Frontrunners emerge during balloting, delegates make several key decisions
By Christa Meland, Minnesota Conference
PEORIA, Illinois—Two ballots down, but no election yet.
As they continue to cast ballots, delegates have yet to learn which four individuals will be elected to lead them as bishops in the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ).
The first round of voting took place Wednesday afternoon during the opening business session, and votes assigned to individual candidates were announced after a candidate forum that allowed delegates to become better acquainted with each contender.
Frontrunners at this point are Rev. Dr. Frank Beard (77 votes), Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone (76 votes), Rev. Kinnetha J. Bigham-Tsai (72 votes), Rev. Dr. Gary George (67 votes), Rev. Sylvester Weatherall (67 votes), Rev. Laurie Haller (58 votes), and Rev. Dr. David Bard (55 votes). Read more about each candidate here.
Ballot No. 2 was cast before a dinner break, and results will be announced later this evening. For the first time at a North Central Jurisdictional Conference, delegates are using electronic keypads to enter their votes.
Time for listening, prayer, and sign-acts
After introductions were made and a roll call was taken at the beginning of the conference’s first business session, Bishop Julius Trimble, who leads the Iowa Conference, addressed delegates on behalf of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops and made a special calendar request. He noted that the College prayed and reflected upon the news of the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, when members met prior to the start of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference—and he requested that 75 to 90 minutes be set aside at some point during the conference for “listening, prayer, and sign-acts.” It was approved by an overwhelming margin.
“The business of the church is to be an instrument of God’s grace,” Trimble said in making the request. “In light of the shootings and the angst and anguish that grips our society, we believe there is a need to make time at this conference for prayer and conversation. The anger and hurt that has resulted in protest and, in some cases, violence cannot be divorced from the frustration and historic racism that is systemic and sickening. All is not well with our souls and the souls of our nation.”
Conference Secretary Paul White said this time of prayer and conversation will likely take place sometime Friday.
Other key decisions
In Wednesday afternoon plenary, delegates also voted to accept a recommendation of the Committee on Rules and Order to eliminate six of the 13 jurisdictional committees and reassign their duties to others. The committees that will be eliminated are the Committee on Election, the Committee on Agenda, the Committee on Credentials, the Committee on Journals, the Committee on Presiding Officers, and the Committee on Rules of Order.
The 2012 NCJ Conference called for a review of committee structure within the jurisdiction, and the recommendations came out of that review.
Another key decision delegates made Wednesday was to add a stipulation to the procedure on episcopal elections to indicate that balloting will continue until the elections are completed by noon on Friday. Diane Brown, a lay delegate from the Detroit Conference and a member of the Committee on Rules of Order, explained that the Committee on Episcopacy can’t have conversations about bishop assignments until all elections have been completed and said committee members need ample time to to make such assignments. Should delegates need more time for elections as of noon on Friday, they will have to suspend the newly approved rule in order to continue balloting past that time.
Greeting from Peoria mayor
A number of greetings were delivered during the opening business session—including one from Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. In addition to welcoming visitors, he also made a request.
“I would really like to ask you all…if you would please keep our community in your prayers too,” he said, noting that the power of prayer can’t be underestimated and we must put our faith in Christ. “These are really difficult times right now, and I think we’re all feeling a real heavy weight trying to understand what’s going on in our communities, in our states, and in our country—and, for that matter, in the world.”