Episcopal Leadership

North Central Jurisdiction Special Session

“Episcopal Leadership”

Rev. Sara Isbell and Bishop David Bard, task group

We respectfully ask each delegate to do the following prior to the special session of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference

  • Please read The Book of Discipline, ¶401-408
  • Please read the brief narrative “Recent Conversations about Episcopal Leadership” found below
  • Review the questions that will be discussed in the breakout groups
  • Familiarize yourself with the motion to be considered. Rev. Isbell will be providing background and context for this during a presentation at the special session

Recent Conversations about Episcopal Leadership

Many of you participated in a webinar produced by the Council of Bishops in February of 2021. That webinar arose out of a deep and realistic concern raised in the Council of Bishops about the financial sustainability of the Episcopal Fund. In light of that concern, a group of leaders from every jurisdictional conference were invited to meet together to discuss the financial concerns. The North Central Jurisdiction was represented in that group by Rev. Sara Isbell as chair of the Committee on the Episcopacy and co-chair of a jurisdictional episcopal leadership task force that had been formed by the Committee on the Episcopacy and College of Bishops in January 2020; jurisdictional secretary Paul White; and Bishop David Bard, as president of the College of Bishops and co-chair of the episcopal leadership task force. Early conversations in that group centered on the idea that when the next episcopal elections were held, each jurisdiction would agree not to elect any new bishops. The Council of Bishops, at their meeting in November 2020 had made the recommendation for no episcopal elections. Conversations were deep, significant, and robust. While the group took seriously the financial health of the Episcopal Fund and discussed seriously the possibility of an agreement for no new elections, at no time was there a consensus of the group on that way of moving forward. In fact, by the time of the February 2021 webinar, which strongly encouraged consideration in each jurisdiction that they agree to no new elections, the conversation of the group of leaders had moved past that. The value of the group was in the relationships built and the creativity fostered. With the second postponement of regular sessions of jurisdictional conferences, the conversation about the number of bishops to be elected waned. At the April 2021 meeting of the Council of Bishops the bishops rescinded their November 2020 recommendation for no election of bishops at regular sessions of the Jurisdictional Conferences. Further, the Council strongly encouraged consideration of mission, context, resources and future impact of the COVID pandemic and potential changes in the UMC in making decisions about the number of bishops to be elected, within the disciplinary parameters of paragraphs 404.2 and 512.1.

Questions to be discussed in breakout sessions

We are hearing a deep desire to hold episcopal elections in 2022, regardless of whether or not General Conference can be held. Does that reflect your desire? Why? What are the particular concerns and urgencies that suggest the need for elections during this quadrennium?

If a special virtual session of General Conference with a limited agenda, including paving the way for episcopal elections, were needed to ensure such elections, could you support that?

As we think about fewer bishops overseeing more territory, particularly in light of a likely separation within the UMC, among the roles of the bishops delineated in 403, what might be prioritized?

Bishops are evaluated every quadrennium according to their strengths and weaknesses in three areas: Spiritual Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Administrative Leadership. What does the Church most need from its bishops now, and what does that look like?

What does the Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy need to know about the leadership needs of the North Central Jurisdiction, in particular? What information would you share? What advice would you offer?

What are some of the benefits and risks of two annual conferences sharing the same bishop? What would make sharing more advantageous for your area?

Motion To Be Considered: The North Central Jurisdiction states its intent to elect at its next regular session of the jurisdictional conference the number of bishops to total eight active bishops eligible for assignment by the NCJ Committee on the Episcopacy (¶524.36),
subject to further action of the General Conference, which has the authority to set the number of bishops to which a jurisdiction shall be entitled (¶404.2b).

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