South Central Jurisdictional Conference runs July 13-16
Just like presidential elections, the Summer Olympics and leap day, a pair of events happen for United Methodists in the United States every four years.
The General Conference, which this year was conducted in Portland, Oregon, in May, worked to settle issues on a worldwide level. July 13-16, the five geographic areas in the United States for The United Methodist Church will gather for their quadrennial Jurisdictional Conferences.
The South Central Jurisdiction, which meets at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita, includes the 12 conferences in eight states “from Nebraska to Texas, Louisiana to New Mexico,” said Great Plains Bishop Scott J. Jones, host of the conference. Conferences represented include the Great Plains, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Louisiana, Texas, North Texas, Central Texas, Northwest Texas, Rio Texas and New Mexico.
This year's South Central Jurisdictional Conference has 216 delegates – 108 clergy and 108 laity. They are 63 percent male delegates and 37 percent female, a slight shift from 2012, when the split was 60/40.
The Great Plains is represented by the following delegates:
- Clergy – Rev. Junius Dotson, Discipleship Ministries general secretary; Rev. Eduardo Boussan, Nebraska Wesleyan University; Rev. Stephanie Alschwede, Lincoln South Gate UMC; Rev. Nathan Stanton, New Church Development coordinator; Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, Wichita College Hill UMC and SoCe Life; and Rev. Kibum Kim, Parsons District superintendent. Alternates are Revs. Rebecca Hjelle, Anna Gatobu and Rick Just
- Laity – Keith Olsen, Grant, Nebraska; Randall Hodgskinson, Topeka, Kansas; Esther Hay, Waverly, Nebraska; Karelle Leeper, Omaha, Nebraska; Bob Aderholt, Kenesaw, Nebraska; and Sandy Simmons, Leavenworth, Kansas. Alternates are Carl Nord, Stave Baccus and Shane Hinderliter.
- General Conference Delegates – Revs. Adam Hamilton, Amy Lippoldt, Mark Holland, Zach Anderson, Cheryl Jefferson Bell and David Livingston; and Courtney Fowler, Oliver Green, Shayla Jordan, Dixie Brewster, Lisa Maupin and Wesley Gately.
“The main purpose of the Jurisdictional Conference is to elect bishops and to assign bishops to their places of service,” said Jones, one of two bishops – the other being Robert Schnase of Missouri – who have reached their limit of 12 years in one conference.
Those conferences will have new bishops, as will the Rio Texas Annual Conference, whose bishop resigned late last year.
Two other bishops – Janice Riggle Huie, of the Texas Conference and interim in the Rio Texas Conference, and Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Conference – are retiring, creating other openings.
How It's Done
Eight candidates have declared their candidacies in the South Central Jurisdiction to become bishops. The candidates are voted upon by the delegates through electronic ballot. Those receiving 60 percent-plus-one vote are elected.
The Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee then meets in a closed-door session, interviewing the current and newly elected bishops. The committee then goes into an executive session to discuss which person would be best in which conference.
“There may be as many as 25 or 30 ballots taken over the course of two days,” Jones said. “We start voting Thursday morning and hopefully we get done by Friday afternoon-early evening.”
Meet The Bishop
Once the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee comes out of its session, it privately informs each candidate of its decision.
Then it’s made public.
“At some point the bishops and spouses will be brought out onto the stage, and the chair of the committee will move that the bishops be assigned to these places,” Jones said. “Then the jurisdictional conference will vote to approve the recommendation, and the conference will finish for the day.”
A consecration service, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning cements the bishops to their new or existing roles. Watch the consecration service via livestream at www.greatplainsumc.org/livestream
Making Their Moves
Anyone familiar with United Methodism knows that clergy go to where they are assigned by their respective bishop.
The same largely holds true, Jones said, for bishops moving to new posts.
“I am asked how I do my ministry, and if are there personal considerations involved,” he said. “They have sought my input.”
Jones’ wife, Mary Lou Reece, is president of a construction company that has offices in Scandia and Salina, Kansas, and Prosper, Texas, and her occupation is taken into consideration, he said.
“I have talked about Mary Lou’s career as a highway contractor and have indicated that because of where her career is at the moment, she can be involved in any location where they send us,” he said.
“We will have to go wherever they send us,” he added. “I have taken a vow to go wherever they send me. Just as a clergyperson is committed to itinerate within his or her annual conference, I am committed to itinerating within my jurisdiction.”
There are, Jones said, “provisions for bishops to move from one jurisdiction to another -- but that’s never happened.”
Four More Years?
Like U.S. presidents, United Methodist bishops serve four-year terms. Unlike the commander in chief, their terms can extend up to 12 years in one spot.
“We bishops tend to believe that longer tenure is better than shorter, that a four-year tenure is not as good as an eight- or a 12-,” Jones said, “but that is a committee decision.”
The South Central Jurisdiction owns three institutions which will receive attention during the conference:
- Mount Sequoyah Conference and Retreat Center, located near Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Lydia Patterson Institute, an academy for Mexican and American junior-high and high-schoolers, located in El Paso, Texas
- Southern Methodist University and its Perkins School of Theology, located in Dallas
Boards of directors for Mount Sequoyah and SMU will be selected at the conference, and Lydia Patterson officials will update the conference on its capital campaign. Budgets for each will be voted upon.
The conference is scheduled to vote on the recommendation of the Mission Council that funding for Mount Sequoyah be reduced by one-fourth each year over the next four years, beginning in 2017, and adjusting to more of a local control.
There may be discussion, Jones said, of a realignment of conference boundaries within the South Central Jurisdiction.
“No action will be taken immediately, but there may be talk of a proposal that would take effect in 2020,” he said.
While “hot button” issues, particularly ones involving human sexuality, were a part of the General Conference and the Great Plains Annual Conference, which took place in early June in Topeka, those likely will not surface at the Jurisdictional Conference, Jones said.
“The jurisdiction does not have the right to amend the Book of Discipline,” Jones said. “There may be some discussions about hot-button issues, and it is possible that a resolution could be put forward, but no decisions about those hot-button issues that have any impact can be made here.
“A jurisdictional conference can pass a resolution saying, ‘We wish the General Conference had done ‘X,’” Jones said, “but it’s a symbolic resolution rather than a binding one.”
Friday nights at the Jurisdictional Conference, Jones said, typically have been reserved for activities for the delegates.
But this year, "we have decided to turn it into a big, massive event and invite lots of people to come," Jones said. "We decided to try and make it a bigger deal."
The Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center, next door to the Hyatt Regency, will host "God's Love is Greater Than …," a musical concert that includes Grammy- and Dove Award-nominated gospel singer William McDowell and a mass choir of as many as 300 voices from South Central Kansas.
"We think it's going to have quite a spectacular impact and make a statement to South Central Kansas that United Methodists are here, and we believe that 'God's Love is Greater Than …, '" Jones said of the concert, with $5 tickets and open to the public.
Learn more and find a link to buy tickets.
Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.