Every four years the General Conference of the United Methodist Church is held in a different location. From May 10-20, General Conference 2016 will take place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. General Conference delegates vote on changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, adopt resolutions on social issues, set the budget and make ministry plans for the next four years.=
During the summer following General Conference, jurisdictional conferences are held to elect new bishops. We are part of the North Central Jurisdiction which includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, the Dakotas, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. Steve Zekoff, head of the Wisconsin Conference delegation to General Conference, describes the process of electing bishops in this way: “The election process consists of 1) candidates making themselves available for consideration, 2) endorsement of candidates by
delegations, Annual Conferences and other groups, 3) candidate forums and delegation interviews during the Jurisdictional Conference so that it can be discerned whether those being considered should be selected as a bishop of the Church, 4) balloting, with 60% of the votes cast needed for election.”
This year four bishops have announced their retirement so we’ll be electing four new bishops. So far two clergy from Wisconsin, Dan Dick and Sam Royappa, have offered their names as candidates. Dan Dick has received the endorsement of the Wisconsin Delegation to Jurisdictional Conference and Sam Royappa has received the endorsement of National Federation of Asian American United Methodists.
In July, 1980 the North Central Jurisdictional Conference made history by electing the first woman bishop of a modern mainline Christian denomination. On the 30th ballot, two bishops were elected: Emerson Colaw and Marjorie Matthews. The latter was a four-foot eleven inch grandmother who was ordained an elder at the age of 49. When it was announced that Bishop Matthews was assigned to the Wisconsin Annual Conference, jurisdictional candidate from Baraboo Virgil Kasper was the first person to welcome her to Wisconsin (he was seated near the front of the room). Bishop Matthews served as Bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference until 1984. She passed away in 1986.
I’ll be sharing more information about General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference as 2016 unfolds. In the meantime, if you are ever curious about what’s in our Book of Discipline or Book of Resolutions, copies are available in the workroom.