Paul Leeland elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church

July 17, 2008

By Neill Caldwell
July 17, 2008 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)

Bishop-elect Paul Leeland

The Rev. Paul Leeland of the North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference has been elected a bishop by the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church.

He becomes the first bishop elected in the 2008 jurisdictional conferences, which are being held this week in five regions of the United States.

Leeland, 59, who serves as assistant to the bishop of the Raleigh (N.C.) Episcopal Area and director of ministerial relations in the North Carolina Conference, was elected on a ballot taken at 9:20 p.m. on July 16. The result was read at the start of the opening session July 17. He will fill the vacancy created in the denomination's jurisdictional college of bishops by the retirement of Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey in the Western North Carolina Conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. That is the only opening in the Southeastern Jurisdiction this year.

Leeland will become one of 13 active bishops serving the episcopal areas of the 15 annual conferences that make up the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

A consecration service for the new bishop will be held at 10:30 a.m. July 19 in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska.

An episcopal assignment committee is considering where Leeland and other active bishops will serve for the next four years. Their assignments will be effective Sept. 1.

Endorsed by the North Carolina Conference, Leeland was elected on the sixth ballot, receiving 298 of 498 votes cast. He is a former district superintendent and has a doctorate in education from North Carolina State University and master’s degrees in theology and divinity from Duke Divinity School.

A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life and, although eight years is the standard term for a bishop to serve in an episcopal area, it is not unusual for a bishop to be assigned to one area for 12 years for “missional reasons.”

Bishops are charged by the church’s Book of Discipline to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs” of the church and to “guard, transmit, teach and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically.”

A jurisdictional conference has the following power and duties:

  • To promote the evangelistic, educational, missionary and benevolent interests of the church and to provide for interests and institutions within their boundaries.
  • To elect bishops.
  • To establish and constitute jurisdictional conference boards as auxiliaries to the general boards of the church.
  • To determine the boundaries of annual conferences.
  • To make rules and regulations for the administration of the church's work within the jurisdiction.
  • To appoint a committee on appeals.

The United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches. Methodists elected their bishops at one national gathering until 1940, when the jurisdictional system was instituted. Bishops in the EUB church were elected at one national gathering until 1968.

* Caldwell is editor of the Virginia Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Virginia Annual (regional) Conference. He is directing the Daily Christian Advocate for the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.