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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > 2008 Archives > May-June 2008 > UMC 101: U.S. Jurisdictional Conferences - Part 1

Bishop Edward Paul of the Seattle Area is resigning as a United Methodist bishop to become general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries on July 1. Paup's resignation means that delegates to the 2008 Western Jurisdictional Conference will elect two bishops. Bishop Beverly Shamana of the San Francisco Area is retiring.
UMC 101

U.S. Jurisdictional Conferences - Part 1

The constitution of The United Methodist Church established five jurisdictions within the United States and it specifies which states will be a part of each. Each jurisdiction is responsible for boundaries of annual conferences within those states and electing its own bishops.

Equal numbers of laity and clergy, elected by the annual conferences, will be delegates to the 2008 jurisdictional conferences, July 16-19. Jurisdictional conferences are held once every four years, in the same years as the General Conference meets.

Central conferences -- groups of annual conferences in Africa, Europe and the Philippines -- follow similar procedures to elect and assign bishops. Some meet in different years.

At present, each jurisdiction having 500,000 church members or fewer is entitled to six bishops. Another is elected for each additional 320,000 members. More may be elected if episcopal areas (one or more annual conferences) average more than 55,000 square miles.

Within each jurisdiction a committee on episcopacy (one clergy and one lay person from each annual conference) reviews the bishops' work and assigns them to their areas. The Jurisdictional Conference may affirm or reject the assignments and request a new one.

The Book of Discipline 2004 requires bishops to move after two four-year terms in the same area unless a two-thirds majority of both the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy and jurisdictional conference approves a third term. The Task Force to Study the Episcopacy would like to see General Conference 2008 enact legislation that would make a 12-year stay in an episcopal area more of the norm than the exception.

All assignments for active U.S. bishops begin on Sept. 1 following the jurisdictional conference.

In rare cases, an Inter-jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, elected by General Conference delegates, can transfer bishops across jurisdictional lines if the bishops and the jurisdictions consent.

Candidates are generally nominated by an annual conference or endorsed by jurisdictional conference delegates. Any United Methodist ordained elder may be elected bishop by any jurisdictional conference.

Each jurisdiction establishes the percentage of votes needed for election. Voting by ballot continues until someone receives the required number of votes.

Newly elected bishops are consecrated in worship services at the end of each jurisdictional conference.

Bishops are required to retire if they reach age 66 on or before July 1 in the year of jurisdictional conferences, but General Conference is considering changing the age to 68. If so, it could affect the number of bishops to be elected in July.

--The Rev. J. Richard Peck is four-time editor of
Daily Christian Advocate of General Conference.

To be elected

As of April 1, 11 U.S. bishops were to be elected in July to fill vacancies created by retirement, resignation or death. Actions on certain proposals being considered by General Conference could change that number before jurisdictional conferences occur.

Leaving the active episcopacy will be:

Northeast: Bishops Jane Middleton, Violet Fisher and Susan Hassinger, who filled the vacancy created by the retirement of Bishop Susan Morrison in 2006.

North Central: Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher.

South Central: Bishops Ben Chamness, William Hutchinson, Joel Martinez and Alfred Norris, who filled the vacancy created by the death of Bishop Rhymes Moncure in 2006.

Southeastern: Bishop Lawrence McCleskey.

Western: Bishops Beverly Shamana and Edward Paup, who resigned to become general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries.

Retiring in the central conferences this year are Bishops Joseph Humper, Sierra Leone; Benjamin Justo and Solito Toquero, Philippines; and Jo‹o Somane Machado, Mozambique. Bishop Oystein Olsen of the Nordic and Baltic Area of Europe will retire in 2009. Bishop Kefas K. Mavula, Nigeria, passed away in January. Elections will occur in late 2008 and early 2009.

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