October 20, 2022 | by Heather Hahn
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, at left, and Bonnie Marden, chair of the Northeastern Jurisdiction episcopacy committee, offer an overview of recommendations for how many bishops the jurisdiction should elect. The jurisdiction's bishops recommended no elections and the episcopacy committee recommended one. Ultimately, the delegates voted to elect two when the jurisdictional conference meets Nov. 2-5. Screengrab courtesy of the Greater New Jersey Conference via YouTube by UM News.
Just ahead of Americans heading to the polls for Election Day, United Methodist delegates will be heading to five simultaneous jurisdictional conferences across the U.S. to elect new bishops.
But unlike during previous bishop elections, jurisdictional leaders are recommending that the delegates gathering Nov. 2-5 not fill every vacant episcopal office.
All told, 20 United Methodist bishops in the U.S. will have retired between 2021 and the end of this year. However, at this point, the recommendation is to elect 14 new bishops.
The elections will bring the number of active U.S. bishops up to 40, but the U.S. currently has 46 episcopal areas.
It will be up to each jurisdiction’s college of bishops and committee on the episcopacy to arrange coverage of the remaining episcopal areas either by asking retired bishops to serve in an interim capacity or assigning bishops to serve more than one episcopal area as 16 bishops have done over the past two pandemic-marred years. All active bishops are eligible for reassignment at jurisdictional conferences.
All jurisdictions also will have to vote on the number of bishops to elect when they meet next month.
Current recommendations are to elect:
Jurisdictional leaders are cautioning delegates to consider the long-term financial sustainability of adding more bishops as The United Methodist Church grapples with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting church disaffiliations.
At the same time, many United Methodists have expressed a desire for fresh leadership to help take on the challenges the denomination faces.
That tension was on display when the Northeastern Jurisdiction held a special session online Oct. 15 to determine how many bishops to elect next month.
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