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DYK: All about bishops

Posted: September 22 2022 at 10:05 AM
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The theme of the 2022 NCJ Conference is "We Press On," carried over from 2020.

This fall, the United Methodist Church will elect new bishops. In the past, bishops were elected following a General Conference and assigned to their Episcopal Areas on September 1 of that same year. Due to the delay in holding a General Conference, special attention was required to care for this vital component of our UM structure. Over the past two years, bishops have retired or gone on medical leave. Sixteen active bishops and four retired bishops are now filling in the gap, serving multiple conferences or returning from retirement, as is the case for Northern Illinois with Bishop John L. Hopkins.

With mounting pressure, as more bishops reach retirement age prior to a now projected 2024 General Conference, decisions were made to elect and assign bishops this fall while also anticipating more retirements and elections in the summer of 2024.

In the United Methodist Church, we are led by a Council of Bishops. The United Methodist Council of Bishops is made up of 66 active as well as additional retired bishops. The Council of Bishops meets biannually to shepherd the work of the denomination. The Council is further divided into geographic areas. The Northern Illinois Conference is in the North Central Jurisdiction. There are five jurisdictions in the United States and 20 episcopal areas outside the U.S. Before the pandemic, the North Central Jurisdiction was made up of nine bishops and ten conferences with one shared episcopal area; the Dakotas and Minnesota. Jurisdictional bishops as a group are referred to as The College of Bishops.

Bishops are ordained Elders in the church elected for life by jurisdictional delegates. While every Elder in the church is eligible to be elected as a bishop, it is common for each annual conference to endorse a candidate from among their elders for this calling. In addition, any elder can declare their candidacy for the position. To learn more about the candidates in the NCJ, visit ncjumc.org.

The jurisdictional conferences across the U.S. will meet to elect bishops on November 2-5. Our North Central Jurisdictional Conference will gather in FortWayne, Ind. A formula based on membership determines the number of bishops each jurisdiction will receive. When a bishop retires, the jurisdiction elects a replacement. With changes in membership, some jurisdictions are voluntarily moving to a smaller pool of bishops to serve their area. The South Central Jurisdiction will elect three rather than four new bishops, the Southeastern Jurisdiction will elect three rather than five bishops allowed, the Western Jurisdiction plans to hold an election for three bishops and the North Central Jurisdiction (our area) recommends maintaining its number of nine bishops, which would require electing three new bishops this fall. The Northeastern Jurisdiction has not yet determined how many bishops they will elect.

Ultimately, each jurisdiction’s delegation will determine for themselves how many elections to hold when they convene in November. Once bishops are elected, a committee of one clergy delegate and one lay delegate from each annual conference in the jurisdiction meets during the jurisdictional conference session to determine episcopal assignments. This committee called the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee meets with the bishops regularly and reviews a conference profile provided by the annual conference’s Episcopacy Committee to better understand the strengths and needs of each area. This group is tasked with matching conference needs and episcopal strengths. Episcopal assignments are announced at the Consecration Service on the last day of the Jurisdictional Conference. This year’s service is scheduled for Saturday, November 5.

Unlike other years, when assignments take effect on September 1 following the election, episcopal assignments will take effect January 1, 2023. Northern Illinois Conference will receive a newly assigned bishop as Bishop Hopkins returns to retirement. We may receive a newly elected bishop or be assigned one of the six currently serving bishops; these decisions are part of the deliberations in the NCJ Episcopacy Committee.

Please join in praying for the delegations and candidates as this work unfolds in November and we prepare to welcome a new Episcopal leader in the new year.

NIC Delegation:

General Conference (Lay)

• Lonnie Chafin

• Nadia R. Kanhai

• Adrian Hill - Vice Chair

General Conference (Clergy)

• Alka Lyall - Chair

• Luis Reyes

• Gregory Gross

Jurisdictional Conference (Lay)

• Rita L. Smith

• Jessie Cunningham

• Ronnie Lyall

Alternates: Nancy Pendergrass and Mark Manzi

Jurisdictional Conference (Clergy)

• Hwa-Young Chong

• Jacques Conway

• Brian Gilbert

Alternates: Britt Cox and Rachel Birkhahn- Rommelfanger

Episcopacy Committee NICMembers

• Elisa Gatz (Lay)

• Gregory Gross (Clergy)

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