(Dr. Steve Furr) - The five jurisdictional conferences in the United States will meet at the same time July 18-20, 2012. Jurisdictional conferences are held once every four years in the same year as the general conference. Equal numbers of laity and clergy, elected by the annual conferences, will be delegates. The principal business during jurisdictional conference is the election of bishops. This year the Southeastern Jurisdiction will elect five new bishops from 15 candidates. Candidates are generally nominated by an annual conference or endorsed by jurisdictional conference delegates. Any United Methodist ordained elder may be elected bishop by any jurisdictional conference. Each jurisdiction establishes the percentage of votes needed for election. Voting by ballot continues until someone receives the required number of votes. This year the balloting will be electronic, which should speed up the process.
The six clergy and lay delegates to general conference as well as six additional lay and clergy jurisdictional delegates from our conference will be representing you at Lake Junaluska. On Tuesday afternoon July 17, each of the Episcopal candidates will give a five-minute address to all of the delegates. Later in the afternoon each candidate will appear before each annual conference delegation for a statement and a time for questions.
The last elder from the Alabama-West Florida Conference elected to the episcopacy was Mike Watson. He is now the only living bishop from our conference. Our conference has a strong history of only putting forward leaders who we are confident will make outstanding bishops in the United Methodist Church. Our track record speaks for itself. We seek and search for individuals who would continue the legacy of Bishop Duffey and Bishop Watson. We look for someone who we are not only proud that they are a bishop of the whole church, but that we would also be honored to serve as our bishop. We do not offer anyone up in service to the church that we would not be willing to take back into our own conference as our Episcopal leader. In Rev. Dr. Larry Bryars we have found such an individual. He has distinguished himself by his leadership and growth in the churches he has served as well as his leadership in the Board of Ordained Ministry. The fact that he was elected the first clergy delegate to general conference tells you what the clergy think of his leadership ability. The laity have found a person who truly seeks to be in partnership with the laity in deed as well as word. He has a servant heart as well as a humble yet strong personality. We believe that he has much to offer to our church for years to come. Most importantly, he continually seeks the Lord direction for his path.
The first elected lay and clergy delegate to general conference from each annual conference serve on the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. This committee is responsible for reviewing the performance of the bishops within the jurisdiction as well as making their assignments. Dr. John Ed Mathison is the current chair of the SEJ Episcopal committee. No bishop can be assigned by the committee for the upcoming four-year term until all new bishops have been elected. Once the balloting is complete for the new five bishops, the committee will meet and make assignments for all of the bishops within the jurisdiction. This will be reported to the jurisdictional conference. The jurisdictional conference may affirm or reject the assignments. Newly elected bishops are consecrated in worship services at the end of each jurisdictional conference. All assignments for active U.S. bishops begin on Sept. 1 following the jurisdictional conference.
There is an Inter-jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, elected by general conference delegates, that can transfer bishops across jurisdictional lines if the bishops and the jurisdictions consent.
Please remain in prayer for our delegation as well as all the delegations as we go about this very important process. Especially remember all the Episcopal candidates as this is a very demanding time for them.