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Frequently Asked Questions about the Council of Bishops



Who is my bishop?
United Methodist bishops are searchable by region on the United Methodist Bishops website. If you need help determining which bishop serves your area, contact Ask The UMC.

What are a bishop's responsibilities?
A bishop serves as a general superintendent for the church, assigned to a geographical area.  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 also have the responsibility to see that the rules and regulations developed by General Conference are carried out. Bishops set all clergy appointments in the annual (regional) conferences they serve. Most bishops also serve on a general agency board, often as the president. The bishop is the presiding officer at the annual conference session and rules on points of law.

How are bishops selected?
Bishops are elected by the jurisdictional conferences in the United States and by the central conferences in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. Any elder in full connection is eligible to be elected a bishop. Nominations or endorsements of individuals are common, but not necessary for election. The number of votes needed to elect a bishop is determined by each jurisdictional and central conference but the church's Book of Discipline recommends at least 60 percent of those present and voting be necessary to elect. Bishops consecrated at the jurisdictional conferences begin their assignments September 1.

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Are there women bishops in the United Methodist Church?
Yes, women bishops lead episcopal areas in The United Methodist Church. The first woman to be elected was the Rev. Marjorie Matthews in 1980, who served the Wisconsin Episcopal Area before her retirement.

How are bishops assigned?
Bishops are assigned by their jurisdiction or central conference 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 United States. New bishops may not be assigned to the area where they were a clergy member for at least four years after their election, however, the Book of Discipline allows for this restriction to be ignored by a two-thirds vote of both the jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy and the jurisdictional conference.

How long can a bishop serve?
In the U.S., bishops normally serve in one area for up to two terms, but they can continue for a third term with special approval of the jurisdictional conference. Bishops are elected for life and serve in their assignment until retirement (required by the Book of Discipline to be the jurisdictional conference following their 68th birthday).

In the Central Conferences, bishops are elected for a specific term.  If not reelected at the end of the term, the bishop returns to the pastorate and is no longer considered a bishop.  Bishops who retire while serving their term are considered bishops for life. In the Africa Central Conference, bishops who are reelected for a second term then become bishops for life.

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How much do bishops get paid?
All bishops in the United States receive the same salary, according to a formula set by the General Conference. The salary for United States bishops for 2016 is $150,000. In addition, each bishop is provided an episcopal residence. Salaries for bishops outside the U.S. are set at varying levels that reflect local economic conditions and cost of living.

What year was my bishop elected?
The election years for all of the bishops going back to the beginning of American Methodism are listed in the Book of Discipline.

Who was the first bishop in the Methodist Church?
Although John Wesley never became a bishop, he sent Thomas Coke to America in 1784 as a general superintendent, a position considered on par with a bishop. Coke later chose to use the term bishop despite Wesley's objections. In December of that same year, Francis Asbury also took the title of bishop in Baltimore.

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What is the Council of Bishops?
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, 2016 Book of Discipline)

What is the role of the officers of the Council of Bishops?
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.

What do bishops do at General Conference?
Members of the Council of Bishops attend General Conference, but do not vote and cannot speak without permission from the delegates. A bishop presides at each plenary session. Each bishop usually serves during one morning, afternoon or evening session. All bishops, active and retired, attend the entire conference.

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