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Special NC Jurisdiction Conference Called for Jan. 23

Posted: December 12 2023 at 12:17 AM

UPDATE: 1/18/24

The North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, of which Northern Illinois is a member, will hold a special, virtual session on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.  Central Time. The session may be viewed by all interested.

View the livestreamed meeting 

The jurisdiction's College of Bishops called the session.

The sole item for consideration by the jurisdictional conference delegates at this session is the recommendation that four episcopal areas (regions overseen by a bishop) be combined into two.  One new area would partner Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences under one bishop and the other area would partner East and West Ohio conferences under one bishop. 

Jurisdictional Wrapup North Central 690pxcr

Bishop Bruce Ough (left) presents crosiers to newly elected Bishops Dan Schwerin, Lanette Plambeck (center) and Kennetha Bigham-Tsai during the North Central Jurisdiction's consecration service on Nov. 5, 2022, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Photo courtesy of the North Central Jurisdiction.

The partnered annual conferences would each continue under their own governance and leadership, as they have been.  A bishop would oversee both conferences. 

A few episcopal areas in The United Methodist Church already contain more than one conference. In the NCJ, the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences were partnered into one episcopal area in 2012. They remain separately governed conferences, although they voluntarily collaborate on some ministries. 

The bishops called this special session to settle the number of bishops to be assigned to episcopal areas as of Sept. 1. If this recommendation passes, the jurisdiction will  have seven areas.

The jurisdiction's Episcopacy Committee assigns bishops to areas. This usually happens during the jurisdictional conferences, which are held in the summer following General Conferences. The  next regular session of the NCJ will take place July 10-13 in Sioux Falls, SD.

Looking at the denomination's required formula that takes into account membership statistics, the committee anticipated two years ago that the jurisdiction may need to reduce the number of its episcopal areas. United Methodist membership, including in the NCJ, has been steadily declining over a number of years. Recent congregational disaffiliations across the denomination have accelerated that trend.

 At the November 2022 NCJ special session, the committee recommended that the Committees on Episcopacy, extended cabinets, and conference directors of the Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences and the East Ohio and West Ohio conferences “begin conversations about the possibility of sharing an episcopal area, if such a sharing should be approved by the NCJ, beginning as soon as 2024.”

Election and assignment of bishops has usually been the most demanding of the  tasks undertaken at jurisdictional conferences. Given the possible reduction in episcopal areas, it may be the case that the NCJ will not need to elect new bishops in 2024.  

At the July conference, delegates will also honor two retiring bishops, Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer.

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