Pastors' Memoirs

James Wesley Turner, 1914-2001

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   It has been said, "Sudden death is an expression of God’s mercy." God’s mercy was extended to James Wesley Turner on August 4, 2001, bringing to an end his distinguished earthly ministry of 41-1/2 years in the Virginia Conference, but a lifetime of service to the Kingdom of God. The son of James Hubert and Lizzie Moger Turner, he was born May 30, 1914, in Hampton, Va. With deep roots in the United Methodist Church he attended Randolph-Macon College where he received the A.B. degree and the Candler School of Theology of Emory University where he was awarded the degree of Master of Divinity. In recognition of his outstanding service to the work of the Kingdom of God, Randolph-Macon College conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1961.

Seven churches in the Virginia Conference were blessed by the ministry of Jim Turner: New Market, Bridgewater, Westhampton in Richmond, High Street in Franklin, Asbury in Harrisonburg, South Roanoke and Trinity in Richmond. As inspiring and provocative preacher, a strong administrator, and a caring pastor, the churches privileged to have his ministry not only grew numerically, but also in spiritual depth. Jim was a church builder, having led the congregation at Westhampton in the erection of the present sanctuary. At both High Street and Trinity, he gave leadership in the addition of major facilities for Christian education and fellowship. His unusual gifts in pastoral leadership led to his appointment as district superintendent of the Arlington District and as director of the Conference Council of Ministries from which position he retired in 1982.

Jim served the larger church in many ways. In the annual conference he served as a trustee of Ferrum College; and for 20 years as a trustee of Randolph-Macon College, serving on a number of its vital committees. In the annual conference he served as Conference Secretary of Evangelism and then as president of the Board. From its inception, he served on the board and committees of the Conference Credit Union and was twice its president. He was a delegate to five Jurisdictional Conferences and four General Conferences. He was a member of the General Conference on Finance and Administration.

   Retirement from the annual conference did not diminish his service to the causes of the kingdom of God and the larger work of the community. After retiring in 1982, he served for 13 months as Interim General Minister of the Virginia Council of Churches and as vice president and then president of the Board of Directors of the Chaplain Service of the Churches of Virginia. He was a member of the allocation panel for United Way. For a number of years he served as a volunteer Chaplain Associate at Chippenham Medical Center and as the president of the "Old Grads" of Randolph-Macon College.

Many honors came to him for his volunteer service. Included among these were the Silver Beaver Award from the Robert E. Lee Council of the Boy Scouts and the Washington Honor Medal of Freedom Foundation. In addition to his honorary degree, his alma mater, Randolph-Macon College, awarded him the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

   In addition to Ruth, his wife and constant partner of 61 years; he is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Susan Turner Carter; a son, James Wedford Turner; and grandchildren, Patricia Turner, Elizabeth Dutton, R. Berkely Carter Jr., D. Wedford Turner, Christina Carter, and Stephanie Turner.

Few men have served this conference with a distinction and devotion equal to his. His warm friendship and wise counsel will be sorely missed by family, a host of friends, and former parishioners.

— R. Kern Eutsler



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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