Investing in Purpose: An Interview with Bishop Joe A. Wilson
February 12, 2019
Tell us about your call to ministry.
Bishop Wilson: I heard the call to ministry when I was 17 years old, participating in a youth group (MYF) at First Methodist Church in Orange, Texas. That was before we were The United Methodist Church. The year was 1954, and I was greatly inspired by two wonderful youth counselors, Sandy and Virginia Sanford. I asked for baptism at a Sunday evening service, led by our pastor, Rev. Herman Morgan. After that moment, Rev. Morgan was relentless, inviting me to give the benediction or prayer in the morning services, always calling on me by surprise. As a 17-year-old, every invitation caused fear and trembling, but it solidified my calling and set me on a path to Southwestern University and Perkins School of Theology for the fulfillment of that calling. I never doubted nor swayed from my commitment to ministry in the local church.
What difference do you think TMF is making?
Bishop Wilson: TMF offers great support in strengthening the work of the United Methodist Church. They have filled the gap, long-neglected, by being an institution devoted to improving the quality of pastoral ministry.
Without this great foundation, the United Methodist Church in the Texas Conferences would have missed opportunities for advanced training in doing ministry, the extension of ministry outreach through multiple grants, and local church financial stability with loan opportunities. TMF is a creative and groundbreaking teacher in all forms of spreading the Gospel, offering understanding and insights through Seminars led by resourceful leaders. It fulfills goals far beyond loans to local churches and thus helps create tools and grants for carrying the United Methodist mission to the world.
Why did you decide to invest in TMF?
Bishop Wilson: My wife and I have always tried to be good stewards of our financial income. Our investments have never had the goal of only making money. After the care for our children, and fulfilling our tithe to our church and other charities of our choice, we wanted to invest in an institution that would not only give a fair interest rate but also provide other outlets for using our funds for good causes. TMF gave us that opportunity. They make building loans to local United Methodist Churches. They evaluate with great integrity areas of ministry and offer grants. They provide on-going efforts to increase the quality of the care and expertise of persons who lead our United Methodist Church. This is like another level of charity, a service offered by TMF that allows our finances to be used far beyond retirement income supplements.
Why did you make a decision to leave TMF a gift in your will?
Bishop Wilson: Everything I have mentioned applies to this question, but added to my response is my belief in and respect for the good management of TMF. After the death of myself, my spouse, and my children, I believe TMF will be a safe and trusted depository for the on-going good that I hope our financial resources will continue to offer for the needs of our church and the disadvantaged. I have absolutely no doubt that their decisions for the use of these funds will be fully representative of my United Methodist theology and framework of beliefs. By offering loan opportunities in local United Methodist Churches, we feel like we are part of a continuing evangelistic outreach far beyond our life span.
How did you develop your sense of philanthropy?
Bishop Wilson: This concern was not a taught response to life, for my birth family was not wealthy and used most of their earnings to “get by.” My sense of philanthropy grew out of an overwhelming awareness of the unmerited gifts (beyond financial) I have experienced in the journey of life. My sense of gratitude for so many blessings created a life response of joyous thanksgiving. Our philanthropy is small but we cannot imagine living with only a self-serving use of money. I believe the birth of life must be coupled with the birth of generosity. I also believe that afterlife, we are in good hands, and part of our earthly occupation must be the care of each other.
How would you encourage others to invest in TMF?
Bishop Wilson: By transferring money markets and other savings into TMF investments, I encourage others. By putting surpluses in checking accounts into this very safe institution and earning a good interest rate, I encourage others. My mother is 102 years old and has three sizeable certificates with TMF, which she will not touch because of her trust in The Texas Methodist Foundation, along with her desire to make a stable interest income and to give a loving gift to the church through TMF’s ministry. Over the years, even a small investment will grow and give you a comforting assurance that you have made a contribution to God’s work, serving many worthy ministries of the church.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Bishop Wilson: Yes, part of my great confidence and belief in TMF is grounded in my sincere appreciation of the staff. Every need, from TMF's great president, Tom Locke, to all who serve below him, has been met with expertise and personal commitments to care for any question or request. This has never changed over my years of contact. TMF is not just a business. It is a center of hospitality, kindness, great financial stability, and knowledge. I am truly grateful for this atmosphere that permeates all their work.
Bishop Joe A. Wilson is a descendant of one of the first circuit riders in East Texas. He attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, receiving a B.A. degree, Perkins School of Theology at SMU, where he was awarded a Masters of Theology and Drew University, where he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree. He was elected bishop by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in 1992 and was assigned to the Fort Worth Area, where he served for eight years before retiring in September 2000. Following that, he served as the Bishop-in-Residence at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas for eleven years.