On Tuesday, November 1, I leave to head to Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, to attend the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to work as part of the South Georgia Communications Team. The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference will meet on November 2-4, 2022 for the purpose of electing at least three new bishops and then assigning all bishops to lead Annual Conferences. Below, I offer some background and information to help our understanding about this important meeting.
First, a bit of history. Jurisdictional Conferences were created at the 1939 merger that formed The Methodist Church. These jurisdictions were revised at the 1968 merger that formed The United Methodist Church as we know it today. Every four years since, until 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jurisdictional conferences met primarily for the purposes of electing and assigning bishops to respective Annual Conferences. Because jurisdictions have not met since 2016, our bishops have been spread thin to cover retirements, which is how we as the South Georgia Annual Conference have come to share Bishop David Graves with the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference.
Second, a word on the structure of the church. Annual Conferences within the bounds of the United States are grouped into one of five Jurisdictional Conferences. Ours is with thirteen others in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Every four years, we elect delegates to go and represent us, voting on our behalf on matters such as budgets for the Jurisdiction (which affect our apportionments); boards for various agencies, such as the Hinton Rural Life Center; and, of course, electing bishops. A committee of the Jurisdiction, called the Committee on Episcopacy, then places those bishops with Annual Conferences, much the way a bishop appoints pastors to local churches.
Right now, the expectation is that the Committee on Episcopacy will reassign Bishop Graves to both the Alabama-West Florida and South Georgia Annual Conferences. Such a reassignment means Bishop Graves would serve as our bishop through at least August 31, 2024. As with pastoral appointments and transitions, we cannot say with certainty that this will happen, but also like with pastoral appointments, the South Georgia Annual Conference is asking for Bishop Graves to return, Bishop Graves has asked to return, and almost always in those circumstances, the requests of the conference and bishop are granted.
So, I invite us as individuals and as a church to pray for our bishop, for the delegates, and for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Prayer does, indeed, change things. I also invite you to stay tuned to the developments of the conference, if you find yourself interested. There are several ways to do that. First, keep an eye on the website for the Southeastern Jurisdiction and the Annual Conference. Both will provide daily updates and recaps. Second, subscribe to the daily newsletter from the United Methodist News Service. Third, feel free to email or text me! I’m not sure how quickly I will be able to respond but I will certainly offer a response. Finally, to learn more about what the conference will consider and who the episcopal candidates (e.g. people running to be a bishop) are, check out the Advance Daily Christian Advocate.
Should you have questions ahead of the conference or afterwards, I am happy to answer those individually or to come and speak to your Sunday School class, small group, or other group.