Jurisdictional bishop count could be reduced in two US jurisdictions
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) notified the leadership of the North Central and Northeastern jurisdictions that the number of bishops representing the two areas could be reduced based on reported membership numbers. GCFA – responding to the responsibilities and membership formulas outlined in ¶404.2 of The Book of Discipline as well as its responsibility for the administration of the Episcopal Fund that pays the salaries of bishops – notified the College of Bishops of each jurisdiction that the formula indicates there could be a reduction in the number of bishops from the current count.
North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) College of Bishops President Bishop John Hopkins said, “The news that NCJ professing membership dropped 0.36 percent under the threshold (or 4,463 professing members) was unexpected, as earlier projections had indicated that this would probably not happen for another year or two. Our College of Bishops and our Committee on Episcopacy ask for your prayers as we consider options in the few months before our General and Jurisdictional conferences.”
NCJ Committee on Episcopacy Chair Maggie Jackson said, “This is a short time span to have this discussion about the possibility of one less bishop for the election process in NCJ for 2016. We will need to have immediate consultation with committee members and the NCJ College of Bishops.”
In response to the notification, Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) College of Bishops President Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball said, “The Northeastern Jurisdiction has been making important progress toward making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The Northeastern Jurisdiction as a region of the world is distinctively diverse, in the midst of deep cultural and religious change, and is complex. As a region within the United States, it is home to four of the top 10 metropolitan areas. The (NEJ) College of Bishops has spent significant time in prayer, study, and conversation about the future of The United Methodist Church in the Northeastern section of the United States. For missional and congregational vitality reasons, the College of Bishops is concerned about any reduction in the number of episcopal areas. As we approach 2016, the college will continue conversation and collaboration with the Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. Together we will work toward action that leads, energizes, and engages disciple making efforts which build hope, trust, and relationships that glorify God and lead people to Christ.”
Additionally, NEJ Committee on Episcopacy Chair Bonnie I. Marden said, “We have noted that several questions about changes to the Constitution initiated by the 2012 General Conference are adding further complexity to our understanding of the appropriate next steps, and we welcome your prayers as we discern options for a vital and mission-driven future.”
GCFA President Bishop Michael Coyner said, “While this information is not brand new to us as a denomination, it is particularly important for the jurisdictions being affected to be notified in a timely fashion. Vibrant mission and ministry continue to happen throughout our connection, and, for that, we are thankful. We know that the decisions that will be made will be based on the needs in each area for strong, prophetic leadership.”
Although it is clear that a reduction in the number of bishops will impact ministry in the North Eastern Jurisdiction, it is not yet clear how. When more information is available it will be shared.
The Book of Discipline 2012 provides for the reduction of bishops based on reported membership. GCFA reports that the 2014 reported membership for both jurisdictions has fallen below The Book of Discipline requirement for membership that would require nine bishops. GCFA will ask for the decision of the General Conference – the body that can make the final decision on the number of bishops for each area based on information from GCFA and input from the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy.
The General Council on Finance and Administration coordinates and administers financial resources, safeguards the legal interests and rights of the Church, and provides administrative resources to enable the fulfillment of the mission of The United Methodist Church.