Let me state from the outset - I'm a huge Randy Cooper fan.
I have been for a long time.
Before knowing him personally, I'd observe him at Conference, and think to myself, "Man, he's really serious about his ministry."
Over the years, observation has given way to relationship, and trust me, I'm the better for it.
I had the privilege to be in a Covenant Discipleship group with him for a couple of years when I was serving Bemis Church in God's country, south Madison County. In the past couple of years, I've been in a continuing conversation with him about the church and our ministry.
Of all the things I could say of him, "intentional" is the one word that most readily come to mind.
He is intentional about the task of ministry.
He is intentional in thinking of all of life theologically.
He is intentional in his leadership of what the church is and can be with Christ at it's center.
His fellow clergy sisters and brothers know this about him. Several years ago, the Elders of the Memphis Conference rose to ask his leadership as the chair of the Order of Elders.
Now, for a denomination whose polity, one would think, would have it's act together on such things as Orders, ordination, what it all means - stuff like that - would it shock you that form has been one thing and our practice another?
Randy's task as chair of our Order has been to help those of us who are Elders understand that we are not Lone Rangers, but, in the truest Methodist tradition, we are to "watch over one another in love."
My own doctoral work was on this point - I wrote on "the sanctification of the clergy."
It's been a thankless job - and he's done it well. A generation from now, we'll understand more completely how important these steps taken are.
At every Annual Conference, during the clergy session, he, as chair of the Order, speaks as a part of the Board of Ministry report.
This year, he stood in the role of prophet. For while all of us in the room have bitched and moaned about our plight in this Conference, we've only done it in the relative safety of those few with whom we could say such things without fear of reprisal.
In the tradition of the prophets of old - Randy spoke truth to us - out loud, out of love, but unfiltered.
But stating out "condition" was not the most important thing, reminding us that in whatever state we find ourselves, we are not exempt from the call.
Randy was elected to chair our delegation to General Conference.
Randy was endorsed by our Conference as a candidate for the episcopacy.
It is clergy and laity who understand their call, like Randy, who will be the architects of reform and renewal in our Conference.
Watching this happen reminded of the story of Esther, who, needed by God to do a particular thing at a particular time, determined that it was "such a time as this" that a call was to be expressed.
The caveat to the story was that God was pretty clear - if that call wasn't fulfilled, no worries, God will find someone who will.
With folks like Randy, nothing could be more true.