Mosaic of John Wesley found in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of San Diego, California. Photo by Patrick Scriven.

By Patrick Scriven

The Western Jurisdiction, an area that includes 11 western states, Guam, and Saipan, gathers next week in San Diego, California 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.

The jurisdictional Committee on Conferences worked during the last quadrennium to offer suggestions on how we would 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 therein. 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 Conferences.

The retirement of Bishop 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 Pacific Northwest Conference could receive a new assignment next Friday or it could again receive Bishop Grant Hagiya. Either way, the 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. Together we are 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.”

Please keep our delegation and all those who gather at the Western Jurisdictional Conference in your prayers as they travel, deliberate, and make decisions that will impact our connectional ministry going forward through this next quadrennium.

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