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U.S. bishops take on expanded roles

Bishops process at 2019 General Conference

Just as Bishop David Bard has taken an interim assignment in Minnesota, other U.S. bishops are receiving additional conferences to shepherd as of September 2, 2021.

United Methodist News

Starting Sept 1, United Methodist bishops across the United States will take on additional work as some of their colleagues retire.

With the second pandemic-caused delay of General Conference, the Council of Bishops has also postponed the jurisdictional conferences that elect U.S. episcopal leaders. The five U.S. jurisdictional conferences are now scheduled for Nov. 2-4, 2022, with central conference elections in Europe, Africa and the Philippines to follow. Last week Bishop David Bard announced a special session of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference that will take place in Fort Wayne, IN, November 11-13, 2021. However, no bishops are to be elected at that session.

General Conference, The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly now scheduled for next year, sets the denominational budget and thus the number of bishops.

In the meantime, 11 U.S. bishops who already postponed their retirement after General Conference’s first delay are stepping down or taking on new roles as they bump up against the denomination’s age requirements for bishops to retire. Two have already taken new roles with the Council of Bishops. Of the other retirements, six take effect Sept. 1, one on Oct. 1 and two on Jan. 1, 2022.

That leaves other bishops to take on interim roles. Five bishops who planned to retire have agreed to stay on.

Bishops, in consultation with their episcopacy committees, have made plans to provide interim episcopal coverage. The Council of Bishops approved each jurisdiction’s plans.

Active bishops who take on more work do not receive additional pay. The board of the General Council on Finance and Administration sets the compensation for all bishops. Retired bishops who take on interim roles receive the difference between the retired bishop’s pension amount and a bishop’s current salary level. The GCFA board has kept bishops’ pay flat since 2019.

The result is that as some bishops step down and other bishops take on expanded assignments, they are also shoring up the financially strapped Episcopal Fund that supports bishops’ work.

The bishops also will be leading in a time of great uncertainty. The coming General Conference faces multiple proposals to split the denomination after decades of debate about the status of LGBTQ people in church life.

Here are the episcopal assignments for this transitional time, listed by conference.

North Central Jurisdiction

The North Central Jurisdiction got a head start on the rest of the U.S. in its episcopal transition. Bishops Bruce Ough and Sally Dyck officially retired on January 1, 2021 and took on new roles with the Council of Bishops — Ough as executive secretary and Dyck as ecumenical officer. The retirements affected the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Northern Illinois conferences.

Dakotas and Iowa: Bishop Laurie Haller.

East Ohio: Bishop Tracy S. Malone, who is also Secretary of the Council of Bishops.

Illinois Great Rivers: Bishop Frank J. Beard is on medical leave through Dec. 31. In the interim, Bishop Gregory V. Palmer will lead both the Illinois Great Rivers and West Ohioconferences.

Indiana: Bishop Julius C. Trimble

Michigan and Minnesota: Bishop David Bard.

Northern Illinois: Retired Bishop John Hopkins is assigned to serve from Jan. 1 until another bishop is assigned, no later than Dec. 31.

Wisconsin:Bishop Hee-Soo Jung.

The North Central Jurisdiction includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Northeastern Jurisdiction

As of Sept. 1, Bishops Peggy Johnson and Jeremiah Park will retire and take on new roles. Johnson will minister with congregations in Virginia and provide consultation on Deaf and disability ministry across the connection. Park will lead both the Northeastern Jurisdiction Korean Mission and the United Methodist Mission in Mongolia. The moves leave the Eastern Pennsylvania, Peninsula-Delaware, and Susquehanna conferences in need of episcopal coverage.

Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware: Bishop LaTrelle Easterling.

Greater New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania: Bishop John Schol.

New England: Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who has delayed his retirement.

New York: Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who is also Council of Bishops president-designate.

Upper New York: Bishop Mark Webb.

West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Susquehanna: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball.

The Northeastern Jurisdiction includes the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

South Central Jurisdiction

As of Jan. 1, 2022, Bishops W. Earl Bledsoe and J. Michael Lowry plan to retire. Their moves will leave vacancies in the New Mexico, Northwest Texas, and Central Texas conferences.

Arkansas: Bishop Gary Mueller

Central Texas and Great Plains: Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.

Louisiana: Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who is also Council of Bishops president

Missouri: Bishop Robert “Bob” Farr.

New Mexico and Rio Texas: Bishop Robert C. Schnase

North Texas: Bishop Mike McKee, who is delaying his retirement.

Northwest Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Indian Missionary: Bishop James G. Nunn

Texas: Bishop Scott Jones

The South Central Jurisdiction includes the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Southeastern Jurisdiction

Starting Sept. 1, Bishops Lawson Bryan, Hope Morgan Ward, Paul Leeland and Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor plan to retire. Their moves leave the South Georgia, Western North Carolina, North Carolina, and Holston conferences in need of interim bishops.

Alabama-West Florida and South Georgia: Bishop David Graves

Florida and Western North Carolina: Bishop Ken Carter

Kentucky, Red Bird Missionary and North Carolina: Bishop Leonard Fairley

Mississippi: Bishop James Swanson Sr., who is delaying his retirement

North Alabama and Holston: Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett

North Georgia: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson

South Carolina: Bishop Jonathan Holston

Tennessee and Memphis, proposed to become Tennessee-Western Kentucky in January: Bishop Bill McAlilly

Virginia: Bishop Sharma Lewis

The Southeastern Jurisdiction includes the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Western Jurisdiction

Starting Oct. 1, Bishop Robert Hoshibata plans to retire, leaving the Desert Southwest Conference without a bishop.

Desert Southwest and California-Pacific Conference: Bishop Grant Hagiya, who is also delaying his retirement.

California-Nevada Conference: Bishop Minerva Carcaño.

Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest:Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, who is also delaying her retirement.

Mountain Sky: Bishop Karen Oliveto.

The Western Jurisdiction includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.