Jurisdictional Conference November 2-4
On Nov. 2-4 elections will be held in the United Methodist Church for new bishops. Also, current bishops, along with those newly elected, will be assigned to provide episcopal supervision of annual conferences.
These elections and assignments happen at Jurisdictional Conference, a gathering of delegates from several conferences within a geographical area. In our case, that’s the South Central Jurisdiction, including Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Kansas and Nebraska.
Usually, this conference occurs every four years, last held in 2016 and recently scheduled for 2020, however it was postponed three times. Finally, after being delayed for over two years, Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled for Nov. 2-4 in Houston, Texas.
You may have seen information about the election process, but the assignment of bishops to areas may be a bit of a mystery. We will try to provide a little insight into how each conference, including Oklahoma, gets its bishop and how each bishop is assigned to an area of one or more conferences, just like Bishop Nunn was assigned to lead Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary and North West Texas. This is laid out in the Book of Discipline, especially in paragraph 406.
Assignments of all active bishops in a jurisdiction are recommended by a Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, composed of two leaders (lay and clergy) from each conference. See BOD paragraph 524. This Committee is elected at the preceding jurisdictional conference (2016) and works together for four years with the bishops, providing oversight, review, and evaluation of their work. Dr. Don Kim and Rev. Joseph Harris who lead our delegation are the current representatives from Oklahoma on the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee.
With the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy in place, the work begins in earnest months, even years, before assignments at jurisdictional conference. And in this case, it was stopped with the postponements and then has to been restarted.
The committee’s preparatory work consists of three parts:
- Written questionnaires and surveys from bishops and conferences;
- Personal interviews with each bishop by the committee;
- Consultation questionnaires from each conference’s committee on episcopacy. For those bishops who are newly elected, the committee relies upon information from their candidacy, along with a personal interview after the election and prior to assignment.
In addition, of course, we also consider the expressed needs of various conferences where a bishop might be considered. All this is to match the gifts of active bishops most appropriately with the leadership needs of the annual conferences, much like pastors are matched with congregations in the appointment process. Prayer is an ongoing part. The committee always seeks God’s guidance and wisdom to discern, with a sense of spiritual calling of bishops with particular conferences.
The real process work begins after the jurisdictional conference has finished electing all new bishops. In the case of the upcoming 2022 conference, that is recommended to be three new bishops. They, along with the six active continuing bishops, will be considered for assignment to the various areas and/or conferences in the jurisdiction.
The committee meets confidentially for a thorough discussion, led in recent years by a very gifted facilitator, then presents to the entire conference their recommendation for approval (usually given at the same hour since it’s often late at night). This committee meeting might seem to some “behind closed doors”. However, confidentiality is vital to honesty and openness regarding important personnel issues such as the assignment of bishops.
In November, our jurisdiction will elect three new bishops, given retirements and other changes in the jurisdiction. Delegates chosen in 2019 will choose from all clergy eligible, particularly those 6-10 or so who have been endorsed by a conference delegation or organization.
The Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy will recommend the assignment of those, along with all six continuing bishops (including Bishop Nunn), to the areas. Some of those continuing bishops will likely not be moving – especially since the next jurisdictional conference is less than two years away. Three conferences will be open, with bishops retired or retiring – Texas, North Texas and Central Texas – and could be assigned either a newly elected bishop or one who continues. Keep in mind that nothing is decided by the committee until it meets following all elections. So, anything can happen (though the need for stability is certainly a factor).
We encourage all Oklahomans to be in prayer for the committee, Bishop Nunn, our delegation and the United Methodist Church as we continue to go through this process. If you have any questions about this do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee Representatives