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.

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