Bishop Robert Farr, president of the SCJ College of Bishops, announced in a letter to the chairs of conference episcopacy committees that the three bishops who were scheduled to retire effective Sept. 1, 2020 will continue as the episcopal leaders of their respective conferences through the postponed SCJ Conference in November 2021. Those bishops are
Bishop Lowry, who had previously stated in a video update to the conference on April 23
that he planned on remaining through the next Jurisdictional Conference, and that neither he nor any of his fellow bishops had any intention of abandoning their responsibilities to the local churches and people of the conferences they are so privileged to serve. So, while this news was not unexpected, Bishop Lowry is gratified that the decision has been officially made.
"I am honored to remain the Resident Bishop of the Central Texas Conference through the postponed 2020 Jurisdictional Conference. Jolynn and I have been deeply blessed by our shared ministry together,” commented Bishop Lowry. “I share with my fellow bishops scheduled to retire that it is important to continue episcopal supervision during this time COVID-19 and the upcoming General Conference vote on the ‘Protocol for Separation.’ Together, I believe the Lord is leading us through this time of crisis to a new spring in the life of the Central Texas Conference.”
The announcement that the Bishops Bledsoe, Lowry and McKee would continue in the current assignments ended the months-long discussion and speculation as to how retirements, elections and assignments of bishops would proceed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to have the three bishops scheduled to retire this year remain in the roles was affirmed by the Council of Bishops.
“I’m pleased with the decision that has been made by the SCJ and now affirmed by the Council of Bishops,” said Steve McIver, chair of the Central Texas Conference Episcopacy Committee. “In these uncertain times in the UMC, with the current pandemic to the pending schism in the church, I think it is a very wise move to keep effective leadership in place.”
“These bishops were very effective local church pastors before they were elected as bishops,” Steve continued. “I’m sure they didn’t want to leave their flocks in times like these.”
In the letter to the conference episcopacy committee chairs, Bishop Farr also shared that the SCJ College of Bishops had decided that all other SCJ bishops would remain in the current assignments through the November 2021 Jurisdictional Conference, and that the election of any new bishops will only occur at that rescheduled SCJC.
A copy of the letter is below.
Dear Conference Chair / SCJ Committee Member:
As you know, due to the impact of COVID-19, the 2020 Jurisdictional Conference has been postponed until November 10-12, 2021. Because of the long delay, this has created a good deal of discussion regarding how assignments, retirements, and elections of bishops will be handled. The 2016 Book of Discipline does not specifically address a process for this type of interruption to quadrennial cycle.
The Council of Bishops has affirmed the actions of the Jurisdictional Colleges regarding coverage in each episcopal area considering the anticipated retirements.
- The following SCJ bishops who plan to retire will continue to serve in their current episcopal area until the postponed SCJ Conference in November 2021:
- Bishop Bledsoe – New Mexico & Northwest Texas Conferences
- Bishop McKee – North Texas Conference
- Bishop Lowry – Central Texas Conference
- All other residential bishops will remain in their assigned area locations through the jurisdictional conference, until the conference makes new assignments (based upon the recommendation of the SCJ Episcopacy Committee).
- Election of any new bishops will only occur at the jurisdictional conference.
Please share this information with your conference episcopacy committee members and the head of your 2020 conference delegation.
Thank you for your leadership in these challenging times as we continue to trust in God. If you have any questions, please contact me or Brian Hammons.
Bishop Robert Farr
President SCJ College of Bishops
SCJ Episcopacy Committee Chair