Delegates from around the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) gathered July 13-16 in Peoria, Illinois for the NCJ Conference. This quadrennial gathering focused on the mission work within our jurisdiction, adopting budgets, and electing and assigning bishops. Out of 17 candidates, four new bishops were elected: Tracy Smith Malone (Northern Illinois), Frank Beard (Indiana), David Bard (Minnesota) and Laurie Haller (West Michigan). Following their consecration service at First UMC in Peoria, 2016-2020 episcopal assignments for all NCJ bishops were announced. Bishop Jung will be returning to serve the Wisconsin Conference for another four years.

A retirement service honored bishops Michael J. Coyner (Indiana); Bishop John L. Hopkins (East Ohio); Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton (Illinois Great Rivers); and Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (Michigan) for their combined 72 years of episcopal ministry. Bishop Sharon Rader reminded the four, “No one ever retires from ministry. Continue to be true to your baptismal calling.” She thanked them for their servant leadership and added, “Never think lightly of the great good God has brought through you.”

Bishop Jung led opening worship on Thursday, delivering a sermon entitled “Living Together Amidst Diversity”. Though he joked that as a Korean-American, he is “half kimchi and half Wisconsin cheese,” he drew upon personal, historical, and biblical examples and delivered a serious call: to love one another despite, or perhaps because of, our differences. “Living in the midst of diversity is our God-given reality,” he said. “The yin and the yang are not divisions between you and me, but aspects of each of our lives.” Bishop Keaton led opening worship on Wednesday and Bishop Hopkins led opening worship on Friday.

Other highlights from NCJ Conference include a musical episcopal address from Bishop Kiesey, and delegates spending Friday morning in discussion with one another following an address to the body from Bishop Trimble.

Click here to learn more about our Jurisdiction and click here to learn more about Jurisdictional Conferences.

You might have noticed that there was no shortage of ways to learn about what was happening at the 2016 Jurisdictional Conference. You could tune in via live streaming, read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, or check out frequent social media posts with the latest news. The extensive coverage was thanks to a first-of-its-kind collaboration among the jurisdiction’s communicators, who pooled their gifts, resources, and time to collectively provide the best possible coverage to their 11 annual conferences—representing a vast departure from the siloed approach that each conference has historically employed. Christa Meland, Minnesota UMC, has the story.

Rev. Art Scanson, a retired elder of the Dakotas Conference, has found a ministry in woodworking that is reaching bishops across The United Methodist Church. Scanson has handcrafted over 15 crosiers for bishops in the North Central Jurisdiction and for some bishops in other jurisdictions. “I have been making the crosiers for the North Central Jurisdiction since 2000. Every bishop that is elected in the North Central Jurisdiction receives one.” said Rev. Art Scanson, retired. “I have made a few for bishops in some other conferences as requested.” This year, Scanson created four crosiers for the newly elected bishops of the North Central Jurisdiction: Bishop David Bard, Michigan; Bishop Frank Beard, Illinois; Bishop Laurie Haller, Iowa; Bishop Tracy S. Malone, East Ohio. Click here to read the full story from Doreen Grosmire, Dakotas UMC.

In a meaningful worship service and before hundreds of United Methodists from across the North Central Jurisdiction, the four newly elected episcopal leaders were consecrated Saturday morning and officially assumed the title of “Bishop.” Just before hands were laid on the four new bishops and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer led a prayer of consecration, they committed to encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries, pray for them without ceasing, proclaim and interpret to them the gospel of Christ, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption. “Feed the flock of Christ; defend them in Christ’s truth,” said Bishop Sally Dyck after the laying on of hands. “Be to the people a prophetic voice and a courageous leader. Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd; support the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, restore the outcast, seek the lost, and relieve the oppressed.” Click here to read the full story from Christa Meland, Minnesota UMC.

