By Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
The Western Jurisdiction, an area that includes 11 western states, Guam and Saipan, will gather in San Diego, Calif., from July 18-21, for its jurisdictional conference. The United Methodist constitution established five jurisdictions in the United States and its territories and determines the boundaries of them. Each jurisdiction is responsible for determining the boundaries of the annual conferences within and for electing the bishops that serve there.
In 2008, the General Conference reduced the number of bishops allocated to serve the seven annual conferences and one missionary conference that comprise the Western Jurisdiction from six to five starting with the 2012 quadrennium. Because of this, the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference will not hold an episcopal election despite the retirement of host Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of the Los Angeles Area.
The jurisdictional Committee on Conferences worked during the last quadrennium to offer suggestions on how to move forward with one less bishop. In January of 2011, the College of Bishops proposed a realignment plan that called for the current Portland and Seattle episcopal areas to be joined into one area, sharing a single bishop but not merging the individual conferences.. Those discussions ultimately led to the forming of a new episcopal area to be known as the ‘Great Northwest Episcopal Area’ with its bishop serving the Alaska Missionary Conference, the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest annual (regional) conferences.
The retirement of Swenson and the reduction of episcopal areas in the jurisdiction will set in motion the necessary reassignment of at least one bishop. The jurisdictional committee on episcopacy is tasked with reviewing and assigning bishops to their areas. The newly formed episcopal area could receive a new assignment on July 20 or it could again receive one of the two bishops serving the soon-to be combined areas. Either way, the assigned bishop will serve a new area that includes an additional annual conference; a three-point charge so to speak.
In addition to this work, the gathering will use ‘holy conferencing’ to discuss extravagant hospitality to immigrants, a plan for “permeable boundaries” in regards to the episcopal leadership of the jurisdiction and numerous other reports from work groups. The jurisdictional conference will gather in worship several times as well, stopping to remember, being challenged to consider, and charged to go forth.
The Western Jurisdiction cast its vision statement in 2000, reaffirming it in 2004 and 2008. It reads that the jurisdiction is called to be “a home for all God’s people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation. As a multicultural and inclusive jurisdiction, we seek to be engaged in the life of our communities, with confident, effective lay and clergy leadership forming disciples who live out the good news of Jesus as global citizens.”
The Western Jurisdictional Conference is currently underway in San Diego,Calif.