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It’s the time of the season for meeting Emily Snell, May 25, 2012
PHOTO BY LISA DIEHL
The Rev. Gary Beach (second from right) makes a point during a recent meeting of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area transition team.
By Emily Snell United Methodist News Service
Now that the 2012 General Conference has ended, United Methodist leaders across the nation turn to jurisdictional and annual conferences coming up this summer.
The first U.S. annual conference sessions begin May 17 in the Detroit and Eastern Pennsylvania annual conferences. The annual conference meetings wrap up in the United States with the Virginia Annual Conference session June 22-24.
The first annual conference session in the central conferences was Feb. 2-6 in Eastern Angola. Based on current data, the central conferences annual conference meetings wrap up Dec. 14-16 with the East Zimbabwe session.
The most popular dates for U.S. conference sessions are June 6-9 with 10 annual conferences meeting then.
U.S. jurisdictional conferences meet in July every four years, following General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly. The main purpose of jurisdictional conferences, which involves twice as many U.S. delegates as General Conference, is to elect and assign new bishops.
Fourteen U.S. bishops and two central conference bishops will retire this year. The North Central, South Central and Western jurisdictions each will lose a bishop’s position, while the Congo Central Conference will gain a bishop.
New U.S. bishops will be elected during jurisdictional conferences July 18-21. Central Conferences are the outside-U.S. equivalent of jurisdictions, and like jurisdictions, they have multiple annual conferences. They will meet at various dates ranging from August to December 2012, and will elect or re-elect six bishops. The Central and Southern Europe central conferences will not meet until March 13, 2013, but they will not be electing a new bishop.
The following bishops are retiring this year:
North Central Jurisdiction—Linda Lee, Wisconsin Conference Northeastern Jurisdiction—Ernest S. Lyght, West Virginia Conference; Jane Allen Middleton, Central Pennsylvania Conference; Peter Weaver, New England Conference South Central Jurisdiction—Charles N. Crutchfield, Arkansas Conference; William W. Hutchinson, Louisiana Conference; Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson, Nebraska Conference; D. Max Whitfield, Northwest Texas and New Mexico Conferences Southeastern Jurisdiction—Alfred Wesley Gwinn Jr., North Carolina Conference; Charlene Kammerer, Virginia Conference; Timothy Whitaker, Florida Conference; Will Willimon, North Alabama Conference; Richard J. Wills Jr., Memphis and Tennessee Conferences Western Jurisdiction—Mary Ann Swenson, California Pacific Conference Central Conferences—Hans Växby, Eurasia Episcopal Area; Leo Soriano, Davao Episcopal Area
After the 2008 General Conference when bishop retirement age was raised from 66 to 68, Bishops Jane Allen Middleton and William Hutchinson were given the option of maintaining their positions four more years. The two bishops will both retire this year at the ages of 71 and 70, respectively.
Bishops are permitted to serve up to three consecutive four-year terms in one episcopal area. In each jurisdiction, a committee on episcopacy—made up of one clergy and one lay delegate—reviews the bishop’s work and character and proposes a new assignment. The Jurisdictional Conference then has the ability to accept or reject the assignment.
Bishops elected at the 2012 Jurisdictional Conferences will begin their new assignments Sept. 1.
Ms. Snell is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.