Judicial Council Rules Jurisdictional Conferences May Convene to Elect/Assign Bishops

Decision 1445 allows Jurisdictional Episcopal elections absent of General Conference; sets parameters for episcopal assignment dates; affirms the General Conference 2016 formula and number of bishops remains in force.

The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church has released its much-anticipated decision as to whether Jurisdictional Conferences could be called and convened due to the ongoing postponement of General Conference 2020. In Decision No. 1445, the Council has ruled in favor of convening Jurisdictional Conferences for the purpose of electing and assigning new bishops.
In the digest of the decision, the Judicial Council states, In the circumstance of this case, the Council of Bishops is authorized to set the date of regular jurisdictional conferences for the election and assignment of new bishops for the limited purpose of effectuating the continuance of an episcopacy in The United Methodist Church under ¶¶ 26, 27.2, and 45 of the Constitution. This authority may be exercised notwithstanding that the General Conference has not convened since the last election of bishops in the jurisdictional conferences.”
“This is good news,” said Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference. “It is vital in this season of change for clergy, laity, and congregations to have certainty about the assignment of their episcopal leader so they can move forward in mission and ministry together.” 

The Council’s decision also set parameters in compliance with the Book of Discipline as to when new bishops may be elected and assigned.

  • If the Jurisdictional College of Bishops calls and convenes a Jurisdictional Conference Prior to Sept. 1, 2022, bishops elected and assigned will officially take office on Sept. 1, 2022.

  • Bishops elected and assigned at Jurisdictional Conferences occurring after Sept. 1, will serve on an interim basis beginning on Jan. 1, 2023 until their permanent assignment begins on Sept. 1, 2023

Currently, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference is tentatively scheduled to meet Nov. 2-5, 2022. More information is available in the official decision available here.
The Judicial Council also ruled that absent any General Conference action, the formula and number of bishops for each jurisdiction approved by the 2016 General Conference remains legally binding. In the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ), in which the Central Texas Conference is a member, nine bishops were approved by GC16.
To read more on this decision from UMNews, visit umnews.org/en/news/ruling-opens-door-for-bishop-elections-in-2022.