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DYK? All about the bishops

Posted: February 25 2020 at 12:00 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Ass't to the Bishop/Dir. of Connectional Ministries


The North Central Conference bishops

In The United Methodist Church, we are led by a Council of Bishops. The United Methodist Council of Bishops consists of 66 active and all retired bishops who meet bi-annually to shepherd the work of the denomination. The Council is further divided into geographic areas: five U.S. jurisdictions and 20 episcopal areas outside the U.S. The Northern Illinois Conference is in the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ), which consists 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 who are 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 2020, jurisdictions across the connection will be electing bishops. There is a formula, by membership, which determines the number of bishops each jurisdiction will receive. When a bishop retires, the jurisdiction elects a replacement. In 2020, two NCJ bishops will retire, including Bishop Sally Dyck after eight years in the NIC. It is likely, however, that only one bishop will be elected in our jurisdiction because we have fallen below the membership threshold to sustain nine episcopal areas. Read more at Final decisions regarding conference boundaries and episcopal areas rest with the Jurisdictional Conference. A task force is developing a recommendation that will be presented at the July Conference.

When conferences share a bishop, they do not merge but maintain their internal structure and identity even though they are one area served by one bishop. The bishop travels between the conferences offering leadership to each. A final decision on the number of bishops will come at the Jurisdictional Conference in Fort Wayne, Ind. July 15- 18.

Meanwhile, each annual conference delegation sets in place a process for discernment and endorsement of episcopal candidates. You can find more about the candidates endorsed in the NCJ at

Once bishops are elected, a committee made up 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.

Historically, the episcopal assignments are announced at the Consecration Service on the last day of the Jurisdictional Conference. This year’s service is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, 2020, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Episcopal assignments take effect September 1. While Northern Illinois Conference will know their assignment in July, we will officially greet a new bishop in September.

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