Bishop Richard Wilke
South Central Jurisdiction
Richard Byrd Wilke is a native of El Dorado, Kansas, son of Clarence and Pearl Byrd Wilke. He received degrees from Southern Methodist University, where he was president of the student body and Phi Beta Kappa; Yale Divinity School, receiving the senior preaching award; and Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, summa cum laude. He has received additional honorary doctoral degrees from Southwestern College, Asbury Theological Seminary, and Dubuque Theological Seminary. Other honors include the Phillip Award for evangelism, the Boy Scout Silver Beaver award, and October 2005, the Alumni Award for Distinction in Ordained Ministry from Yale Divinity School.
Dick served thirty years in ministry in Kansas, serving rural, suburban, and university churches. He preached for eleven years at First United Methodist Church in Wichita.
Richard Wilke was elected to the episcopacy in 1984 by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and was assigned to the Arkansas Area. He served that Area for twelve years, retiring in 1996. He currently is Bishop in Residence at Southwestern College. He and Julia have established the Foundation for the Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern.
His book, And Are We Yet Alive? with the study videotape generated much discussion on issues surrounding the decline in membership of the United Methodist Church. Other books include: Signs and Wonders; Tell Me Again, I'm Listening; Our Father and The Pastor and Marriage Group Counseling. He and Julia coordinated, designed and wrote the Disciple Bible Study. Disciple is now impacting churches across America and around the world.
Bishop Wilke has traveled in South America, Africa, Europe, South East Asia and the Near East. He is widely known as a speaker and preacher, often serving as conference preacher and keynote speaker at regional and national meetings.
Julia Kitchens married Richard Byrd Wilke on June 20, 1953. The Wilke's have four children: Stephen (Beth Richardson) parents of Krista Ranby, Katie Wilke, Joel and Julie; Paul (Janelle Dreier) parents of Michelle and Matthew; Susan (Robert Fuquay) parents of Julie, Sarah and Anna; and Sarah, Publisher of the Upper Room.