July 2012 - Delegates to Elect New Bishop
In the United Methodist Church, each congregation is part of a district and a conference, officially called an annual conference because all clergy and at least one lay member from each church or charge in the geographic area meet yearly to conduct official business. The Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference session was held in June.
Every four years, each conference sends delegates to both the General Conference, a worldwide denominational gathering, held this year from April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Florida, and to a jurisdictional conference, where bishops are elected and assigned.
In the United States, jurisdictional conferences will be held July 18-21, 2012. Western Pennsylvania’s 14 lay and 14 clergy delegates, along with alternates, will gather with delegates from the nine other conferences at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference (NEJ) in Charleston, West Virginia.
Three new bishops will be elected to replace three who are retiring this year: Bishop Peter Weaver, a Western Pennsylvanian who currently serves in New England; Bishop Ernest Lyght, who served in West Virginia until taking a medical leave several months ago; and Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, who serves the Susquehanna Conference.
Once new bishops are elected, the NEJ Episcopacy Committee will assign the six current and three new bishops to serve a geographic area for the next four years. Bishops often are reassigned to the same area for a second four-year term. After eight years, however, they generally are moved to a new area unless special circumstances require a third four-year term in the same area.
In the NEJ , Bishops Thomas J . Bickerton of Western PA, Sudarshana Devadhar of Greater New Jersey; Jeremiah Park of New York, and John Schol of Baltimore-Washington have all served eight years in their current assignments. Two other bishops-- Peggy Johnson, who serves both the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences, and Marcus Matthews, who serves Upper New York, have been in their areas for just one four-year term.
Bishops begin serving their new terms on September 1.
To follow the balloting and assignment of bishops, use the NEJ Conference link at wpaumc.org.