Carla Sunberg, president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, was elected the 43rd general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene 27 June. She was elected on the 11th ballot at the 29th General Assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
“Dear church family,” she began after a lengthy ovation. “I am completely overwhelmed today. Thank you so much for believing that God might be able to use me in this kind of a capacity. I am simply God’s child, and I am a child of this global church. You are the ones who raised me up, and I say thank you.”
Sunberg, who was born in Germany and raised on the mission field, thanked her German church family – in German – before switching to Russian to thank her Russian church family. Carla and her husband, Chuck, served as missionaries to the former Soviet Union.
“Thank you to my brothers and sisters in the former Soviet Union,” she said. “It was a privilege when I was ordained with all of you; and may God bless you all!”
Sunberg was ordained in the Church of the Nazarene in 2004 in Moscow on the Russia North District. She and Chuck were pioneer missionaries for the denomination, living in Moscow for 13 years. She served as director of compassionate ministries there and later as director of theological education on the Commonwealth of Independent States Field.
In 2005, the Sunbergs returned to the U.S. and pastored at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Carla served as pastor of evangelism and discipleship. In 2011, she and Chuck accepted a call to serve as co-district superintendents for East Ohio.
Carla is the second woman general superintendent in the denomination’s history, joining Nina G. Gunter, who gave Tuesday’s morning devotional to the assembly.
“As a little girl, my only desire was to follow and serve Jesus,” Carla said. “And I have to confess to you as I grew up in the church, I didn’t know if there would ever be a formal way for me to do so. A little bit later in life, my dear, sweet husband said to me, ‘If only you were a boy, you would have been the preacher in the family.’ And that day, the voice of the Lord said, ‘And why aren’t you?’
“And so my dear sisters,” she continued, “God has raised up sons and daughters to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am honored.”
Sunberg, who was elected president of NTS in 2014, said she and Chuck had been praying in advance of General Assembly “should this day (the election) ever come.”
“Recently the Lord said to us, ‘You must be willing to be willing,’ and so, I stand before you today willing and committed to humbly serve my church.”
Carla, who is the daughter of former general superintendent Jerald D. Johnson (1980-1997), thanked her father from the podium, wishing he could have been in Indianapolis.
“Thank you, Dad and Mom,” she said.
Carla is the first second-generation general superintendent.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from MidAmerica Nazarene University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Nazarene Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Historical Theology from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. In May 2012, Carla was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Olivet Nazarene University.
Chuck and Carla have two adult daughters, Christa (Maciver) and Cara (Shonamon).
With the election of Filimao Chambo Monday as the 42nd general superintendent, the Board of General Superintendents is set for the next quadrennium:
Eugénio R. Duarte (Cabo Verde)
David W. Graves (USA)
David A. Busic (USA)
Gustavo A. Crocker (Guatemala)
Filimao Chambo (Mozambique)
Carla M. Sunberg (Germany, USA)