By Heather Hahn
(UM News) The United Methodist Council of Bishops has the authority to call jurisdictional conferences this year to elect and assign new episcopal leaders in the U.S.
However, that authority does not extend to changing the Sept. 1 date when church law says newly elected U.S. bishops officially take office, the denomination’s top court ruled in Decision 1445.
Usually jurisdictional conferences meet to elect bishops in mid-July every four years following General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.
But amid General Conference’s continued pandemic-caused delay, the Judicial Council said the bishops can call jurisdictional conferences “for the limited purpose of effectuating the continuance of an episcopacy in The United Methodist Church” as required by the denomination’s constitution.
Put another way, the Judicial Council says new bishop elections can occur off their usual schedule to fulfill the United Methodist constitutional mandate that bishops provide continuing supervision.
The Council of Bishops tentatively had set Nov. 2-5 for jurisdictional conferences if the Judicial Council ruled in favor of holding the regional meetings.
To comply with the requirement that new bishops take office on Sept. 1, the Judicial Council decision said the Council of Bishops must either reschedule the jurisdictional conferences so they occur before Sept. 1 this year or assign the newly elected bishops on an interim basis until they officially begin their assignments on Sept. 1, 2023.
Read the full United Methodist News Service report at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/ruling-opens-door-for-bishop-elections-in-2022.