Process for Election and Assignment of Bishops South Central Jurisdiction UMC 2016

Every four years, United Methodists in the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) elect and assign bishops to the conferences comprising the states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.  The process occurs amidst a great deal of prayer and holy discernment, based on a foundation of consultation with the various annual conferences and the bishops themselves.

This process has already begun, as the South Central Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy has gathered feedback from conference committees on the episcopacy and bishops, regarding their recommendations for the coming quadrennium.  What are the issues facing the conference in the next four years?  What projects need to be continued?  What kind of leader do you hope to receive (in the case of conferences)?  What gifts and learning do you bring as a leader (in the case of bishops)?  This process resembles that used for cabinets’ consultation with pastors and SPRCs each year.

Next is the election of new bishops.  There will be three elections in our jurisdiction this year, due to the retirement of Bishops Huie and Hayes and the vacancy left by Mr. Dorff, who was also scheduled to retire this year.  In addition, two sitting bishops have served in their current places for 12 years and will need to change conferences. For the past several weeks, candidates lifted up and endorsed by conferences and caucuses have been traveling to interviews across the jurisdiction, to share their gifts and vision for the work of bishop. 

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference session will be held in Wichita, Kansas, July 13-16. Elections will take place throughout the session, much as they do at the annual conference level.  Once all three elections have been completed, the committee will be sent to its deliberations undergirded by the prayers of the whole conference, asking God to lead the group and stating clearly that no decision is pre-determined. The committee’s assignment work allows room for the working of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, honest communication and relationship-building.  Their work will be based on trust:  trust in God, trust in each other, and trust in the process. 

The newly elected bishops will meet with the committee to share their gifts and graces, in anticipation of assignment to one of the conferences.  Then the committee will move into discernment, beginning their time together with a devotional, silent prayer, guided prayer, and communion. Charts with each bishop’s service history and stated gifts will be posted on the walls of the meeting room, and the representatives of each area will have time to develop a statement of their needs, hopes and dreams with regard to episcopal leadership. 

With all information displayed, and after silent prayer, area groups will work to develop a slate of assignments, matching 10 bishops to 10 areas.  Each area will submit one solution, and all 10 solutions will be transcribed to large paper, numbered, and posted on the wall, without revealing which area submitted which solution.  All solutions then become the property of the whole group.

Time is given for study, and amendments are allowed.  After silent prayer and reflection, each person votes by written ballot for three possible solutions from the 10 posted.  The three solutions with the most votes are retained.  All others are discarded.  There is time for comments and discussion.

After silent prayer and reflection, each person votes for two of the three remaining solutions, and the two with the most votes are retained.  More discussion follows, as does further silent prayer.  On the final vote, a simple majority makes the assignments.  Once the vote is completed, each person is encouraged to voice concerns or cares as necessary.  Prayers for healing, nurture, courage, grace and confidentiality are appropriate.  Before anyone leaves the room, all papers are gathered for shredding and disposal. 

When committee members leave their meeting room and prepare to return to the conference floor, the representatives from each episcopal area will walk directly to greet their corresponding bishop, whether new or returning.  The assignments recommended by the committee must then be approved by a vote of the jurisdictional conference.  The following morning, on Saturday, most episcopal areas hold a breakfast for their bishop, whether new or returning.  After the breakfast, all gather for a service of consecration for the new bishops.

The current Rio Texas representatives on the SCJ committee were actually elected by the former Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences:  Edgar Avitia, Cindy Johnson, Jay Brim, and Laura Merrill.  On behalf of the whole committee, we covet your prayers for our sitting bishops, the candidates, and the process we will undertake together in Wichita in July. 

Respectfully submitted,
Laura Merrill

 

General & Jurisdictional Conference Delegation Update

Front row, l to r:  Rev. Russell Miller, Rev. Laura Merrill, Rev. Teresa Welborn, Larry Harrison, Aislinn Deviney, Abel Vega Jr., Teresa Keese, Rev. Eradio Valverde Jr., Cindy Johnson, Rev. Edgar Avitia, Rev. Abigail Parker Herrera, Rev. Leslie Tomlinson Back row, l to r:  Rev. Robert Lopez, Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz Jr., Ralph Thompson, Jay Brim, Rick Mantooth, Rev. Tom Deviney, Letty Ortegon, Rev. Paul Escamilla, Rev. Raquel Cajiri Feagins, Rachel Wright, Rev. Carl Rohlfs, Rev. Terrence Hayes, Carol Loeb Not Pictured:  Byrd Bonner, Rev. Dr. Austin Frederick Jr., Sean Raybuck, Michael Swetman

