Now that the 2012 General Conference has ended, United Methodist leaders across the nation turn to jurisdictional and annual conferences coming up this summer.
The first U.S. annual (regional) conference sessions begin May 17 in the Detroit and Eastern Pennsylvania annual conferences. The annual conference meetings wrap up in the United States with the Virginia Annual Conference session June 22-24.
The first annual conference session in the central conferences was Feb. 2-6 in Eastern Angola. Based on current data, the central conferences annual conference meetings wrap up Dec. 14-16 with the East Zimbabwe session.
The most popular dates for U.S. conference sessions are June 6-9 with 10 annual conferences meeting then. Eleven more conferences meet June 6-10, 7-9 or 7-10.
U.S. jurisdictional conferences meet in July every four years, following General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking assembly. The main purpose of jurisdictional conferences, which involves twice as many U.S. delegates as General Conference, is to elect and assign new bishops.
Fourteen U.S. bishops and two central conferences bishops will retire this year. The North Central, South Central and Western jurisdictions each will lose a bishop's position, while the Congo Central Conference will gain a bishop.
New U.S. bishops will be elected during jurisdictional conferences July 18-21. Central Conferences are the outside-U.S. equivalent of jurisdictions, and like jurisdictions, they have multiple annual conferences. They will meet at various dates ranging from August to December 2012, and will elect or re-elect six bishops. The Central and Southern Europe central conferences will not meet until March 13, 2013, but they will not be electing a new bishop.
Bishops of the United Methodist Church in Angola lay hands on a new pastor during a 2006 ordination service at the West Angola Annual Conference at the Icolo e Bengo United Methodist Church in Luanda. A UMNS photo by Mike Dubose.
The following bishops are retiring this year:
North Central Jurisdiction
Linda Lee, Wisconsin Episcopal Area, Wisconsin Conference
Ernest S. Lyght, West Virginia Episcopal Area, West Virginia Conference
Jane Allen Middleton, Harrisburg Episcopal Area, Central Pennsylvania Conference
Peter Weaver, Boston Episcopal Area, New England Conference
South Central Jurisdiction
Charles N. Crutchfield, Arkansas Episcopal Area, Arkansas Conference
William W. Hutchinson, Louisiana Episcopal Area, Louisiana Conference
Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson, Nebraska Episcopal Area, Nebraska Conference
D. Max Whitfield, Northwest Texas-New Mexico Episcopal Area, Northwest Texas and New Mexico Conferences
Alfred Wesley Gwinn Jr., Raleigh Episcopal Area, North Carolina Conference
Charlene Kammerer, Richmond Episcopal Area, Virginia Conference
Timothy Whitaker, Florida Episcopal Area, Florida Conference
Will Willimon, Birmingham Episcopal Area, North Alabama Conference
Richard J. Wills Jr., Nashville Episcopal Area, Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
Mary Ann Swenson, Los Angeles Episcopal Area, California Pacific Conference
HansVäxby, Eurasia Episcopal Area
Leo Soriano, Davao Episcopal Area
After the 2008 General Conference when bishop retirement age was raised from 66 to 68, Bishops Jane Allen Middleton and William Hutchinson were given the option of maintaining their positions four more years. The two bishops will both retire this year at the ages of 71 and 70, respectively.
Bishops are permitted to serve up to three consecutive four-year terms in one episcopal area. In each jurisdiction, a committee on episcopacy - made up of one clergy and one lay delegate-reviews the bishop's work and character and proposes a new assignment. The Jurisdictional Conference then has the ability to accept or reject the assignment.
Bishops elected at the 2012 Jurisdictional Conferences will begin their new assignments Sept. 1.
*Snell is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., and a former intern with United Methodist News Service.
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