Five U.M. jurisdictional conferences elect 21 bishops

By Linda Green
United Methodist News Service

Every four years during July, a new cadre of bishops joins the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church.

This year, 1,600 United Methodists elected 21 new bishops in five geographic conferences across the United States July 12-17. The new bishops will join 29 others in the United States. Each will lead an episcopal area of at least one of the 63 annual (regional) conferences in the United States. United Methodists in Europe and Africa will elect a total of four bishops in separate sessions later in the year.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline charges bishops "to lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs" of the denomination and to "lead the church in its mission of witness and service in the world."

Of the 21 bishops elected, three are African- American men, one is a Hispanic woman and five are white women. The election of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Raleigh, N.C., marked the first time the Southeastern Jurisdiction elected a woman as the first bishop-elect. She is the second woman to be elected as a bishop in the jurisdiction.

The new episcopal leaders also include Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who is a native of India, Bishop Jeremiah Park and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, who are Korean-Americans and Bishop Robert Hoshibata, Japanese-American.

The delegates arriving for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference were surprised to learn that a bishop had requested early retirement in order to effectively address "an allegation that was made at the end of April." Instead of electing five bishops, the delegates to the July 12-17 conference chose six.

The 288 delegates to the 13-state Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, meeting in Syracuse, N.Y., elected the Rev. Marcus Matthews from the Baltimore-Washington Conference; the Rev. Sudarshana Devadhar, North Central New York; the Rev. Jeremiah J. Park, Greater New Jersey; the Rev. John R. Schol, Eastern Pennsylvania; the Rev. Jane Allen Middleton, New York; and the Rev. Thomas J. Bickerton, West Virginia.

The 340 delegates to the eight-state South Central Jurisdictional Conference, meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, elected the Rev. Robert Hayes Jr., Texas Conference; the Rev. Robert Schanse, Southwest Texas; the Rev. Scott Jones, North Texas; and the Rev. Charles Crutchfield, New Mexico.

The 556 delegates to the nine-state Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., elected the Rev. Alfred Gwinn, Kentucky Conference, the Rev. James Swanson, South Georgia Conference; the Rev. Richard J. Wills Jr., Florida Conference; the Rev. William H. Willimon, South Carolina Conference; the Rev. Hope Morgan Ward, North Carolina Conference; and the Rev. Mary Virginia "Dindy" Taylor, Holston Conference.

"I am looking forward to the adventure," said the Bishop William Willimon, Durham, N.C., following his election by the Southeastern Jurisdiction. "I have done a lot of thinking about what the church should do, and now I have a chance to do it," he said.

Davenport, Iowa, was the site of the July 14-17 North Central Jurisdictional Conference. The 328 delegates from nine states elected the Rev. Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Conference; the Rev. Deborah Kiesey, Iowa; and the Rev. Sally Dyck, East Ohio.

The Rev. Robert Hoshibata, Pacific-Northwest Conference and the Rev. Minerva Carcano, Oregon- Idaho Conference, were elected by the 88 delegates at the 12-state Western Jurisdictional Conference, meeting in San Jose, Calif.

Upon her election by the Western Jurisdiction, Carcano, a Hispanic clergywoman, said "I want to thank you for creating a table large enough, that has a place even for me and the people of my birth, my language, my culture."

Besides elections, the jurisdictional conference agendas included business sessions, worship, episcopal and laity addresses, celebrations of significant accomplishments, special activities to honor retiring bishops, reports from various jurisdictional organizations and consecration services for new bishops.

The United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches. With 8.3 million members, it is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The denomination also has 2.5 million members in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. There are 50 active U.S. bishops and 18 active bishops from outside the United States providing leadership for more than 42,000 congre- gations worldwide.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church in the U.S. are elected for life and are assigned to serve in geographic areas for four-year terms. They must retire from active administration at the jurisdictional conference following their 66th birthdays.

Normally, bishops serve no more than two four- year terms in one area, but they may serve a third term with special permission from the jurisdictional conference. The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference assigned Bishop G. Lindsey Davis to the North Georgia Area for a third term because he is undergoing medical treatment for cancer. The Northeastern Jurisdiction extended Bishop Susan Morrison's service in the Albany Area for a third term.


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