Mary Ann Swenson was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and raised in Jackson, Mississippi where she was active at Capitol Street Methodist Church. She majored in religion at Millsaps College in Jackson, graduating from there in 1969.
In 1968 she married Jeff Swenson of Elma, Washington, and in 1972 entered seminary at the School of Theology at Claremont in California. She was ordained deacon in 1973 and elder in 1976. In 1975 she received her Doctor of Ministry degree also from the School of Theology at Claremont. Her local pastoral ministry included Claremont UMC, California; Orchards UMC, Vancouver, Washington; and First United Methodist Church, Wenatchee, Washington. In 1983 she was appointed Superintendent of the Puget Sound District of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.
In 1992, Rev. Dr. Mary Ann Swenson was elected to the Episcopacy at the Western Jurisdictional Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was assigned to the Denver Area, and gave leadership there until July of 2000, when she was assigned to the Los Angeles Area, which includes the California-Pacific Annual Conference and the Korean Mission of the Western Jurisdictional Conference. During that time, she also served as president of the General Council on Finance and Administration of the denomination. In 2008, her assignment to the Los Angeles Episcopal Area was extended to 2012, and she has taken on a new role serving as president of the church’s General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns.
With her husband Jeff, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson maintains an active lifestyle as a cyclist, and commutes locally by city bus: she has said, “John Wesley’s ‘the world is my parish’ takes on new meaning when you ride the bus each day.” She has become an outspoken leader in the denomination and in her communities, calling for a redefinition of the purpose of the church in a rapidly changing world. Bishop Mary Ann continues to lead the church with passion toward becoming a more inclusive community, filled with grace, compassion and justice, growing in more perfect love of God and neighbor.
In honor of Bishop Mary Ann's Swenson service to the California-Pacific Annual Conference and as a tribute to her approaching retirement, the video below was produced and directed by Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston, a member of the California-Pacific Annual Conference and a staff member at the General Board of Discipleship.