorate degrees.
Dr. Watkins enjoys bike riding and time for personal reflection. She strives to make it a practice to take a full day of Sabbath each week.
Watkins is married to the Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery, an author and frequent lecturer on the Hebrew Bible and Adjunct Professor of Hebrew Bible at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. They have two adult children, Bethany and Christopher.