Written by Selby Ewing and Kristen C. Caldwell
The first day of the Western Jurisdictional Conference in Salt Lake City began with an episcopal address, the introduction of the 33 episcopal candidates, one certifying ballot and two other ballots, speeches, scenarios and more. Here’s today’s recap:
No election on the second ballot
After the certifying ballot was taken this morning (see below) 18 candidates were placed on the first ballot, which was taken at approximately 6:15 p.m. Leading was Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the Desert Southwest Conference with 45 votes, or 47.37 percent. After votes were tallied, Rev. Katie Ladd of the Pacific Northwest Conference withdrew her candidacy and received grateful applause from the room.
The second ballot was taken at approximately 7:45 p.m. with 17 candidates listed. Leading in votes at this point is Rev. Carlo Rapanut of the PNW Conference with 40 votes, or 41.67%. After votes were tallied, Rev. Theon Johnson III of the California-Nevada Conference withdrew his nomination with grateful applause from the crowd.
Delegates are able to vote for three candidates on each ballot. A two-thirds majority is required to be elected bishop.
Delegates this morning confirmed that they will be electing three new bishops this week.
Certifying ballot narrows field of episcopal candidates
With a requirement to receive 5 percent of the vote to make it to the certified ballot, 18 candidates advanced into further discernment and discussions with Western Jurisdiction delegates on Wednesday morning.
One episcopal nomination was made on the floor, Rev. Mark Calhoun of the Mountain Sky Conference, who received the requisite five percent of the vote to continue in the discernment process.
The other 17 episcopal candidates named were: Piula Alailima from the California-Pacific Conference, Cedrick Bridgeforth of the Cal-Pac Conference, Tom Choi of the Cal-Pac Conference, Staci Current of the California-Nevada Conference, Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the Desert Southwest Conference, Calvin Hill of the Mt. Sky Conference, Theon Johnson III of the Cal-Nev Conference, Joe Kim of the Pacific Northwest Conference, Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan of the Cal-Nev Conference, Katie Ladd of the PNW Conference, Elizabeth Tay McVicker of the Mt. Sky Conference, Kimberly Montenegro of the Cal-Nev Conference, Sandra Olewine of the Cal-Pac Conference, Carlo Rapanut of the PNW Conference, Jessica Rooks of the Mt. Sky Conference, Anthony Tang of the Desert Southwest Conference, and Siosaia Fonua Tu’itahi of the Cal-Pac Conference.
Candidates give speeches, participate in scenarios
With the 18 candidates remaining, each was given four minutes to address the delegates on Wednesday afternoon about how they feel the role of the episcopal leader should evolve.
Candidates spoke about working on inclusivity, bringing church into the community, uplifting laity, serving both the big and small churches, committing to the work of anti-racism and decolonization, leaning into the unknown future of the denomination and more.
They referred to bishops as being mountain guides, ushers in church, teachers, prophets, bridge-builders, and rule-breakers, to name a few things. Some called for term limits of bishops while others talked about creating more cross-conference appointments and episcopal collaboration in the jurisdiction.
The candidates were then invited into “situation rooms” throughout the church building. The Committee on Episcopacy designed scenarios that a bishop might face. Episcopal candidates worked in small groups to solve the problem while delegates listened in on their problem-solving process and how they worked together as a team.
How the day started: An episcopal address
Rev. Kristen Stoneking of the California-Nevada Conference called the body to opening worship at Christ UMC in Salt Lake City, Utah. First people were lifted up in opening prayers and a land acknowledgment of the Indigenous people who were the original inhabitants and stewards of this land.
Retiring Bishop Grant Hagiya, of the Cal-Pac and Desert Southwest Conferences, offered the episcopal address. He remembered the past several pandemic years had been riddled with loss that we still carry and the effects of which we are still navigating. He noted that the Western Jurisdiction is known across the UMC as a place of community and of birthing leading-edge movements. He said we must continue to galvanize our community and commitments in the West.
Noting that the UMC has a history of splitting every 50 or so years, especially since the Global Methodist Church has formed, it is time to separate again. Yet, even as the church divides, he noted that we must not make outsiders of one another.
Hagiya acknowledged that the Living Lord connects all of us, beyond our differences, in a resurrection faith. Remembering that the early church had no Bible, just a conviction that the Living Jesus was with them, he encouraged the body to take up that tangible day-to-day faith.