News from the
United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries,
a unit of the General Board of Global Ministries

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Greetings in Christ,

In this special edition newsletter of the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries (UM-DHM), we celebrate the ministry of Bishop Peggy Johnson.

Retiring after 13 years of episcopal ministry in the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Annual Conferences, Bishop Johnson, affectionally known as “Pink” is the first bishop in the United Methodist Church to sign fluently in American Sign Language.

Prior to her election to bishop in the North East Jurisdiction in July 2008, she served 20 years as pastor of Christ Church of the Deaf UMC in Baltimore, Maryland. When the UM-DHM was created by the 2000 General Conference, she served as consultant for the committee during its first four years, encouraging us to “fly the flag” of Deaf ministries in our United Methodist related seminaries.
In the tributes that follow, former and current members of the UM-DHM share appreciation and brief remembrances of our beloved bishop, whose hands have blessed Deaf ministries in all levels of our United Methodist connection.

We congratulate one of our UMDHM scholarship recipients, Tonderayi Makaya, upon his completion of a Diploma in Disability Studies from Zimbabwe Open University. Tonderayi's studies and work as a sign language interpreter at both Hilltop UMC and at Africa University is an indirect legacy of Bishop Johnson's interest and encouragement of Deaf mission teams that visited Zimbabwe in the early 2000's.

We'd also like to remind you that the DHM is accepting grant applications through the end of July!
As consultant of this committee, I wish to add my deep appreciation to Bishop Peggy for giving Deaf ministry an honored and valued place. Her offering a Deaf immersion course in January 1998 through Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., led me to ask her to be my advisor on a Doctor of Ministry project titled “American Sign Language as a Means of Grace.”

Thank you, Bishop “Pink” for your faithful witness with and behalf of God’s beloved people, the Deaf.

Grace and peace, Rev. Dr. Thomas H. Hudspeth
Pastor of Deaf Ministries
Lovers Lane UMC
Dallas TX
I appreciate Bishop Peggy Johnson for her many years as a bishop since 2008 and being assigned to the Philadelphia Area, comprised of nearly 1000 churches of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences.

In 1988 she was appointed to pastor the Christ UMC of the Deaf in Baltimore, where she served for 20 years. She earned her Doctor of Ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary and taught deaf and disability courses as adjunct faculty at the seminary. I met Bishop Peggy Johnson at one of the UMCD Conferences a few years ago. Her speech encouraged me to continue my participation in both the UMCD and UM-DHM. I watched Bishop Peggy Johnson preach as a guest preacher on video on February 14, 2021 at the Kona UMC worship service in Hawaii.  The Kona UMC started a Deaf ministry there. It was an inspiration to me.
I applaud her many years of ministry to the people that she served. She deserves recognition.

Bryan Branson
UM-DHM President
Manito UMC, Spokane WA
Peggy Johnson welcomed me as a ‘very green still in seminary’ intern at Christ UMC of the Deaf and paved a lot of roads for me to enter the Baltimore Washington Conference and get planted and started in my ministry.

I still remember our 8 AM meetings on Wednesdays at the IHOP to go over our weekly tasks list in ministry and wondering if it was even possible to keep up with her.

Of course, its isn’t! I discovered the madness to her method is that…she almost never stopped. She wasn’t fond of watching TV or even sitting to read a book in the evening, so she’d simply fill her evenings with ‘more things to do.’

Despite not being able to keep up, she didn’t expect that of me either. She supported me through every change and twist in my ministry and, gradually we learned from one another as she learned how to take it easy sometimes and I learned how to turn up the energy sometimes.

