Photos and details to come but after a long day, we learned tonight that Bishop Robert Schnase will be the new bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference.
I have my Mac, iPhone, Android and cameras all charged and ready. Now we just need to wait. After two my reports, we might hear the report of the Episcopacy Committee. That is if they are done. They can actually meet as long as they need to so we actually have no idea what time we will know who will be our new bishop.
The absolute fastest way to find out is to watch for yourself. The live stream will be on until we are done do feel free to watch live.
You can also follow our twitter account: @riotxac or follow the hashtag: #scj16
I will also post the results as soon as possible on our Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/RioTexas/
Now that all three bishops have been elected it is assignment time. Instead of explaining the process myself, I am going to offer you what Corpus Christi District Superintendent and member of the Episcopacy Committee wrote back in March. You can read her entire post here:
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.
In between ballots, interviews, and reporting, I finally put together my footage from the election of Bishop Saenz. Hopefully it will give you a feel for the experience here in Wichita.
Just before the dinner break, on the 35th ballot, the South Central Jurisdiction elected Rev. Bob Farr of the Missouri Annual Conference. Farr has served as the Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence for the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church since 2007.
Edited to add photos
The South Central Jurisdictional Conference has just elected another bishop. Rev. Dr. Jimmy Nunn was elected on the 21st ballot. Nunn is an elder in the Northwest Texas Conference and currently serves Director of Mission and Administration for the annual conference.
Well, another ballot and still no election. In the meantime, El Valle District Superintendent, Rev. Laura Merrill had found herself moving up in the voting last night. This morning, she thanked the conference for their consideration but asked that people move their support to other candidates.
Selfishly, I am grateful to keep Rev. Merrill in the Rio Texas Conference for now.
If you went to sleep, don't worry, you didn't miss anything. We wrapped up around 9:30 last night and gathered for ice cream provided by Perkins School of Theology.
This morning, following worship, ballot #19 was just taken. We will see in a few minutes if another bishop has been elected.
We are now on ballot 16. And the results have been nearly the same for the last few ballots. The only exception is that Rev. Linda Harker has asked not to be considered.
In case you want to see it graphically, here is the latest, thanks to delegate Jason Valendy:
The day started with much excitement with the election of Bishop Ruben Saenz and it has been a little slower since. Bishop Saenz was elected on the third ballot. We are now on ballot number 11 and we have not elected a second bishop.
Delegate Jason Valendy posted this great line chart on Twitter that shows the voting in graphic form. It is one ballot behind but it will give you an idea. You can see Bishop Saenz reaching the election threshold and then dropping to zero after being elected.
During each ballot, delegates cast as many votes as there are open positions. In other words, when no bishops had been elected, delegates voted for three candidates. After Bishop Saenz was elected, they began voting for two. The number of votes needed for election is 60% plus one of the total vote count. As you can see, Rev. Dr. Jimmy Nunn, from the Northwest Texas Conference is getting close, receiving 107 votes in the last ballot. 128 were needed in during that ballot.
More results soon.
It didn't take long for the jurisdiction to elect the first of three bishops. On the third ballot, Rio Texas' own Ruben Saenz was elected as a United Methodist Bishop. It was an exciting moment, first of all, because the body elected a bishop so quickly. Second, it was exciting because Bishop Saenz has been a clergy member of the Rio Texas Annual Conference and, previously, the Rio Grande Annual Conference. He has also been my boss at the Mission Vitality Center and has become a good friend.
More information later but here are some pictures from the moments after the election, starting with a shot of the moment he realized he had been elected.
In just a little while, we will begin the first ballot for electing bishops.
The episcopal candidates gathered this morning for prayer together. It is great to see the prayerful and grace-filled attitude of these candidates.
Executive Director of the Rio Texas Mission Vitalty Center and episcopal candidate, Ruben Saenz shared in an email this morning,
In stark contrast to the present nasty national political season, I am grateful for the collegiality amongst the episcopal candidates. We all decided in January when we met at Oklahoma City for a pre-conference briefing, to support each other with prayer and friendship. I have not experienced a competitive spirit among us. If not elected, I would be honored to serve under the capable and gifted leadership of anyone of my colleagues.
It is hard to tell when we will begin seeing results. There is a lot of time allocated for many ballots but the South Eastern Jurisdiction elected 5 bishops in one day.
I will keep you updated but if you want to see results as they happen, you can follow all the elections here.
Jurisdictional Conference officially kicked off last night with opening service of memorial and communion. Worship was held at First United Methodist Church of Wichita, with Bishop Scott Jones preaching and Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, one of our own acting bishops, presiding.
Opening worship is, traditionally, the time to remember bishops, spouses and members of the jurisdiction who have left us over the previous year.
This morning, the business of the conference begins. After worship and some opening business, ballots for episcopal elections begin. The first ballot will be taken around 8:30.
The news from Jurisdictional Conference that most are anxious to hear relates to the election and assignment of bishops. Well, we will be waiting a while. Other things happen at this conference. Today is mostly dedicated to committee meetings, orientation, and worship.
I am looking forward to tonight's opening worship service. One of our acting bishops, Janice Riggle Huie will be preaching. You can join in live via live stream here:
Want to know more about Jurisdictional Conference? Our friends from the Great Plains Conference, have an excellent primer.
I have decided to dedicate some space to writing about the journey of Jurisdictional Conference 2016. As I sit at the airport, getting ready to board a flight to Dallas and then Wichita, I am thinking about what an important week this is.
United Methodists have been electing, consecrating, and assigning bishops for generations. This time feels a little different. First of all, for members of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, the anticipation may be a little higher than normal. This annual conference went through a strange year of leadership change. While we have been under the effective and grace-filled leadership of four bishops, we have known all along that this was only temporary. It will be a big deal to have a more permanent, full-time, resident bishop again.
Second, for everyone, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the episcopal elections this year in the various jurisdictional conferences will be the most watched episcopal elections in history. While social media and live streaming have been around for a while, now they have become a normal part of our media landscape. People of all ages will be following coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and many will be watching the proceedings live.
So, my bag is packed. I packed some clothes, but mostly I have cameras, computers, phones and cables so I can help us keep up with the journey of bringing home a new bishop to Rio Texas.