Citing strained finances and denominational uncertainty, United Methodist bishops laid out their case for urging no U.S. bishop elections until 2024.
The bishops organized a public webinar on Feb. 13 mainly with the goal of reaching U.S. General Conference and jurisdictional conference delegates — the United Methodists with final say on the number of U.S. bishops.
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Some delegates already are pushing back against the recommended delay in all elections — arguing such a move is more drastic than finances warrant and could have theological implications.
Sixteen of 46 active U.S. bishops — more than a third — plan to retire as soon as possible or already have taken on new roles with the Council of Bishops. That 16 includes Bishops Peggy A. Johnson and Elaine J.W. Stanovsky, who recently announced retirement plans. All five jurisdictions have retiring bishops.
Harvey acknowledged the fund was in jeopardy even before the COVID-19 pandemic strained economies around the world and reduced offering receipts across the denomination.
Harvey stressed the hold on bishop elections would only be an interim move.
At present, the denomination has 66 bishops supported by the Episcopal Fund — 46 in the U.S., 13 in Africa, four in Europe and three in the Philippines.
Still, some delegates think a drop in 16 active bishops may not be necessary to keep the Episcopal Fund in the black.
Other delegates think it may be possible to forgo bishop elections for three years.
Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, delegate from the California-Nevada Conference said, it’s long overdue for the denomination to reconsider its current system of determining the number of bishops in each jurisdiction based on membership numbers, with no regard for geographic areas.
Fred Brewington, head of the New York Conference delegation, echoed that sentiment. He said the bishops’ recommendation is well considered but will need flexibility, with each jurisdiction determining for itself whether to hold any elections.
Toward the end of the webinar, Moore-Koikoi of Western Pennsylvania also raised the possibility that some jurisdictions might choose to elect one or two bishops.
excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor for UM News.
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