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Bishop Sharing Task Force Looks at Episcopal Office and Residence Locations

Posted: February 21 2024 at 11:05 AM
Author: Victoria Rebeck

Now that the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church has confirmed that Wisconsin and Northern Illinois will share a bishop, the work of NIC's Shared Bishop Task Force has moved from hypothetical to reality. 

With the additional decision to combine two episcopal areas in Ohio to one,  the North Central Jurisdction will have two fewer episcopal areas. (Episcopal areas--which may comprise one or more annual conference--are the geographica areas over which a bishop leads.) 

The establishment of a new episcopal area is not a conference merger. The Wisconsin and Northern Illinois conferences will continue to govern themseves separately. They will share support of their bishop and may collaborate on areas of mutual concern.

Meeting on Feb. 15 at First UMC at the Chicago Temple, the committee examined practical concerns.

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Episcopal office. The two conferences have been considering where to establish the bishop’s office, including the possibility of setting up additional offices that would be strategically placed for the bishop’s relationships with both conferences. The bishop would not often be in an office as much work will take place on the road—in Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, or around the world for responsibilities across the connection. The team is considering the possibility of seeking additional office space that might be available at no cost, such as at churches. A decision on office location(s) will be made by the two conferences.

Episcopal residence. A number of factors inform the location of the bishop’s home. In which conference would it be? Would it be in relatively central to both conferences? Would the density of United Methodist membership in a region influence the decision? Proximity to a major airport, such as near Chicago or Milwaukee, would be helpful as bishops often travel outside their conferences for their connectional responsibilities.

Cost to each conference. The NIC task force, with their Wisconsin counterparts, will be calculating the costs of being overseen by the same bishop. The UMC Episcopacy Fund provides some funds toward a bishop’s office. The North Central Jurisdiction will likely give the episcopal area up to $20,000 for start-up costs for the formation of the new episcopal area.. A preliminary look at a budget, as well as both conference’s expenditures over the past year, suggests that sharing a bishop will require less of the NIC budget than having its own bishop.

Broader conference input: Task-force members will visit with various groups in the conference to explain more about the process toward sharing a bishop as well as receive questions and concerns. The task force wants to include these while working on plans with the Wisconsin Conference.

Next meetings: The NIC and Wisconsin task forces will meet together in Kenosha on Feb. 26. The NIC task force will next meet in March.

NIC Task Force membership by role:  Rev. Myron McCoy, convener; the assistant to the bishop, the director of connectional ministries, one of the conference co-lay leaders, one of the co-chairs of the Annual Conference Shepherding Team, a cabinet representative, the director of communications, and a former co-chair of the Annual Conference Shepherding Team.

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