Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Delegates encourage talks of a shared episcopal leader

The Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Delegations Joint Statement
North Central Jurisdiction 2022
By Anne Marie Gerhardt and Lisa Wink 

Looking at the possibility of a shared episcopal area, Rev. Alka Lyall and Krysta Deede, delegates from Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences, brought forth a joint statement at the North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) conference on Friday afternoon. The statement is in response to the challenges facing the United Methodist Church and how it will best continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 
Rev. Alka Lyall and Rev. Krysta Deede (right), delegates from Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences, brought forth a joint statement Friday afternoon. 
Both conferences are open and committed to open dialogue and collaboration to explore the possibility of sharing an episcopal leader following the 2024 General Conference. The NCJ Committee on Episcopacy recommends Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences and East and West Ohio conferences, especially Area Committees on Episcopacy, Extended Cabinets and Conference Directors, begin similar conversations about sharing an episcopal area (not merging), if the idea is approved by the NCJ beginning as soon as 2024. In fact, the Episcopacy Committee recommends all Annual Conferences begin these conversations.

The extended cabinet of both Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences had the forethought and recently gathered in Sun Prairie, Wis., for a half-day retreat to meet one another, share ideas, and learn how they might become one episcopal area. 

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Conference emphasized that this would be a sharing of a bishop – not a merger. “There is amazing life-giving work that we are doing in the Northern Illinois and Wisconsin conferences," Bishop Jung said. "We have lots of common threads. We hope that God will bless us during this time of exploration.” 

"I'm encouraged that leaders from our neighboring conferences are looking toward a shared bishop in the future," said interim Bishop John L. Hopkins of the Northern Illinois Conference. "Building relationships will open up possibilities we cannot yet imagine."
The Episcopacy Committee also recommends the NCJ form a Task Force to study the “role of the episcopal in the NCJ” to imagine ways to make sharing episcopal leadership manageable, sustainable, and fruitful. The Task Force’s findings and proposals will be brought to the 2024 session of the NCJ.
The extended cabinets of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Conferences recently met in Sun Prairie, Wis. for a half-day retreat. 
Full Statement: 

“As we all know, the United Methodist Church faces unique challenges in how it will best continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This includes declining church membership and the reduction in the size of annual conferences due to church closures. 
This shift in reality challenges annual conferences to be creative in how we maximize the impact of our resources. We must continue to be good stewards of the apportionments, offerings, and financial gifts entrusted to our care.
In accordance with that, and as suggested by the North Central Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, the Northern Illinois Conference and Wisconsin conference delegations stand to make this statement:
We have enough in common that a shared episcopal leader would allow both our conferences to be fiscally responsible without hindering the goals of our ministries.
  • Our conference leadership teams have begun conversations and will continue to do the work of exploring the possibility of becoming one episcopal area. 
  • The two extended cabinets and our delegations have also had meetings. 
Going forward, in consultation with our newly appointed Episcopal leaders, we envision:
  • our conference treasurers to converse, 
  • Our trustees to meet, and 
  • the two committees on episcopacy to confer with one another.
We encourage and invite all Wisconsin and Northern Illinois conference members to prayerfully consider the benefits and possibility of sharing a bishop. We will ask this body to support a motion at the 2024 Jurisdictional Conference to make WI/NIL one episcopal area.” 
Wink is the director of communications with the Wisconsin Conference. Gerhardt is the director of communications with the Northern Illinois Conference.