Bishop’s reinstatement moves forward

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, announced today, Dec. 5, the next steps in following the ruling decision by the denomination’s top court to reinstate Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, who was involuntarily retired this summer.

On Dec. 3 and 4, Huie met with the cabinets and episcopacy committees of the Northwest Texas and New Mexico conferences, which constitute the Northwest Texas/New Mexico Episcopal Area. Retired Bishops Dan Solomon and William Hutchinson have been serving as interim bishops for the episcopal area since September.

The next step, she said in a statement, is a conference call she plans within the week to the members of the South Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy.

Huie said she plans to have a nomination presented to her college of bishops (that is, all the bishops in the jurisdiction) by Dec. 15. That nomination would need the approval of the full Council of Bishops.  It remains “the intent of the College of Bishops that these meetings and conferences will be completed so that the new assignment may begin in January 2013,” Huie said.

Bledsoe, 62, initially announced plans  to retire at the end of his first four years as bishop. But on June 5, he  reversed course, telling those at the North Texas Annual Conference session he planned to fight being forced out. Days later,  the South Central Jurisdiction episcopacy committee released a statement explaining why it had asked Bledsoe to retire early. The episcopacy committee said it had questions regarding his administrative skills, relational skills and style.

After a hearing on July 16-17, the  episcopacy committee decided by a vote of 24-4, with two abstentions, to place Bledsoe in involuntary retirement. The 30-member committee included a lay and clergy member from each of the jurisdiction’s 15 current conferences.

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference delegates on July 19 overwhelminglyaffirmed the episcopacy committee’s decision to compel early retirement.  The final tally was 208-45.

Bledsoe later that month appealed the decision to the Judicial Council, which has sinceordered his reinstatement.

Huie previously said the college of bishops would follow the procedures outlined in Paragraph 407 of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book.

That provision says that in case of a vacancy in the office of bishop, a jurisdiction’s college of bishops can nominate a bishop to fill the vacancy after consultation with the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy and annual conference committees on episcopacy.

Bishop Huie’s full statement is below:

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 – After meetings with leaders from both the Northwest Texas and the New Mexico Conferences of The United Methodist Church, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie returns to Houston to begin the next phase of the process of reinstatement of Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe.  Bishop Huie states, “The meetings were both thoughtful and productive.”

The next step is a conference call with the members of the South Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy.  Plans are to schedule this call within the week.  As outlined in the Book of Discipline, the College of Bishops will then be consulted.

Bishop Huie hopes to have a nomination presented to the College of Bishops by Dec. 15, 2012.  It remains “the intent of the College of Bishops that these meetings and conferences will be completed so that the new assignment may begin in January 2013,” according to Bishop Huie.

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