Based on suggestions from our session at Leadership Institute, our team has started a new section to our newsletter to help explain the polity of the UMC. We have asked Rev. Amy Lippoldt to help answer these questions.
Q: How are bishops assigned to a particular annual conference?
A: Bishops, like all clergy, are itinerant and agree to go where they are sent for the good of the whole church. Inside each jurisdiction there is a committee consisting of two General Conference delegates from each annual conference in the jurisdiction. In the case of the South Central Jurisdiction, 24 people. Every year the episcopacy committee asks for some kind of evaluation from the annual conferences and the bishops themselves. In the spring prior to a jurisdictional conference they also talk with each bishop individually about life in the bishop’s current annual conference as well as their hopes or preferences for the future.
At the end of jurisdictional conference in July, after all new bishops have been elected, this same episcopacy committee will meet to decide placements for all the bishops in the SCJ. This process will be run by an outside facilitator and is designed to be as collaborative as possible while looking toward the good of the whole jurisdiction. Placement selection will take several hours. Once decided, the bishops are told individually of their new assignments. The assignments are then announced to the jurisdictional conference. New assignments take place starting Sept 1. Bishops can serve up to 12 years in one annual conference.
In the SCJ this year, we anticipate 3 retirements, leaving open Central Texas, New Mexico/NW Texas, and North Texas. Additionally, Bishop Harvey has been in Louisiana for 8 years and often that is a time that Bishops move to a new conference. Bishop Muller has also been in Arkansas for eight years but only has one quadrennium left to serve before retirement. Bishops Jones, Schnase, Farr, Saenz, and Nunn have only served four years in their current conferences and so are less likely to move this year.
There is a chance that legislation passed at General Conference in May will effect this “normal” course of episcopal assignment, either by direct legislation, or because one or more bishops decides to alter their future plans in response to the actions of GC.
Our current GP representatives are me, Rev. Amy Lippoldt, and Courtney Fowler, first lay delegate to 2016/19 General Conference.
Do you have a question for the UMC Polity Q&A? Send it to Rev. Amy Lippoldt.