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GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council Offers Proposals on the Nature of the Episcopacy

Por Walter B. Fenton

GM Church Bishop Scott J. Jones leads a celebration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the launch of the Ethiopia District of the Kenya-Ethiopia Provisional Annual Conference. Photo by Mary Lou Reece.

The Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council is proposing the election of interim bishops to serve the new denomination from 2024 to 2026. The proposal is part of an extensive legislative package that will come before the Church’s convening General Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, September 20 – 26, 2024. Launched on May 1, 2022, the GM Church continues in a state of transition until duly elected delegates from around the world meet at the Conference; it is the denomination’s principal authoritative body.

In less than two years, 4,286 local churches have joined the GM Church, and 28 provisional conferences have been organized to connect them together. Working with conference leaders, Bishops Scott J. Jones and Mark J. Webb have been providing episcopal oversight for the whole church.

“It is clear that we need more bishops,” said Cara Nicklas, the chairwoman of the Transitional Leadership Council. “However, the Council has reason to believe a significant number of local churches and pastors from around the world will join the GM Church later this year and in 2025.  Given that the denomination will hold another General Conference in 2026, members determined it would be both wise and fair to wait until then to hold a more robust election of episcopal leaders. The delegates to the convening Conference already have a full agenda; debating and adopting episcopal legislation, and then moving to elect bishops all in one conference would take too much time and crowd out other important matters.”

Last year, the Transitional Leadership Council appointed a 15-member task force to consider what the nature of the episcopacy might look like in the GM Church, and then submit a report with its recommendations. The Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway, a TLC member and president pro tem of the Allegheny West Provisional Conference, was appointed to lead the task force, which met regularly from late October 2023 through early February 2024.

“For a whole host of reasons, the task force was well aware of the sensitivity around the role and responsibilities of bishops, the process for electing them, and their terms of service, including ensuring their accountability,” said Greenway. “The task force included lay and clergy members from Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S. Often times, we’d arrive at ways around, over, or through obstacles, only to discover our chosen path forced us to confront new ones. To their credit, the task force members continued to rise the challenge; it was a privilege to work with all of them.”

Having received the task force’s report and its legislative recommendations, the TLC dedicated most of it regular weekly meetings in February and March to studying, debating, and refining its work. The TLC has now released its proposed legislative package and a proposed process for electing interim bishops. The proposals are now in the hands of the delegates to the convening General Conference.

The process for electing interim episcopal leaders calls for electing Bishops Jones and Webb by General Conference acclimation, and then moving to elect an additional number of interim bishops as recommended by the TLC. Additional interim bishops elected in 2024 would serve for just two years, not standing for re-election in 2026 unless two-thirds of the delegates voted to include them on the ballot.

“I think it would be premature to move directly to the election of bishops for full terms at the convening General Conference,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s Chief Connectional Officer. “The delegates will have achieved more than enough if they can codify the role and responsibilities of bishops, how they will be elected, the duration of their terms, and how the Church will hold them accountable to the high calling of the episcopal office.”

Among other things, the legislative package defines bishops as the Church’s general superintendents, with responsibility for proclaiming and teaching the Christian faith, overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church, fixing pastoral appointments in local churches and other ministry settings, and, in partnership with other general Church and annual conference leaders, advancing the Church’s missional priorities as set forth by the General Conference. It proposes that bishops serve for a maximum of two six-year terms.

The package also calls for a General Committee on Episcopacy, composed of at least six clergy and six lay members. Its purpose is to “foster a healthy and effective episcopacy in the Global Methodist Church,” evaluate the work of bishops, and receive and investigate complaints against them, and provide for a trial when necessary.

“With some justification, GM Church members are wary of the episcopal office; I am one with them,” said Nicklas. “However, our convening General Conference delegates are being handed proposals and recommendations that have received the faithful and thoughtful attention of people who want the very best for the Global Methodist Church. Our prayers are with the delegates as they discern, debate, and perfect the work we have done.”

Read the Report of the Task Force on the Nature of the Episcopacy.

Read the TLC’s proposed legislative recommendations.

Read the proposed process for electing interim bishops.

Future Crossroads articles will continue to report on the proposed nature of the episcopacy.

Readers can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website, and now they can follow all the details about the convening General Conference by visiting So the World Will Know, the Conference’s official website.

El reverendo Walter Fenton es el responsable de conexión adjunto de Iglesia Metodista Global.

 

 

 

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