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.

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