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A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens.

United Methodist bishops in Africa, joined here by Bishop Felton May (far right) representing the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, have issued a Sept. 11, 2008, letter outlining new actions to combat poverty on the continent.

About the Council

The Council of Bishops is made up of all active and retired bishops of The United Methodist Church. The Council meets twice a year. According to the Book of Discipline, "The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world and to give leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships."[427.2] 

In The United Methodist Church, a bishop serves as a general superintendent of the entire church.  In the United Methodist tradition, bishops are not “ordained” as bishops, but are clergy elected and consecrated to the office of bishop. Bishops give general oversight to the worldly and spiritual interests of the Church.

Bishops are elected by one of the five jurisdictional conferences held every four years in the United States and by the central conferences outside of the U.S. Bishops in the U.S. are consecrated at the jurisdictional conference and are expected to report for work in their new areas on Sept. 1.

Bishops are assigned by their jurisdiction to serve a geographical area for a four-year term. There are 46 episcopal areas in the United States and 20 episcopal areas outside of the U.S. Bishops and Episcopal Area Offices are grouped by Jurisdiction. 

The President of the Council of Bishops presides over its meetings, but has no additional authority over the other members of the Council.  Administrative work is handled by the secretary of the Council. 

In an effort to provide stronger leadership across the denomination, United Methodist bishops recently voted to lengthen the term of their president and establish a permanent, staffed office.  The president of the Council serves two years instead of the traditional one-year term.

The Executive Committee also includes these additional officers: president-designate, secretary, executive secretary and ecumenical officer. The immediate past president also serves on the committee.

A recently created position, the executive secretary serves as chief operating officer for the Council. The executive secretary will be a retired bishop who will serve a four-year term. 

Officers of the Executive Committee for 2014-2016 are:

  • President: Warner H. Brown Jr.
  • President Designate: Bruce R. Ough
  • Secretary: Cynthia Fierro Harvey
  • Executive Secretary: Peter Weaver
  • Ecumenical Officer: Mary Ann Swenson
  • Immediate Past President: Rosemarie Wenner

The Council's office is in the United Methodist Building, across the street from the Capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C.