Q & A with Rev. Craig Hutto, North Central District Superintendent
Click here to watch a brief video interview with Rev. Hutto and Kara Witherow, editor of the South Georgia Advocate
ADVOCATE: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
REV. HUTTO: I grew up in Lithonia, a small suburb of Atlanta. I have always thought it was the best place to grow up: I enjoyed the simplicity of small-town life, but was 20 minutes away from the excitement of the big city! My father was a school teacher and my mother worked in a doctor’s office. I am the oldest, with a younger brother and younger sister.
ADVOCATE: What’s your faith journey?
REV. HUTTO: I grew up in a Southern Baptist home; my parents were very involved in church as Sunday school teachers and serving on various committees. There was never a moment in my life growing up that I did not hear someone say to me, “You are loved by God.” In that I consider myself very fortunate. As a good Baptist, I “walked the aisle” at 10 years old and was baptized by immersion a few weeks later. Looking back, I can see God’s call on my life even in my teenage years, but was reluctant to hear or answer that call. However, in college, God grabbed ahold of my life in a way that I couldn’t ignore any longer. Because I was headstrong, I still wanted control and side-tracked into music ministry for a few years. But, serving under the wise counsel of Rev. John Bagwell, I finally relented and accepted God’s call into pastoral ministry, taking a four-point charge. God confirmed His call during those first, formative years of my ministry.
ADVOCATE: What’s your favorite Bible verse and how does it help shape your ministry philosophy and your guiding principles?
REV. HUTTO: This verse has been framed on the wall of my office(s) for more than 33 years: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). This verse has been an encouragement during difficult times; it has been a challenge in doing the work of the Kingdom. This verse has often reminded me that I offer to others GOD’S STRENGTH and not my own. It has also often reminded me that I run alongside a host of God’s people, and, occasionally, we get to “fly” together!
ADVOCATE: You’ve served as a local church pastor for 33 years. How do you anticipate serving as a District Superintendent will differ, and what similarities are there?
REV. HUTTO: It will be impossible to get the “pastor” out of this pastor. That is a calling that cannot be cast aside. I hope to continue being a pastor to the clergy families in this district. But I also know that being in a supervisory role will be quite different. I like the way that other superintendents have talked about the role: a balance of grace and responsibility. I will continue to use the skills of a pastor that I have honed over the past 33 years, but I will also seek ways to encourage fellow clergy to be responsible for their actions and activities, and do so in a graceful manner.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions, goals, and hopes for the district?
REV. HUTTO: Our Bishop has given us a grand vision: Alive Together in Christ. With the challenges ahead of us, I see us living out this vision through community. This community may change and evolve dramatically over the next few years. My hopes for the North Central District (and the other districts as well) are to strengthen our relationships and our sense of community. Only then can we truly live out being “Alive Together in Christ.”
ADVOCATE: What are the things that most excite you about the North Central district and/or the South Georgia Conference?
REV. HUTTO: We have the opportunity to reshape our districts and our conference in ways not conceived in our 200+ years of history. While we might feel some anxiety about the future, God is working in ways we cannot yet see or understand. I am excited about joining with other leaders of our conference to discern God’s path for us. God’s Word will not return to us void (Isaiah 55:11).
ADVOCATE: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing the Conference or district?
REV. HUTTO: We will have to change some of our perceptions and methods. We Methodists like our methods! We will hold onto our biblical understanding of Church as the Body of Christ, but what will the Body of Christ look like in a decade? In five decades? God has given us a chance to “catch our breath” before General Conference next year. How can we creatively realign our conference for the next century if we are no longer an arm of The United Methodist Church? How can we hold onto what is “essential,” give freedom to the “non-essentials,” and do so with charity?
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
REV. HUTTO: Although I did not grow up in the South Georgia Conference (or The UMC), it is my CHOSEN family. I am grateful to have been adopted by the South Georgia Conference and have enjoyed being a part of this family. Like a regular family, we have loving parents, a brother that’s hard to deal with, a quirky uncle, a doting grandmother . . . but we are family!
ADVOCATE: This has certainly been an out-of the-ordinary year with lots of challenges. What’s it been like to serve in the midst of a global pandemic?
REV. HUTTO: Nothing is routine! I expected a lot of differences in the D.S. role, but the added pandemic, financial stress, and racial injustices has created quite a roller coaster. First, I am grateful for so many pastors who have carefully and compassionately considered how to care for their congregations during this pandemic. It has increased the volume of communication between the D.S. and these pastors, but that has been good for me; I have gotten to know more of the pastors much more quickly. Secondly, I have had more opportunities to lead in these first weeks of ministry. I am grateful for so many pastors who want to hear from their Bishop and are open to advice and wisdom.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your family.
REV. HUTTO: I am married to Mary Louise (Kerstetter) Hutto, who grew up in the Liberty church. We will have been married for 37 years this August. I have a daughter, Elizabeth, who is a hospital pharmacist; her husband is a school teacher and they have two sons. My son, Jonathan, is a Boy Scout executive director, and has one son. These three grandsons, who are presently 5, 6, and 7 years old, have given abundant joy to this Papa!
ADVOCATE: What’s fun for you? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
REV. HUTTO: I love reading and listening to and playing music. I also love to hike and discover new waterfalls (just ask my S3 group)!
ADVOCATE: If you weren’t a pastor, what would you be?
REV. HUTTO: That’s a hard one! I’ve been a pastor so long, it’s hard to think of doing anything else. I guess because of my love for music, I would consider something in that field, maybe a church musician or a choir director . . . is it too late to consider rock star?!