In addition, episcopal assignments for 2016-2020 were announced. Bishop Jung will be returning to serve as Wisconsin’s episcopal leader for another four years. The remainder of the appointments are as follows:

  • Dakotas Minnesota – Bishop Bruce R. Ough
  • East Ohio – Bishop Tracy S. Malone
  • Illinois Great Rivers – Bishop Frank J. Beard
  • Indiana – Bishop Julius Trimble
  • Iowa – Bishop Laurie Haller
  • Michigan – Bishop David A. Bard
  • Northern Illinois – Bishop Sally Dyck
  • West Ohio – Bishop Gregory Palmer

“The church is the hope of the world.” A day after the deadly attack in Nice, France and mere weeks after deadly shootings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas the message from Bishop John L. Hopkins resonated with those gathered for Friday’s morning worship service. “May we hear not only the words of his lips, but the words of his heart, may they find a resting place in ours that we might see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and serve you more faithfully,” retired Bishop Woody White prayed prior to Hopkins’ sermon. At a time when actions are dividing our churches, our communities, our nation, and our world, “our gifts (from God) are to serve the whole and not the parts,” Hopkins said. Click here to read the full story from Rick Wolcott, East Ohio UMC.

Delegates spent Friday, their last full day of Jurisdictional Conference, praying and listening, and they approved a resolution related to human sexuality as well as a budget and a new budget process for the next four years. Click here to read the full story from Christa Meland, Minnesota UMC.

During the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, delegates and visitors in the 18–30(ish) age group gathered to talk about what issues in the Church were most important to them. Chassity Neckers, fellow millennial and Content Specialist in the Indiana Conference, gives her take on the gathering and the role young people play in the future of the Church.

“Friends, please meet Bishop David Alan Bard.” As Bard can tell you, his life changed the moment those words were uttered Wednesday night. Within minutes of being elected bishop, he was taken to a room to meet with a representative of the General Council on Finance and Administration and given a packet of materials and documents to sign. What changes in day-to-day interactions for bishops following their election but before being assigned to their new conference? Christa Meland, Minnesota UMC, has the story.

The Rev. Laurie Haller of the West Michigan Conference was elected by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference on July 14, completing the process in Peoria that brought four new bishops into The United Methodist Church. She was elected on the 13th ballot with 132 votes. “I am the first bishop ever to be elected with a visible black eye,” she said addressing the body after election. “I got it from a stray piece of airplane luggage and decided not to cover it up. It reminds me that I offer myself in utter transparency, honesty and vulnerability.” She continued, “It reminds me of all who live under oppression and those with wounds so deep that no one knows they exist.”

Balloting that could have stretched through the day suddenly came to a close at noon on Thursday after a series of gracious concessions. First to step aside, before the initial ballot of the morning, was the Rev. Kennetha Bigham Tsai, also of West Michigan. Quoting Native American Ray Buckley, she said, “Let us call ourselves the nothing in between people. That is my hope for the UMC.” Two nominees from Iowa–the Rev. Dr. Lillian Gallo Seagren and Rev. Dr. Barrie Tritle—soon followed. Then came the Rev. Dr. Gary George (East Ohio) still strong in vote-getting, who stepped aside saying, “I leave you with three things. Hold on to Jesus Christ. Hold on to one another. Reach out for the sake of the gospel and transform the world.” The Rev. Sylvester Weatherall (Illinois Great Rivers) delegates for their support with a gracious and resounding, “God is not finished with us yet!” Haller’s election followed.

Others elected by NCJ delegates on July 13 were Tracy Smith Malone (Northern Illinois), Frank Beard (Indiana) and David Bard (Minnesota). The four will be consecrated at Peoria 1st UMC in a worship service held Saturday, July 16. The North Central Jurisdiction’s Committee on the Episcopacy will now begin meeting to determine the assignment of all nine NCJ bishops for the coming four years, and the appointments will be announced at Saturday's service. The newly-elected leaders will begin ministry in their Area on September 1.

Click here to read the full story from the Michigan Conference.

During a Thursday worship service filled with music from the NCJ praise band, Bishop Hee Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Annual Conference delivered a sermon entitled “Living Together Amidst Diversity”. Though he joked that as a Korean-American, he is “half kimchi and half Wisconsin cheese,” he drew upon personal, historical, and biblical examples and delivered a serious call: to love one another despite, or perhaps because of, our differences.

Bishop Jung pointed to stories of Jesus’ birth from Matthew to demonstrate the contrast between the Eastern and Western ways of thinking, and said that in the Asian mindset, everything is interrelated. “Living in the midst of diversity is our God-given reality,” he said. “The yin and the yang are not divisions between you and me, but aspects of each of our lives.” He added that the stories of creation are also a source of wisdom from a Middle-Eastern perspective: that this world was created by God, that we are all beloved children of God, and that God expelled us from any claim of innocence.

