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United Methodists elect U.S. bishops United Methodist News Service, Aug 4, 2008
UMNS PHOTO BY MARTA W. ALDRICH
Newly elected United Methodist Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky is greeted by members of the church’s Denver Area, where she will serve the next four years.
United Methodists in the U.S. elected and assigned eight new bishops and re-assigned the rest during five jurisdictional meetings held July 16-19.
It was an often-intense week as delegates worked to fill leadership vacancies created by seven retirements, one resignation and a death. Bishops are the top clergy leaders of the denomination and oversee some 7.9 million of the church’s 11.5 million members worldwide.
Here’s a wrap-up (the South Central Jurisdiction is reported elsewhere in this edition) from across the U.S.:
The Southeastern Jurisdiction wasted no time, taking its first ballot on opening day, July 16, and announcing the first elected bishop—Paul Leeland—the next morning. The Northeastern Jurisdiction, which began meeting two days earlier than the other jurisdictions, also took its first ballot July 16 and finished choosing a bishop the next day.
The process took longer elsewhere.
The Western Jurisdiction, which had two bishops to elect, went into the wee hours of the morning July 19 before completing its selections.
The North Central Jurisdiction experienced slow going, at one point disqualifying a ballot because of a cookie smudge, but managed to complete its work July 18.
The newly elected bishops shared glimpses of their personal visions.
“I claim my baptism this day and the special callings to which God has called me,” said Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky, at the Western conference in Portland, Ore. “May God lead us faithfully forward in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Delegates also acted on other items.
In the Western Jurisdiction, delegates challenged the denomination’s position that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” by adopting four statements. One resolution celebrated a May 15 ruling by the California Supreme Court clearing the way for gay marriages in that state. Another asks that church leaders look for “creative ways” to “be in full ministry with all who come to us.”
The resolutions followed others passed in June by the California-Pacific and California-Nevada annual conferences in support of United Methodist clergy who choose to perform same-sex marriages—an action forbidden by the church’s Book of Discipline. The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference also voiced support for those clergy.
In the Northeast, church members approved a redrawing of annual conference boundaries, decreasing the number of episcopal areas from 10 to nine by 2010.
North Central delegates gave permission July 18 to the North Indiana and South Indiana annual conferences to unite into one new Indiana Conference. Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner has called a special session Oct. 4 to finalize details.
The jurisdictional gatherings are held every four years. Bishops for the church in Africa, Europe and Asia are elected at other times in central conference gatherings.
Of the eight new bishops elected, two are women and six are men. One is Asian American, two are African American and five are white. The bishops’ new assignments take effect Sept. 1.
Bishop Paul L. Leeland, the new Southeastern bishop, was assigned to the Alabama-West Florida Area (Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the next four years. He has been assistant to the bishop in the Raleigh (N.C.) Area, and now succeeds Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, who is moving to the Charlotte Area (Western North Carolina).
Three other active Southeastern bishops who have served in their current locations for at least four years received new assignments. They are:
Bishop Lindsey Davis, Louisville Area (Kentucky and Red Bird Missionary conferences), moving from North Georgia. Bishop James R. King Jr., South Georgia Area (South Georgia Conference); moving from the Louisville Area. Bishop B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Area (North Georgia Conference); moving from South Georgia.
Eight bishops will return to their areas: Bishop Alfred Wesley Gwinn Jr., Raleigh Area (North Carolina Conference); Bishop Charlene Payne Kammerer, Richmond Area (Virginia Conference); Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., Holston Area (Holston Conference); Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, Columbia Area (South Carolina Conference); Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Mississippi Area (Mississippi Conference): Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, Florida Area (Florida Conference); Bishop William Willimon, Birmingham Area (North Alabama); and Bishop Richard Wills Jr., Nashville Area (Memphis and Tennessee conferences).
United Methodists in the North Central Jurisdiction, meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected Julius Calvin Trimble as a new bishop. He was elected to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher and was assigned to the denomination’s Iowa Area (Iowa Conference).
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops who has led the Iowa Area, will move to the Illinois Area, where Bishop Christopher was leading the church’s Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
The North Central College of Bishops requested that Bishop Bruce R. Ough remain in the Ohio West Area (West Ohio Conference), where he has already served two terms.
The seven other active North Central bishops are being reassigned for second terms in their areas: Bishop Michael J. Coyner, Indiana Area (North and South Indiana conferences); Bishop Sally Dyck, Minnesota Area (Minnesota Conference); Bishop John L. Hopkins, Ohio East Area (East Ohio Conference); Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, Chicago Area (Northern Illinois Conference); Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, Michigan Area (Detroit and West Michigan conferences); Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, Dakota Area (Dakotas Conference); and Bishop Linda Lee, Wisconsin Area (Wisconsin Conference).
Meeting in Harrisburg, Pa., United Methodists in the Northeastern Jurisdiction elected Peggy Johnson, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Baltimore. She was assigned to the Philadelphia Area, comprising the Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware conferences.
Because of an earlier vote to redraw conference boundaries, two Episcopal areas—New York West and Albany (N.Y.)—will be changed in 2010, becoming part of a new Upper New York Area.
Bishop Marcus Matthews, who has led the Philadelphia Area, has been assigned to the New York West Area, covering the North Central New York and Western New York conferences.
The jurisdiction’s college of bishops is requesting the Council of Bishops appoint retired Bishop Susan Hassinger to the Albany Area, where she has served since the early retirement of Bishop Susan Morrison in 2006.
Seven other Northeastern bishops were assigned for second terms to their areas: Bishop Peter Weaver, Boston Area (New England Conference); Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, Harrisburg Area (Central Pennsylvania Conference); Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, New Jersey Area (Greater New Jersey Conference); Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, New York Area (New York Conference); Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, Pittsburgh Area (Western Pennsylvania Conference); Bishop John Schol, Washington Area (Baltimore-Washington Conference); and Bishop Ernest Lyght, West Virginia Area (West Virginia Conference).
In Portland, Ore., delegates to the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected Grant Hagiya and Elaine J.W. Stanovsky.
Bishop Hagiya was appointed to lead the Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Conference and the Alaska Missionary Conference. A former district superintendent in Los Angeles, he is most recently executive director of Leadership Development and the Center of Leadership Excellence, a joint project of the church’s California-Pacific Conference and the Claremont School of Theology.
Bishop Stanovsky, a district superintendent from Seattle, is heading to the Denver Area, where she will oversee the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone conferences.
Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., who has served the Denver Area for eight years, is returning to the San Francisco Area (California-Nevada Conference), where he served for 20 years as a pastor, district superintendent and conference council director.
Bishops returning to their current areas for second terms are Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Phoenix Area (Desert Southwest Conference), Bishop Robert Hoshibata, Portland Area (Oregon-Idaho Conference) and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Los Angeles Area (California-Pacific Conference).
Neill Caldwell and Dan Gangler contributed to this report. For more UMNS stories, visit http://umns.umc.org.