By Alyssa Fisher, WJ Communications

After several days of long discussions, the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy shared Friday that there will be no episcopal elections this year. As was reported last week, the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy was to make a recommendation regarding the number of bishops in each jurisdiction. Their report recommended a total of 32 bishops in the United States, with the number of bishops in the Western Jurisdiction staying at five.

The report also answered a looming question of how the Western Jurisdiction would fill upcoming vacancies left by retiring Bishops Karen Oliveto and Minerva Carcaño. The approved recommendation of the committee is to move two bishops from other jurisdictions into the Western Jurisdiction. The overall report, with recommendations from the committee, received a 90% approval in the vote.

Clergy delegate Rev. Allison Mark (Cal-Pac) said the meetings included “many honest and tough conversations about our resource needs for our conferences and how we can best utilize the gifts and graces of our Episcopal leaders” and that the recommendations represented a decision “to grow our circle wider and take into consideration how we best care for our “new” church.”

The Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy further shared that they will confer with the bishops as they make determinations regarding transferring bishops between jurisdictions. In addition to the two bishops that will be moved to the Western Jurisdiction, one bishop will be moved to the Northeast Jurisdiction.

The announcement confirmed that with reduced budgets, bishop allocation would fall in many jurisdictions, raising concerns and questions among the delegates. In Friday plenaries, two determinations from the Judicial Council will be requested and potentially answered. Rev. Jasmine R. Smothers (North Georgia) asked whether bishops elected within the last two years are eligible for transfer, and Ian Carlos Urriola (Upper New York) inquired about the legality of the Interjurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy making such recommendations for all jurisdictions. Those decisions are forthcoming.

Rev. Dan Hurlbert (Desert Southwest), chair of the Western Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy, shared that, “The WJ COE is pleased that we will continue to have five active bishops in the jurisdiction. We appreciate the sacrifice of every other jurisdiction, all of which are losing bishops. We thank them for acknowledging the missional needs currently present in the US and for acting with grace and faithfulness.”

Hurlbert said there is an existing disciplinary procedure for moving bishops interjurisdictionally, and “the assignment process will be approached thoughtfully and prayerfully.”

This process will include consulting with the College of Bishops and the Western Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy.

Hurlbert said the transfers may be “much like a local church consults around receiving a new pastor, and appropriate bodies within the WJ will state our aspirations for episcopal leadership.”

Rev. Brad Laurvick (Mountain Sky), secretary for the Western Jurisdiction, echoed this comparison to church appointments, saying, “Our jurisdiction is experiencing something that our congregations experience on a yearly basis,” and described this as a “uniquely Methodist moment” in our connectional system. Laurvick shared that the program and arrangements committee for the WJ conference in July has been doing scenario planning around episcopal elections since the close of the 2022 gathering and is ready to support the jurisdictional body throughout this process.

Laurvick believes the Western Jurisdiction’s strong sense of identity will serve us well in this new process: “The Western Jurisdiction is lucky we have spent so much time looking at who we are and who God is calling us to be. We have a strong sense of identity to offer, to share with leaders across the connection” and that “we don’t necessarily know who’s coming, but we are going to trust in our process and our system.”

Final bishop assignments will be completed by the end of the upcoming Western Jurisdiction Conference in July.

This story is developing and was last updated May 3 at 4:30pm.

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