Front row, l to r:  Rev. Russell Miller, Rev. Laura Merrill, Rev. Teresa Welborn, Larry Harrison, Aislinn Deviney, Abel Vega Jr., Teresa Keese, Rev. Eradio Valverde Jr., Cindy Johnson, Rev. Edgar Avitia, Rev. Abigail Parker Herrera, Rev. Leslie Tomlinson
Back row, l to r:  Rev. Robert Lopez, Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz Jr., Ralph Thompson, Jay Brim, Rick Mantooth, Rev. Tom Deviney, Letty Ortegon, Rev. Paul Escamilla, Rev. Raquel Cajiri Feagins, Rachel Wright, Rev. Carl Rohlfs, Rev. Terrence Hayes, Carol Loeb
Not Pictured:  Byrd Bonner, Rev. Dr. Austin Frederick Jr., Sean Raybuck, Michael Swetman

Greetings in the name of Christ!  The Rio Texas General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegation has been busy at work for you in preparation for the upcoming 2016 gatherings.  Even though elected separately, we are meeting jointly as one delegation for all of our activities, and we will be seated as one at both conferences; General Conference in May in Portland, Oregon, and Jurisdictional Conference in July in Wichita, Kansas.  We praise God and celebrate working together as one delegation

We have held several meetings this spring for orientation, planning, getting to know one another, and developing the process for our work ahead.  We also were invited to meet with two other delegations, North Texas and Central Texas, in May to review potential legislation and network with the other delegates.

On the last night of Annual Conference, we met as a delegation to begin the episcopal discernment process in consideration of lifting up episcopal candidates from our annual conference to offer to the South Central Jurisdiction.  The process will continue in August as we prayerfully discern the gifts and graces of those who serve in our area and determine if we will lift up a candidate.  This fall we will begin meeting intensely both at the conference and jurisdictional levels to prepare for legislation and episcopal candidate interviews.

We are thankful to have such a strong delegation with members who put their time and energy into being involved in our work.  We ask you and your congregations to please be in prayer throughout this next year for our delegation to have wisdom and discernment in all we do, and to keep God’s Will our first priority.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to represent you, our new Rio Texas Conference, as we make important decisions for the future of our conference and the Methodist Church worldwide!

In Christ,

Teresa Keese                      
Abel Vega, Jr.                    
Rev. Laura Merrill             
Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz, Jr.

Three Texas General Conference Delegations Meet to Discuss Future of the UMC

Delegation Leaders in photograph (l-r): Tim Bruster (Clergy, Central Texas), Tom Harkrider (Lay, Central Texas), Teresa Keese (Lay, Rio Texas), Ruben Saenz (Clergy, Rio Texas), Laura Merrill (clergy, Rio Texas), Abel Vega (Lay, Rio Texas), Jan Jokinen Davis (Clergy, North Texas), Tim Crouch (Lay, North Texas).

Delegation Leaders in photograph (l-r): Tim Bruster (Clergy, Central Texas), Tom Harkrider (Lay, Central Texas), Teresa Keese (Lay, Rio Texas), Ruben Saenz (Clergy, Rio Texas), Laura Merrill (clergy, Rio Texas), Abel Vega (Lay, Rio Texas), Jan Jokinen Davis (Clergy, North Texas), Tim Crouch (Lay, North Texas).

What does the future hold for the United Methodist Church?  Three General Conference delegations met on May 15, 2015 to discuss priorities for guiding the UMC’s future at General Conference 2016.  General Conference is the top legislative body of the United Methodist Church and meets every four years.  The full delegations of Central Texas, Rio Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences gathered at the historic St. Johns UMC in Georgetown, Texas.

During lunch the delegates fellowshipped around tables assigned to their respective legislative committee assignments.  At General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon, delegates are assigned to one of twelve legislative committees.  Each committee deals with a certain portion of the Book of Discipline. 

This tri-delegation gathering was not only an opportunity to form relationships, but also to discuss the future of the United Methodist Church and potential legislation that will come to General Conference. 

Following lunch, a variety of delegates presented new legislative proposals on multiple topics including Human Sexuality, the Global Book of Discipline, Restructuring of the Church (Plan UMC Revised) and the Mission 21 Task Force (South Central Jurisdiction realignment).  The delegates considered fifteen legislative proposals coming from the Annual Conference Lay Leader’s group which have already received support from laity. 

The delegates received an update on changes to the daily schedule and legislative process of GC2016 by a member of the Commission on General Conference.  Additionally, the delegates considered the election of Judicial Council representation and weighed the qualities needed for an effective member of the Judicial Council. 

These delegations will come together again with delegations across the jurisdiction at a pre-jurisdictional conference meeting this fall.