United Methodist bishops concluded their online summer meeting with preparations to welcome new episcopal colleagues in tumultuous times.
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New bishops elected this fall will be taking leadership as the denomination deals with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and undergoes a fracturing unseen in any current United Methodist’s lifetime.
Even amid these challenges, the present bishops also used their meeting’s final day to celebrate the ways United Methodists are overcoming internal strife to follow Christ’s example.
The bishops heard how the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s disaster-response arm, has now received more than $27 million to help people affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
They also learned more about the #BeUMC campaign, which highlights why many people continue to live out their faith as United Methodists.
Council of Bishops President Thomas J. Bickerton had a message for all those who remain with The United Methodist Church: “We are in this together.”
“It could be easily tagged as a shallow phrase,” he acknowledged. “But in reality, it’s a phrase that is at the heart of my soul and is the foundational source of my belief in the blessed connection of our United Methodist Church.”
The Council of Bishops originally scheduled the Aug. 22-26 meeting to coincide with General Conference, which was at that point set for late summer this year.
However, COVID-related complications have since delayed the denomination’s international legislative assembly to 2024, to allow delegates from four continents to get the necessary visas to meet in person.
The Council of Bishops announced plans for continuing episcopal leadership in some parts of the connection where new bishops will not take office for some time.
Episcopal leaders in Africa announced that no new bishops would be elected on the continent until after General Conference, now scheduled in 2024.
Retired Bishop Warner Brown, a former Council of Bishops president, will continue as interim bishop of Sierra Leone until 2024 when new elections will take place. Brown has led the Sierra Leone Conference since the late Bishop John K. Yambasu was killed in a car accident in 2020.
The Council of Bishops also approved that retired Bishop Deborah Kiesey will continue to lead the Dakotas Conference until the end of this year.
The Judicial Council — the denomination’s high court — ruled this spring that with bishops stretched so thin, new elections need to be held to ensure the continuation of the episcopacy.
The Council of Bishops plans to have orientation for the new bishops in mid-January in Dallas.
excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNews.
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