Western Jurisdictional Conference Report, by Erin

As I shared in anticipation last month, last week our United Methodist Jurisdictional Conferences were held across the five US Jurisdictions. I was elected as a lay reserve delegate, but had the opportunity to participate in our Western Jurisdictional Conference in Salt Lake City as an active delegate due to other lay delegates not being able to attend.

Our biggest focus was electing three new episcopal leaders (bishops) to replace three of our bishops who have recently or are about to retire. We entered the conference with 32 episcopal candidates discerning their call, and the first day brought a certifying ballot that reduced that pool to 18 candidates. We then had opportunities to get to know the candidates as they gave brief speeches about how they see the office of the bishop evolving, participated in a situation room activity to work collaboratively with other candidates, and engaged individually with delegations to share more about themselves and learn about each annual conference’s specific needs and values.

There are 100 delegates total in the Western Jurisdiction, though the most we ever had voting were 97 due to absences. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive 67% of the votes. We cast ballots throughout the first three days of the conference as we worked toward getting enough votes for one or more candidates to be elected, but no elections happened until the third day. We finally had our first election on the 13th ballot, electing Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, from the Alaska Conference. The Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth was our second election, finally reaching the votes threshold on the 18th ballot. Cedrick is from the California-Pacific Conference. Shortly after, the 19th ballot brought our third and final election, Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, coming from the Desert Southwest Conference. All three were consecrated Saturday afternoon.

Once the new bishops were elected and celebrated, the Committee on Episcopacy met to determine where to appoint each bishop. They met with each of the five bishops to gain an understanding of their personal and family dynamics and needs, as well as considered the needs and values of each episcopal area. The assignments the committee presented and the conference body approved were: Bishop Karen Oliveto to the Mountain Sky Area (where she has served since 2016), Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth to the Greater Northwest Area (this includes our conference, Alaska, and Oregon-Idaho), Bishop Carlo A. Rapanut to the Desert Southwest Conference, Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank to the California-Pacific Conference, and Bishop Minerva Carcaño to the California-Nevada Conference (where she is currently assigned).

I am very excited that Bishop Cedrick will be coming to our conference starting January 1, 2023! In addition to his pastoral ministry, he has experience with organizational leadership, innovation and communication, and community outreach and involvement. In our conference’s delegation meeting with him, he shared several initiative ideas that a conference could take on, including some environmentally conscious efforts that double as outreach.

While electing bishops consumed most of our time at Jurisdictional Conference, there were several other legislative items that came before the body and were approved.

Some to note include:

  • “Rejection of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” – While the Protocol was relevant leading up to the 2020 General Conference, the body approved the rejection of the Protocol as the Global Methodist Church has already launched without it.
  • “Endorse Christmas Covenant Legislation" – The Christmas Covenant values “respect for contextual ministry settings, connectional relationships rooted in mission, and legislative equality for regional bodies of the church.” It would establish a US Regional Conference and allow for global regions to have some different rules based on their individual contexts.
  • “Leading with Integrity” – With respect and gratitude, this resolution calls on all United Methodists to move forward in fairness and with integrity, asking all who intend to disaffiliate from the UMC to recuse themselves from leadership roles.
  • “Queer Delegates’ Call To Center Justice And Empowerment For LGBTQIA+ People In The UMC” – This exact same legislation was brought to each of the five US Jurisdictional Conferences, and all five approved it. While the Western Jurisdiction is known to be the most progressive in the US, it is notable that even our more conservative jurisdictions passed this resolution.
  • “Establishment of a task force to study and bring recommendations related to permeable boundaries to the 2024 Western Jurisdiction Conference" – This encourages more resource sharing across our Jurisdiction.
  • “Officially Establish Western Jurisdiction Committee on Native American Ministries (WJCoNAM) and support the creation of a Jurisdictional Native American Ministry Plan” – This resolution established WJCoNAM and allocated funds for its implementation and ministry.

To read more details about the conference, new bishops and episcopal candidates, legislation, and more, go to the Western Jurisdiction website. Or get in touch with me and I’ll gladly chat with you about it!

- Erin

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