To share your thoughts with other Michigan UNITED METHODISTS
The North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) will convene in Fort Wayne, IN, November 2-5, 2022, with the theme We Press On. This jurisdictional conference will gather delegates—lay and clergy—from 9 Annual Conferences; Northern Illinois, Illinois Great Rivers, Indiana, Iowa, East and West Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin for a momentous time filled with worship and collective discernment regarding the election of episcopal leadership and receiving episcopal assignments.
THE ROAD TO FORT WAYNE
In 2021, at the special virutal session of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference delegates affirmed the recommendation from the Committee on Episcopacy to reduce the number of active bishops in the jurisdiction from nine to eight. This recommendation came from the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy, who, with the NCJ College of Bishops, had determined the prudence of anticipating a General Council on Finance and Administration (GFCA)-announced reduction ahead of the 2020 General Conference. The recommendation was made prayerfully and proactively, using the data and information received at that time.
However, as the NCJ has attempted to live out the experiment of reduced episcopal leadership, the reduction has been found to be impractical at the present moment. There are multiple factors affecting this reality. Two bishops are assuming oversight of additional annual conferences for what has turned into a 24-month “interim.” Since January 1, 2021, Bishop David Bard has been serving Minnesota on an interim basis in addition to being resident bishop for the Michigan Conference. Bishop Laurie Haller had been serving the Dakotas on an interim basis in addition to being resident bishop for Iowa, but is now on medical leave. Bishop Deborah Kiesey is now providing episcopal leadership for the Iowa and Dakotas Conferences during Bishop Haller’s absence. Another contributing factor is the uncertainty triggered by the pre-General Conference launch of the Global Methodist Church.
The Committee on Episcopacy acknowledges that a reduction in the number of bishops in the North Central Jurisdiction will likely be both necessary and inevitable following the transitions facing The United Methodist Church in 2024. But for the present moment, the committee believes the current reduction will not help our jurisdiction “press on” into the future.
The North Central Jurisdiction has been offered flexibility by the recent Judicial Council ruling and affirmation by the GFCA: “Absent General Conference action, the formula and number of bishops for each jurisdiction approved by the 2016 General Conference remain legally binding and effective until replaced by a new formula.”
As a result of the work of the task force and prayerful discernment, after consultation with the NCJ College of Bishops, the NCJ Committee on the Episcopacy proposes the following for delegates to consider at the upcoming jurisdictional conference:
- The North Central Jurisdiction will reverse the decision of NCJ 2021, thereby returning the total number to nine active bishops, beginning January 1, 2023, until the next General Conference declares otherwise.
- Additionally, the NCJ will be asked to reaffirm the Dakotas and Minnesota returning to a single episcopal area, being served by one (1) bishop.
These proposals are presented for the short term, in order to help United Methodists in this jurisdiction navigate the uncertainty of the present time. The NCJ Committee on the Episcopacy anticipates that the jurisdictional conference session of 2024 may bring new developments and circumstances, including several mandatory episcopal retirements. They believe that returning to nine active bishops for the interim will provide greater “breathing room” to help prepare for those decisions at that time.
Delegations are encouraged to begin conversation regarding these important legislative recommendations. All United Methodists across the North Central Jurisdiction are invited to begin praying for the conference, the delegates, and the important decisions that will be made in November.
2021 NCJ Conference FEED
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