Bishop Robert H. Spain dies at age 96

Bishop Robert “Bob” Hitchcock Spain, a retired Bishop of The United Methodist Church, passed away on September 9, 2022, at the age of 96.

He was elected a Bishop in the United Methodist Church in 1988 during the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference (SEJ). He served the Kentucky and South Carolina conferences. After his retirement he served as chaplain for the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville until 2016.

Bishop Spain served the Louisville Area from 1988 to 1992, which comprises the Louisville and Kentucky Conferences and also the Red Bird Missionary Conference. He retired in August 1992 and began teaching clergy and laity through the Focus on Ministry seminar sponsored by The United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville. Upon the untimely death of Bishop Joseph B. Bethea in South Carolina, the SEJ College of Bishops assigned Bishop Spain to the South Carolina Conference. This assignment ended in August 1996.

Bishop Spain is survived by his wife Syble of 74 years; daughter Mollie Johnston (Philip); five grandchildren; Meg Stutts, Andy Johnston (Anne), Robert Spain II (Laura), David Johnston (Tayler), Julie Barnhill (Corey), and 8 great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his son, John Philip Spain; his parents and two brothers.

Bishop Spain was born in Loretto, TN. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the US Navy. He served the Navy in the medical corp in the South Pacific during WWII. After the War, Bob attended the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) and graduated from the University of North Alabama. Following his graduation, he and his wife began his career as a Methodist minister and enrolled at Vanderbilt Divinity School while serving Spring Hill Methodist Church.

Upon completion of his Divinity degree, he served in the Tennessee Annual Conference of the Methodist Church, serving First Methodist Church in Livingston, TN, First Methodist Church in Lebanon, TN, Belle Meade UMC in Nashville, TN, and Brentwood UMC.

For five years, he was the District Superintendent of the Nashville District. He was elected delegate to the General Conference five consecutive quadrennia and was the first elected the last four quadrennia. He served for eight years on the Board of Church and Society, eight years on the Board of Publications, and four years on the General Council on Ministries. He was a reserve member of the Judicial Council.

At the time of his election to the episcopacy in 1988, he was the Senior Minister of the 3,200-member Brentwood United Methodist Church.

Bob will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather ("Daddy Bob") and great grandfather, friend, and devoted pastor to many. He enjoyed woodworking, gardening, music, and travel over the years. Through his life he blessed so many with his care, prayers, and numerous handwritten notes. He was a faithful servant to the church and everyone he met.

Arrangements for Bishop Robert H. Spain
Thursday, September 15, 2022, 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Brentwood United Methodist Church
309 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN 37027
Friday, September 16, 2022, 1:00 p.m.
Brentwood United Methodist Church
Led by Dr. Davis Chappell and Bishop Joe Pennel
Honorary pallbearers will be Bishops and their spouses of the United Methodist Church, clergy and spouses of the United Methodist Church, members of the Robert I. Moore Sunday School class at Brentwood United Methodist Church and employees and retirees of the United Methodist Publishing House.

Interment will follow immediately after the service at the Brentwood United Methodist Church columbarium.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Robert H. Spain Memorial Fund at Siloam Health, 820 Gale Lane, Nashville, TN 37204, or the Robert H. Spain Memorial Fund at Harvest Hands, 155 B Old Hermitage Avenue, Nashville, 37210.

Media Contact:

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga

Director of Communications - Council of Bishops

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