I also owe her my eventual passion for international ministry and friendships. She went on an exploratory trip to Kenya in 1997 with a few people and came back with the news that, “Yes, a mission team would work for a visit. We can partner with a hearing church and have a sizable team to do both Deaf church and school work and physical improvements.” Then she turned to me and asked, “Is God calling you to go to Kenya?” And after some thought and pause, “I’m not sure I’m called, but I’m definitely interested.” And so we talked about what would be done and by the end of that, “Ok so yeah, I think I am called for this.” Her reply was, “Good, because I’m not called to go back. I need more four star hotels when I travel.” And she shared a story of a luncheon at a very fancy place where she ordered a club sandwich since “surely this place is more like home” only to find the bacon is not cooked as crispy as she is used to and said, “I could hear it still squealing.” Which left us both in laughter.

Hence, I became the Deaf church pastor in international missions along with Carol Stevens and the course of my life and ministry was changed for the better.

One of Peggy’s favorite things to do when we co-pastored was to have me dress up in things for visual reference. I was; 1) Dressed as Daniel Moylan, complete with period clothing from a friend of hers who had access to a theater wardrobe, 2) Dressed as Jesus for a Holy Thursday communion service complete with theatrical full beard, 3) Dressed as Pontius Pilate for a Sunday scripture reading in a manner so convincing that without my glasses and how I carried myself, people didn’t realize who I was until I started signing and they recognized my sign style, and best of all 4) wrapped up in toilet paper like a mummy before service and waited in the storage closet next to the pulpit until she pounded on the door during the scripture reading of Jesus waking Lazarus from the tomb, where I emerged and sleepily tore off the toilet paper and ask asked where the coffee was, it’d been four days since my last cup!

--Kirk VanGilder, Gallaudet University
Bishop Peggy Johnson's servant ministry has touched the lives of so many, but having a bishop who is fluent in ASL has been SUCH a gift to the Deaf community both in the US and around the world. Her tireless work for persons with disabilities has made a difference for so many. I know that even as she retires, God is not finished with her yet. I am so thankful for all Bishop Johnson has done, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for her in "retirement."

It was Bishop Peggy who first affirmed my call to ministry when I hadn't told anyone I felt a call. She was the one who I could always count on to be in my corner, or as Bishop Yeakel would say "cheering me on from the balcony." Having Bishop Peggy Johnson and Bishop Joe Yeakel stand as sponsors with me at my ordination was a moment I will never forget. I would never be fluent in ASL or be serving as the pastor of Christ Deaf UMC if it weren't for Bishop Peggy.

She has been the best mentor a person could ask for and a wonderful support during some very trying times in my life. I don't know how to begin to thank her for everything she has done, but I am trying my very best to make her proud in the ministry work I am doing.

Rev. Lisa Wirkus, Christ Deaf United Methodist Church, Baltimore, MD
I am so grateful to God that Bishop Peggy and I have been a part of each other’s story in ministry for 44 years. I was her first sign language teacher in 1977 after she had seen the choir of Christ UMC of the Deaf perform at her church prior to going to Asbury Seminary. We did ministry together at Christ Church for many years where we watched the church grow dramatically and where we established the Deaf Shalom Zone which I was blessed to direct. She encouraged me to become a missionary with the UMC.

Because of Peggy I went on the first Deaf mission scouting team to Kenya in 1997 and since I have led 17 African Deaf mission trips. We have done many wonderful God things in ministry together including some wild things like “kidnapping” a Deafblind man from an abusive group home and take him across state lines to a different living situation.

Because she is a person of integrity, I was able to trust to get back involved in the church. She is empowering and highly regards the partnership of clergy and lay people. One of her greatest loves is advocating with Deaf people and people with disabilities. I am blessed to have her as my sister-friend in Deaf ministry.

Carol Stevens, CLM,10-10-10- missionary.
Peninsula-Delaware Deaf Ministries Coordinator.
Peggy has been a role model, a senior pastor, a mentor, a professor, a confidant, and a friend to me for many years. She has influenced my life in so many ways, even my life's work. I'm grateful to her on so many levels.

Rev. Leo Yates, LCPC
licensed therapist,
serving Magothy UMC
Baltimore-Washington Conference
I am thankful to Bishop Peggy Johnson for support and advocacy of United Methodist Church Deaf Ministry in local, conference, jurisdictional, national, and world-wide capacities.

