New Bishops Elected in The United Methodist Church
Five U.S. jurisdictions met Nov. 2-5 to choose new episcopal leadership.
by Tara Barnes
Thirteen new bishops were elected to The United Methodist Church during Jurisdictional Conferences held Nov. 2-5, 2022, in all five U.S. jurisdictions. One bishop was elected in the Northeastern Jurisdiction and three each in the North Central, South Central, Southeastern, and Western Jurisdictions. The tally includes seven new women bishops.
Jurisdictional Conferences usually take place a few months after the United Methodist General Conference, but with the postponement of the 2020 General Conference and the retirement of 20 bishops in the United States since 2021, the United Methodist Council of Bishops in May called for the jurisdictions to meet this year for the purpose of the election and assignment of new bishops.
Delegates also made decisions on budgets, boards, and boundaries as well as on legislative petitions.
In the order elected: The North Central Jurisdiction elected Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, Lanette Plambeck, and Dan Schwerin. The Northeastern Jurisdiction elected Hector Burgos. The South Central Jurisdiction elected Dee Williamston, Laura Merrill, and David Wilson. The Southeastern Jurisdiction elected Tom Berlin, Connie Shelton, and Robin Dease. The Western Jurisdiction elected Carlo Rapanut, Cedrick Bridgeforth, and Dottie Escobedo-Frank.
Last week’s elections mean 39 active bishops will cover 46 episcopal areas through 2024. The South Central and Southeastern Jurisdictions will begin 2023 with two fewer bishops than it had at the beginning of the 2016-2020 quadrennium. The Northeastern Jurisdiction will have three fewer active bishops, with retired Bishop Peggy A. Johnson serving one year as interim for the New England Conference.
On Tuesday evening the North Central Jurisdiction elected Bigham-Tsai on its first ballot. It was the first time a bishop had been elected on the first ballot in North Central. Western Jurisdiction elected the denomination’s first openly gay Black bishop and first Filipino bishop. South Central, which elected all three of its bishops on the first ballot, elected its first Black woman and the denomination’s first Native American bishop. The Northeastern Jurisdiction elected its first Hispanic bishop.
All five jurisdictions passed resolutions titled “Leading With Integrity” and “Queer Delegates Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in UMC,” and all five supported the formation of a U.S. regional conference. Other legislation passed includes establishing a queer delegates caucus and a Native American ministry committee in the Western Jurisdiction, which also vowed to practice cross-conference collaboration, passing legislation titled “Permeable Boundaries.” The Northeastern Jurisdiction also voted to require that child care options be available at all sessions of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, a petition submitted and introduced by United Women in Faith member and board secretary Bethany Amey Sutton.
If you’d like to learn more about the legislation and more about the jurisdictions in general, you can find links their respective websites in this jurisdictions directory provided by UMC.org.
Jurisdictional Conferences also include assigning bishops to their episcopal areas. This decision is made by an episcopacy committee in each jurisdiction. Some bishops stay put, some move, and new bishops must be assigned an area. Here is where bishops will serve through 2024:
Dakotas and Minnesota: Bishop Lanette Plambeck
East Ohio: Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Illinois Great Rivers: Bishop Frank J. Beard
Indiana: Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Iowa Area: Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai
Michigan Area: Bishop David A. Bard
Northern Illinois: Bishop Dan Schwerin
Ohio West: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Wisconsin: Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware: Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Eastern Pennsylvania and Greater New Jersey: Bishop John R. Schol
New England: Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, interim
New York: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Susquehanna: Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball and Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
Upper New York: Bishop Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez
West Virginia: Bishop Sandra L. Steiner Ball
Western Pennsylvania: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
South Central Jurisdiction
Arkansas: Bishop Laura Merrill
Great Plains: Bishop David Wilson
Louisiana: Bishop Delores “Dee” Williamston
Missouri: Bishop Robert Farr
North Texas and Central Texas: Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Northwest Texas: Bishop James G. Nunn
Rio Texas and New Mexico: Bishop Robert C. Schnase
Texas: Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
Alabama-West Florida and South Georgia: Bishop David Graves
Florida: Bishop Thomas M. Berlin
Holston and North Alabama: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
Kentucky and Central Appalachian Missionary (formerly Red Bird): Bishop Leonard Fairley
Mississippi: Bishop Sharma Lewis
North Carolina: Bishop Connie Mitchell Shelton
North Georgia: Bishop Robin Dease
South Carolina: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
Tennessee-Western Kentucky: Bishop William McAlilly
Virginia: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
Western North Carolina: Bishop Kenneth Carter
California-Nevada: Bishop Minerva Carcaño
California-Pacific: Dottie Escobedo-Frank
Desert Southwest: Carlo Rapanut
Mountain Sky: Bishop Karen Oliveto
Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska: Cedrick Bridgeforth
General Conference 2024
The Commission on the General Conference announced on Nov. 4 that the 2024 United Methodist General Conference will take place April 23 to May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. This conference is currently considered a postponed 2020 General Conference, so delegates and legislation remain the same as for 2020. However, new legislation can be submitted up to 230 days before the Charlotte gathering. Annual conferences can submit legislation up to 45 days before.
The legislation United Women in Faith has currently submitted to General Conference includes Children’s Sabbath, the Girl Child, the Status of Women, and Voting Rights Protection in the U.S. The United Women in Faith Board of Directors statement on guiding principles for General Conference can be read here.
United Women in Faith will be present at General Conference in many ways. We don’t want anyone making decisions about us without us. Continue to keep United Women in Faith and The United Methodist Church in your prayers as we work together to discern God’s call for our time to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith.