facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

Michigan delegates head to Sioux Falls

Delegates to conference

The North Central Jurisdictional Conference begins next week, and delegates from Michigan are preparing for worship and business, including the challenging task of episcopal assignments.

Content Editor

Lay and clergy delegates from the Michigan Conference — eight clergy and eight laity — travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, next week for the 2024 North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) Conference to complete what may be the final leg of their journey as a delegation. They were elected in 2019 to serve in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed things until this year.

Approximately 150 delegates from churches all over the Midwest will meet for worship and business from July 10-13, 2024, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. This gathering comes about six weeks after the historic 2024 General Conference, where our Michigan Conference delegates helped to set a new direction for The United Methodist Church.

Watch all the worship services and plenary sessions via the 2024 NCJ Conference website, which has the schedule and other details posted. The Michigan Conference’s communication team will provide daily news coverage starting Wednesday, including a newsletter emailed to all MIconnect subscribers (click here to subscribe), updates on Facebook and Instagram, and live-streaming all plenary sessions via our website.

The 2024 North Central Jurisdictional Conference will officially begin on Wednesday afternoon, with the opening worship at 4 pm Eastern/3 pm Central. Bishop Lanette Plambeck of the Dakotas – Minnesota Episcopal Area will preach the opening sermon. The conference theme, “Lift Every Voice,” is taken from a hymn by James Weldon Johnson and often called “The Black National Anthem.”

The plenary speakers and time for delegates to discuss and learn together will focus on how churches within the NCJ are moving forward post-General Conference as annual conferences prepare to vote on constitutional amendments related to regionalization. Each annual conference will vote on these amendments in 2025. Attention could also be given to the “Covenant to Build BeLoved Community,” which was affirmed by NCJ delegates in 2021.

The United Methodist Church in the United States is organized into five geographic jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central, and Western. The Michigan Conference is part of the North Central Jurisdiction, comprising Northern Illinois, Illinois Great Rivers, Indiana, Iowa, East Ohio, West Ohio, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Every four years, following General Conference, the jurisdictional conferences meet to elect new bishops, assign bishops, and select members of general boards and agencies. No episcopal elections are needed based on decisions made at the 2024 General Conference. Still, the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy will assign bishops within the NCJ, and new episcopal areas may be created.

Bishops praying together
Active and retired bishops pray together during the 2022 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, held November 2-5, 2022, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. ~ NCJ Communications/Mark Doyal

At the 2024 General Conference, delegates voted to approve funding for 32 bishops for the 2025-2028 quadrennium. Currently, there are 39 active bishops across the five U.S. jurisdictions. In response to the missional growth and needs on the African continent, General Conference also approved adding two bishops, bringing the total there to 15.

These decisions were primarily the result of the reduction of the overall denominational budget for 2025-2028, which was reduced between 38% and 41%, depending on giving collection rates over the next two years, and the desire to live into regionalization as the denomination moves toward significant structural changes. The Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy was tasked with recommending to the General Conference delegates how many bishops the United States should have based on what the denomination can afford and how the bishops should be distributed among the jurisdictions.

Also, as part of the committee’s recommendation, General Conference delegates approved the number of bishops allocated to each jurisdiction. The North Central, Northeast, and South Central Jurisdictions have been allocated six bishops each. The Southeast Jurisdiction has been allocated nine. Five bishops have been allocated to the Western Jurisdiction.

Due to this drop in the total number of bishops and the allocation of bishops, the 2024 North Central Jurisdictional Conference will not elect any new bishops. Nine bishops currently serve the North Central Jurisdiction. Two are retiring — Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, West Ohio Conference, and Bishop Julius Trimble, Indiana Conference — and Illinois Great River’s Bishop Frank J. Beard will be ineligible for an episcopal assignment following the recent announcement that he will be on long-term disability effective August 1, 2024. 

Three bishops being consecrated
At the 2022 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, three bishops were elected: (left to right) Bishop Dan Schwerin (Northern Illinois), Bishop Lanette Plambeck (Minnesota/Dakotas), and Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai (Iowa). No episcopal elections are planned for the 2024 NCJ Conference. ~ NCJ Communications/Mark Doyal

Reducing the number of bishops will significantly impact how bishops lead in the North Central Jurisdiction. They will be expected to share responsibilities and work together more closely to provide effective leadership. They will also need to be more strategic in their use of time and resources.

In January 2024, the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops called a special session where two new episcopal areas — (1) Northern Illinois and Wisconsin and (2) East Ohio and West Ohio — were approved. Each new episcopal area will share one bishop. The official names of these new episcopal areas will be voted on at the 2024 NCJ Conference. The assumption in January was that seven bishops would be serving in 2025-2028. Since the NCJ has been allotted six bishops, delegates will likely need to determine if two annual conferences will be yoked together or if a new episcopal area will be created to address the reduction to six.

The NCJ Committee on Episcopacy must make difficult decisions regarding the complexities the jurisdictions face with the reduction of bishops and the process of assigning bishops to fill all the necessary allocations. They are tasked with assigning bishops within the NCJ and creating new episcopal areas if needed. Two Michigan Conference delegates serve on this committee: Rev. Paul Perez, clergy, and Nichea Ver Veer Guy, laity.

Delegates laughing
Laura Witkowski (left) and Rev. Paul Perez, co-chairs of the Michigan Conference delegation, take a break at the 2022 NCJ Conference. ~ NCJ Communications/Mark Doyal

The co-chairs expressed their thoughts on the upcoming conference on behalf of the Michigan delegation and requested prayers for the sixteen delegates representing the Michigan Conference at the 2024 NCJ Conference.

Laura Witkowsky, lay member of Grand Rapids: Aldersgate UMC and co-chair of the delegation, said: “NCJ will be different, with no episcopal elections, and possibly our last opportunity for this particular group of delegates to gather. The relationships we’ve built with other NCJ delegates since 2019 have been a unique experience, unlike any other delegation before us. The schedule offers many opportunities for discussion, which will only help us to continue to move forward in this new day in The United Methodist Church. And, of course, what is on everyone’s mind is the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy’s difficult task of assigning bishops to annual conferences. I trust that God has put the right people in the room for such a time as this, and I hope that the people of the Michigan Conference believe that as well.”

Rev. Paul Perez, lead minister at Detroit: Central UMC and co-chair of the delegation, commented: “My hope is that the NCJ Conference will be a time of inspiring worship, meaningful learning, and renewing fellowship that will energize delegates to return to their conferences and ministry setting energized to lead The United Methodist Church forward into the next chapter of its life. As a member of the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy, I would ask for all United Methodists to pray for Bishop Beard and his family and all of our bishops and their families, along with the members of the jurisdictional Committees on Episcopacy as episcopal assignments are discerned in this time of denominational transition.”

Last Updated on July 11, 2024

The Michigan Conference