Pastors' Memoirs

Carl Julian Sanders, 1912 – 2007

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Carl Julian Sanders was born May 18, 1912, in Star, N.C., and died March 7, 2007, in Birmingham, Ala. After graduating from Wofford College and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, he joined the Upper South Carolina Conference of The Methodist Church in 1934. In 1935, he married Eleanor Lupo who preceded him in death on March 24, 1995. On June 28, 1997, he married Billie Jo Perry, who had been his secretary when he was the Resident Bishop of the Birmingham Area.

He transferred to the Virginia Conference in 1935 and served effectively in the following appointments: Cheriton 1936-40, Chase City 1940-44, South Roanoke 1944-48, Broad Street (Richmond) 1948-55, superintendent of Petersburg District 1955-56, superintendent of Richmond District 1956-61, Centenary (Richmond) 1961-65, superintendent of Norfolk District 1965-71, Arlington 1971-72.

Beyond the local church he proved to be equally effective in his leadership, serving as president of the Board of Evangelism, member of the Board of Finance and Administration, chair of the Commission on Higher Education, and member of the General Board of Publications. He was one of the founders and a trustee of Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk and served as a trustee of Ferrum College, Randolph-Macon Academy, and Alaska Methodist University.

In 1972 Dr. Sanders made history at the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Conference by being the first person ever to be elected a bishop on the first ballot. He was assigned to the Birmingham Area consisting of the entire state of Alabama and the northwest panhandle of Florida. His Episcopal Area included two conferences, the North Alabama Conference and the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

During his eight years as bishop, he led campaigns in both conferences for higher education and pensions and served as president of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. As bishop, he traveled extensively around the world, visiting refugee camps and mission work in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In 1980, he retired as an active bishop.

Bishop Sanders was a rare individual, the likeness of which we will never see again. He was a powerful preacher, a compassionate pastor, and a skillful administrator. He knew how to order the life of the church and he had the courage to do it! He had the God-given gift of making the Scripture come alive, and his stories and illustrations drove home his points in a clear and concise manner. He

received three Freedom Foundation Awards for his sermons: "One Nation Under God" 1962, "Independence and Beyond" 1977, and "In God We Trust — Do We or Don’t We?" 1987. In 1980 he gave the opening sermon to General Conference and the Consecration Sermon to the newly elected bishops of the SEJ Conference.

He was a man of great faith and vision, who never met a stranger. His outlook on life was positive to the very end, as he would say, "It’s a great day" or "Everything is all right." In his last years, he often said, "It’s been a great life. The Lord has been good to me!" His ministry of more than 70 years is a radiant testimony of his love and devotion to Jesus Christ and his church.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Lundi Martin of Richmond and Eleanor Kasler of Lancaster, Ohio; two stepdaughters, Elizabeth Perry and Judy Shipp of Birmingham, Ala.; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and a brother, Charles Sanders, of Rock Hill, S.C. Funeral services were held on March 12 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Richmond. Bishop Paul A. Duffey and the Rev. Gene C. Tatum officiated, assisted by Bishop B. Michael Watson, Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, Bishop Joe E. Pennel Jr. and Bishop R. Kern Eutsler. Burial was in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Richmond.

Longfellow, in "A Psalm of Life," reminds us "We can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time." Carl Julian Sanders has left behind his footprints on the lives of all he has touched, from the crystal blue waters of Cheriton on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the rolling hills and sands of Alabama! His footprints are deep and eternal. "Well done good and faithful servant!"

— Gene C. Tatum

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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