Last week, Jurisdictional Conferences met across the United States. There was worship, legislation – shared and debated, and bishops elected and assigned. The West Virginia Conference is a member of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
On Friday, I was delighted, and joy filled to be informed that I was being reassigned to the West Virginia Conference as its residential Bishop until the next Jurisdictional Conference that will be held in the summer of 2024 following the next General Conference. I have had the great honor of serving the West Virginia Conference for the past 10 years and am glad to have the opportunity to serve the great people of West Virginia and Garrett County Maryland for another two years. I will also, along with Bishop Moore-Koikoi, who was reassigned as the residential bishop for the Western, PA conference, continue to provide episcopal coverage for the Susquehanna Conference. Bishop Moore-Koikoi and I continue to look forward to what we can accomplish for Christ as we collaborate on mission and ministry among and across the three annual conference areas.
The following are some highlights of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
The West Virginia Conference was honored to have two of its seminary students, Sarah Wilmoth and Caitlin Ware, behind the cameras working for GNTV as it handled the technical end of the Conference. Additionally, our Director of Communications, Rev. Deborah Coble, was on the NEJ Communications staff taking pictures to record the Conference and help with the Conference communication needs.
The West Virginia Conference also got a shout out of appreciation from the Jurisdictional treasurer for the conference’s faithfulness and on time payment of the Jurisdictional apportionments.
Members of the West Virginia delegation were up at the microphones several times during the conference wisely adding comments, giving information, asking questions. I give thanks for the WV delegation members present for this Conference session: Amy Shanholtzer, Judi Kenaston, Lauren Godwin, Rich Shaffer, Jeff Taylor, Mike Estep, Joe Hill, Rachel Fulton, Joe Kenaston, and Judy Raines. Hannah Lamb was our youth delegate. Kristi Wilkerson was also planning to be present, but a last-minute health concern meant that she had to follow the proceedings online.
The opening worship service was a wonderful tribute to Delegation members, Bishops, and Bishop’s spouses who passed away since last time we met as a Jurisdictional Conference. Bishop Devadhar was the preacher for this service and I was honored to preside at the Communion table with Bishop Mark Webb. The other worship services included a retirement celebration for Bishops Park, Devadhar, Johnson, and Webb; a morning worship service preached by Bishop Jane Middleton. Her sermon asked, “Who is Epaphroditus?” Bishop Devadhar served as the presider for the Consecration service in which Bishop Peggy Johnson preached, and Bishop Hector Burgos celebrated communion.
After initially deciding to elect two bishops, the Northeastern Jurisdiction only elected one bishop. Bishop Hector Burgos was widely supported and elected by the members of the Jurisdictional Conference. Bishop Burgos is the first Hispanic person to be elected to the episcopacy by the NEJ and the first Puerto Rician to be elected in the denomination. Bishop Burgos was elected on the third ballot and the announcement of his election brought cheers. Following Bishop Burgos’ election, the Conference found itself unable to agree on an additional election. An election takes 60% of the voting delegates to agree. Following a number of ballots where numbers in support of candidates did not result in any substantial shifting of support behind any one candidate a motion was made to postpone the election of additional episcopal leaders until the 2024 Jurisdictional conference. That motion passed.
Among other things, rules were passed. Our own Janet Harman is the chairperson for the rules committee and did a spectacular job of presenting the rules reports to the Conference at a couple of different points during the Conference. A budget was passed. A call to action report was made around our work on anti-racism and intercultural competency. Further conversation on the floor following that report makes clear that there is much work still to be accomplished in this area and there is much hurt and harm that needs to be repaired. Rev. Mark Conner was one of the monitors for the Conference session reporting on behalf of the Commission on the status and role of women and his monitoring report as well as the monitoring report from the Commission on Religion and Race praised those things that went well during the Conference but noted at the end of each day that we have more work to do in honoring and respecting all God’s people.
There were several resolutions brought for consideration and debate and the NEJ boundaries committee made a report that included working with a consultant over the next two years to better make recommendations for possible annual conference and/or episcopal area boundary changes in 2024. For more information on the proceedings of the Northeastern Jurisdictional conference you can go to the NEJ website. Click on the image on the upper left “One in ministry to all the World.” That will take you to the landing page for last weeks conference. On that page under “important files” you will find the published NEJ Daily Christian Advocate for each day of the Conference proceedings.
We have lots to do over the next two years! I look forward to working with all of you on building our congregational vitality, empowering more Christian leaders among the laity and clergy, and making disciples of Jesus Christ!
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball