Home Christian News Ruling Opens Door for United Methodist Bishop Elections in 2022

Ruling Opens Door for United Methodist Bishop Elections in 2022

Last year, U.S. bishops who initially postponed their retirements after General Conference’s first delay stepped down because they were taking on new roles with the Council of Bishops or were bumping up against the denomination’s mandated retirement age for bishops.

To continue episcopal coverage, 13 U.S. bishops have since taken on expanded assignments. Five bishops who planned to retire also agreed to stay on.

In asking the Judicial Council to rule in favor of holding jurisdictional conferences for the purpose of elections, the bishops said the current situation of bishops covering multiple episcopal areas was unsustainable. “The threat to the continuance of the episcopacy and the sustainability of effective episcopal leadership will increase as more retirements are expected,” the bishops added.

The United Methodist Church has five jurisdictions — each encompassing multiple episcopal areas in a geographical region of the United States. Each episcopal area includes one or more annual conferences.

The United Methodist constitution mandates that the Council of Bishops schedule all five jurisdictional conferences to convene at the same time.

“Apart from this stipulation, the constitutional grant of authority is unrestricted,” the Judicial Council said.

The Council of Bishops is “therefore, authorized to call jurisdictional conferences, notwithstanding that the General Conference has not convened since the last election of bishops in the jurisdictional conferences,” the church court continued.

The Judicial Council also noted that the United Methodist constitution lists the election of bishops among a jurisdictional conference’s powers.

The church court said the bishops’ intended purpose for the jurisdictional conferences “is essential” to fulfilling the constitutional mandates in Paragraph 45 of “a unified superintendency and episcopacy” and “the continuance of an episcopacy in The United Methodist Church.”

However, the Judicial Council disagreed with the Council of Bishops that new bishops should assume their duties immediately after election and consecration. Another part of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, states: “The date of assignment for all bishops is September 1 following the jurisdictional conference.”

That means the Council of Bishops must either reschedule the jurisdictional conferences or make use of the provisions for interim bishops, the church court said.

The Judicial Council put it this way: “the Council of Bishops must reschedule the jurisdictional conferences to a date prior to September 1, 2022, or proceed with jurisdictional conferences in November 2022 as scheduled and assign newly elected bishops on an interim basis under the provisions of ¶ 407 until they begin their assignment on September 1, 2023.”