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Connectional Table members receive episcopal endorsement

Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai speaking at Annual Conference.

Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai is one of three members of the Connectional Table to receive an episcopal nomination and full endorsement by their annual conference.

THE CONNECTIONAL TABLE
The United Methodist Church

Three members of the Connectional Table (CT) have received episcopal endorsements from their respective annual conferences, including Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai from the Michigan Conference.

Bigham-Tsai, Chief Connectional Ministries Officer (CCMO) of the Connectional Table, Rev. Ken Nelson, CT member, and Rev. Amy Coles, CT member, have been nominated as episcopal candidates. United Methodist bishops will be elected during jurisdictional conferences later this year.

Bishop Christian Alsted, Chair of the CT states, “It is quite remarkable that two Connectional Table members Amy Coles and Ken Nelson and our CCMO Kennetha Bigham-Tsai have all been nominated as candidates for the episcopacy and in addition have been endorsed by their annual conferences. For the past six years, I have had the great privilege of working closely with all three episcopal nominees, and I know for certain, they will all bring unique and much needed gifts and experiences to the church as episcopal leaders, should their jurisdictional conferences by the guidance of the Holy Spirit elect them. They are all in my prayers, as they embark on their journey as candidates.”

Created at the 2004 General Conference as the successor body to the General Council on Ministries, the CT was formed to discern and articulate the vision for the church and to steward the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by the actions of General Conference. The CT works in consultation with the Council of Bishops.

The structure and organization of the CT reflects the desire to ensure that all voices are represented around the table and are heard in the conversation about the mission and ministry of the church. The board consists of 49 voting members and 15 nonvoting members for a total membership of 64 people. Jurisdictional and central conferences elect lay and clergy members to serve on the Connectional Table. The Council of Bishops appoints the CT board’s chair. The general boards, agencies, and commissions, the ethnic caucuses, and a representative from the Division on Ministries with Young People also have representation on the CT.

Ken Nelson serving communion.
The 2022 South Carolina Annual Conference on June 6, 2022, voted to endorse the nomination of Rev. Ken Nelson for election as a bishop of The United Methodist Church. ~ photo courtesy South Carolina Conference

Rev. Ken Nelson has been nominated as the episcopal nominee of the South Carolina Conference. Nelson states, “As a kid who grew up at Epworth Children’s Home, I could have never imagined this moment. The beauty of a defining moment is that it usually forces us to face our fears head-on and take action; now is such a moment for me. I am profoundly humbled and gratified to be the episcopal nominee of the South Carolina Conference. I believe that we stand at a pivotal point in the life of The United Methodist Church and in the life of our world. I am convinced that God still has a mission in the world—a vision of a world redeemed and ordered anew. This vision inspires in me a hope that the way things are is not the way things have to be. I am genuinely heartened about the possibilities that lay ahead, because God is not done with the church or the people called Methodist. Knowing the other two nominees from the Connectional Table is just humbling. I have admired their faith and leadership immensely. Amy is dear friend of long standing (we were classmates at Duke Divinity School), and I met Kennetha years ago at conference. The United Methodist Church would be blessed by the gifts these amazing leaders.”

Amy Coles participating in a baptism.
Rev. Amy Coles is the Western North Carolina Conference nominee for episcopal election at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, scheduled November 2-4, 2022. ~ photo courtesy Rev. Amy Coles

Rev. Amy Coles has been nominated as the episcopal nominee of the Western North Carolina Conference. Coles states, “It is a gift that the delegation and annual conference have seen in me the gifts and grace for the episcopacy. I have great hope for our worldwide connection and look forward to leading, encouraging, and serving within the continuing United Methodist Church as we grow more fully into a place where everyone has a seat and a ministry at the table; a community in which we intentionally seek to see the Imago Dei in each other; a mission outpost charged with helping others experience that they are God’s Beloved; and a movement which will not be silenced until our corner of creation looks like the Kingdom of God. I join in prayer for Kennetha and Ken as they, too, offer themselves to serve in this way.”

Kennetha Bigham-Tsai speaking in 2019.
Bishop Christian Alsted, Chair of the CT, and Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai direct the Connectional Table’s discussion about the February 2019 special session of General Conference on April 3, 2019. ~ photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai has been nominated as the episcopal nominee of the Michigan Conference. In acknowledging the endorsement during the 2022 Annual Conference, Bigham-Tsai said, “Thank you so much, Michigan Annual Conference. You have walked with me for years in faithfulness and faith. This call has been stirring in me for some time, but it must also stir in the Body of Christ.” She then asked for prayer for herself, her family, and the delegates preparing to elect bishops in November. She concluded, “[These are times of] trauma, separation, challenge, and excitement. God is doing a new thing in the church yet, still, and always. It’s a process of discernment. I offer myself, and now you offer me to the process.”

Bigham-Tsai is one of eight episcopal candidates for election as bishop from the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ), which includes the Michigan Conference. Elections will be held during the upcoming North Central Jurisdictional Conference scheduled for November 2-5, 2022, in Fort Wayne, IN. More details are found on the NCJ’s website.

James Deaton, Michigan Conference’s Content Editor, contributed to this story.

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