“God’s wall is unlike the walls we humans build,” he said. “God’s wall does not divide humans from each other. We believe – whoever we are – that we are superior and need walls to protect us… When did God ordain that there should be a border?” He said that walls we build prevent us from affirming the gifts of those who are different from us. “Walls we have built, walls to protect our own kind; we must tear them down. We must put a crack in them and let the Holy Spirit shine.”

With bishops coming, there are bishops going. Four leaders currently serving the North Central Jurisdiction will soon move into retirement: Bishop Michael J. Coyner (Indiana); Bishop John L. Hopkins (East Ohio); Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton (Illinois Great Rivers); and Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (Michigan).

Conference-produced videos prompted laughter, memories and reflection from the gathering. The gratitude and well wishes continued from colleague bishops, the NCJ Committee on the Episcopacy and others. Bishop Sharon Rader reminded the four, “No one ever retires from ministry. Continue to be true to your baptismal calling.” She thanked them for their servant leadership and added, “Never think lightly of the great good God has brought through you,” she continued. Between the four bishops, it was estimated that they had served a combined 72 years in episcopal ministry.

An offering was taken for Imagine No Malaria to be given to that global cause. Earlier in the afternoon Rev. Gary Henderson, INM champion, expressed gratitude to the North Central Jurisdiction for giving 23% of the total contributions to the initiative since the effort began in 2008.

Dr. Maggie Jackson, Chair of the Episcopacy Committee presented wooden boxes made beautiful by the lids made beautiful by the inlay of the NCJ map but also by the letters of remembrance they contained. “It is our turn to give to you,” she said. “We want you to know that you are special.” Jackson was thanked for her service. During the course of the 2016 Conference she had the privilege of welcoming each new bishop to his or her role and of thanking retirees on behalf of a grateful region.

Highlights from Thursday afternoon’s plenary session included an episcopal address from multi-talented Bishop Kiesey of the Michigan Area, discussion of several motions, and approving a new Michigan Conference.

Introduced officially at the 2016 Jurisdictional Conference, handheld electronic voting devices have made plenary voting a much faster, simpler, and efficient process designed to help significantly reduce the time and alleviate stress in between ballots. In previous elections, breaks would have to be allotted after each balloting session to allow for votes to be counted and results to be updated. For episcopal nominees and delegates, this was the perfect occasion to connect with peers, discuss strategy, and draw potential balloting outcomes. But ultimately, this made the selection process unnecessarily long and arduous. Click here to read the full story from the Indiana Conference.

Delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference elected three of four new bishops on the conference’s first day. The Revs. Tracy Smith Malone (Northern Illinois) and Frank Beard (Indiana Conference) were elected on the sixth ballot, followed by the Rev. David Bard (Minnesota) on the 10th ballot. Following the election of new bishops, assignments will be made of all newly elected and continuing NCJ bishops to the nine episcopal areas across the Upper Midwest. Assignments will be announced on Saturday, July 16, and will be effective September 1, 2016 for the following four years. Click here to read more about yesterday’s elections from the Minnesota Conference UMC.

By Doreen Grosmire, Dakotas Conference UMC

The twelfth North Central Jurisdictional Conference opened with worship at the Peoria Civic Center. Bishop John L. Hopkins, president of the College of Bishops, East Ohio Area, officially opened the session.

After opening prayer, led by Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, retired, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving followed. Three bishops who have deceased since 2012 were memorialized: Bishop Wayne K. Clymer, Bishop Rueben Job and Bishop Jesse DeWitt. Four bishops’ spouses were remembered: Mrs. Marjorie Duecker, Mrs. Jane Colaw, Mrs. Jan Ott and Mrs. Martha Lawson.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. And who is my neighbor; everybody,” said Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, resident bishop, Illinois Area during the message, “A Plea for Unity.” “Can we all get along is another side of Jesus’ command to ‘love for God and love of neighbor?’ The behavioral question plagues our communion.“

Click here to read the full story from the Dakotas Annual Conference.