Bishop Ben Chamness: A Life of Faithful Service Remembered
By: Sherri Gragg
A Return Home
When Bishop Ben Chamness was interred in Rehobeth Cemetery outside Carthage, Texas, it was a homecoming of sorts. There, in the “beautiful space surrounded by woods,” he laid to rest with his parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so many members of the small Texas community who shaped him into the man and leader he became.
Six days later, United Methodists from across the country joined together to remember his remarkable life and service as a pastor and Bishop in the United Methodist Church. “The building was full,” said Chamness’ longtime friend, the Rev. Dr. Bill Jones, “The Bishops all processed in wearing their white stoles. It was a very impressive service.”
Texas Annual Conference Bishop Scott J. Jones said he could not agree and that Ben Chamness was “a beloved and effective leader in the Texas Annual Conference, the South Central Jurisdiction and the world-wide United Methodist Church. His faithful leadership made a significant difference in many ministries and he will be greatly missed.
A Lifetime of Service Honored
Throughout the service, Chamness was remembered as a faithful leader who brought a sense of calm assurance to even the most anxious of circumstances. Ordained as an elder in 1965, Chamness served in several churches in the Texas. In 1996, be was appointed as District Superintendent for the Houston Northwest District. From there, he became Bishop of the Central Texas Conference, serving until his retirement. In 2011, he left retirement to serve as an interim Bishop in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
As an at-large board member of the United Methodist Church’s pension fund, now known as Wespath, Chamness headed a fundraising effort of $25 million to provide pensions for United Methodist Pastors in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. “It is truly a matter of justice that our Central Conference ministers have support in retirement when their careers in ministry end,” Jones said. “This is a significant effort that now recognizes and rewards a life of service to the Lord.”
A Beloved Friend
Chamness will long be remembered for his own life of service to Christ, but for those who knew him best, he will forever be cherished as husband, father, and friend. “We were friends for 50 years,” Jones said, “As pastors we met for coffee and support at least once a week. We were double tennis partners for 25 years. When we retired, we built homes side by side in Huntsville, Texas.”
Chamness is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Joye, his two sons, David and wife Caroline, and Stephen, six grandchildren, three brothers and several nieces and nephews.