I knew Peggy Johnson early in her ministry when she pastored Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Baltimore. In addition to starting Prison Deaf Bible Study, she helped founded Deaf Shalom Zone. As Director of Deaf Ministry program of Baltimore-Washington Conference, she initiated the monthly meetings of Deaf members from about fifteen churches that had interpreted services. During the meetings, members shared how each church was doing and shared flyers of events. When she chaired the Episcopacy Transition Committee to be ready for the new bishop, she asked Roy White to lead a devotion at one of the monthly meetings.

She was highly active in United Methodist Congress of the Deaf that met every 2 years and then every 4 years for ELM (Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist). From 1992 to 2000, she was a consultant to National United Methodist Committee on Deaf Ministry annually in different jurisdictions wherever UMCD and jurisdictional meetings occurred.

Deeply appreciative of her encouraging and mentoring me when I chaired the national committee as well as other events,
Roy M. White
Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Laurel MD
Congratulations Bishop Peggy on your retirement!

Thank you for your many years of service to the Deaf church in Baltimore and Deaf community national and international.
Thank you for your encouragement and provide training to become Deaf leaders in ministry.

I will never forget the mission trips to Africa and other countries. Also, the many places we traveled in the U.S. to teach about Deaf ministry and how you made sure we were included and had full accessibility at hearing events. It brought much joy to see the Holy Spirit open hearts and minds as we ministered/worshiped in ASL. God bless you and your family as you enjoy your retirement years.

In Christ's Love,
LaSander Saunders
Congratulations, Bishop Peggy,

and thanks for caring leadership. One of the first times I took a photo, you said "Wow, that's a serious camera!" I've been pleased to pull out that serious camera and its successor for some serious and fun photos! And along the way, you reminded me of what the United Methodist Church has had to offer despite its shortcomings.

Tim Vermande
The Garden UMC
Indianapolis IN
Bishop Peggy autographing a copy of the UMW study on disabilities
Bishop Peggy receives the first Hasenstab Award, 2014

Check these dates and times (Eastern) to follow Bishop Johnson’s farewells and worship services.

FAREWELL, Monday July 26, 2021, 6:30 to 8:00 PM on ZOOM. This will be interpreted in ASL.
The Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference leaders is hosting a retirement celebration to bid a fond farewell to Bishop Peggy Johnson after her 13 years of service. This virtual farewell fete on Zoom includes greetings from the conference and the NEJ College of Bishops.
To attend the farewell webinar on Zoom use this link or Webinar ID: 966 9511 7530. Passcode: 891085. Or join by telephone: US: +1 646 558 8656.

Also, we are requesting the submission to of photos of our bishop from across the conference.

To post message of gratitude for Bishop Johnson, please visit the online Kudoboard "Expressions of Gratitude from the Eastern PA Conference" to read some messages and add your own. You can add a note of gratitude and/or a picture:

WORSHIP, Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 12 noon, Christ UMC of the Deaf, 1020 S. Beechfield Ave, Baltimore, MD 21229 followed by lunch. Peggy will be preaching. You may watch livestream at the Christ Church Facebook page.

If you wish to send a card, you may address your letter to:
Revs. Peggy and Mike Johnson
201 Walnut St. Mont Clare, PA 19453
(After August 9, 2021) you may address your letter to them at:
13416 Bentley Heath Way
Carrollton, VA 23314
To email:
News from Tonderayi!

Tonderay has completed the Diploma of Disability Studies from the Zimbabwe Open University, and writes:

I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I hope and pray that you are all doing well by God's grace. I am sharing with you my final semester results for the Diploma in Disability Studies that I was doing with Zimbabwe Open University. I am very very grateful for the grant/support I got from each one of you and from the UMCDHM committee.

May God continue blessing and enlarging your territories and the Ministry.

Tonderayi Makaya
Hilltop UMC Interpreter