GCFA provides a press conference on the proposed quadrennium budget on April 24. Photo by David Valera (PNW) for WJ Communications.

By Kristen Caldwell, WJ Communications

Based on budget recommendations from The United Methodist Church’s financial agency, the question on whether U.S. jurisdictions – particularly in the west – get to elect new bishops this summer remains unanswered at this stage of the General Conference.

The General Commission on Finance and Administration (GCFA) is proposing an overall quadrennium budget of $353.1 million – a 42 percent reduction from the 2017-2020 quadrennium.

“This is a delicate dance,” GFCA General Secretary Rev. A. Moses Kumar said in his presentation to the delegates gathered in Charlotte on Wednesday morning.

The budget, among other things, provides funding for bishops across the denomination through what is known as the episcopacy fund. The current fiscal recommendation would potentially provide for 54 bishops, worldwide, Kumar said. If the General Conference wanted to split it, there could be 32 bishops in the United States and 22 in the central conferences.

At a press conference after the initial GCFA presentation, Kumar said there are currently 39 bishops serving in the United States, with five retiring due to mandatory age requirements and another two retiring voluntarily, bringing the number of active U.S. bishops down to 32.

“I want to be very clear, GCFA has no role to play or authority to say the number of bishops,” Kumar said.

The budget is still up for negotiation among delegates, additionally, an interjurisdictional committee on episcopacy will make a recommendation on how many bishops each jurisdiction gets. Paragraph 404.2a of the UMC Book of Discipline mandates five bishops for each jurisdiction, with limited exemptions. 

Multiple proposals on the table in committees call for a minimum of five bishops in each jurisdiction, but allow for jurisdictions to drop to three bishops if they want.

“The Western Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy has discussed scenarios with three, four and five bishops,” said committee chair, Rev. Dan Hurlbert of the Desert Southwest Conference. “We will be prepared to make recommendations at the Jurisdictional Conference in July.”

The Western Jurisdiction currently has five bishops serving seven annual conferences. Bishop Karen Oliveto, who serves the Mountain Sky area, is voluntarily retiring in September. Bishop Minerva Carcaño who currently serves in the California-Nevada Conference, is retiring under the mandatory age requirement.

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