The South Central Jurisdiction gathered on November 2-5, 2022 in Houston to elect three new bishops, among other important business. Little did Bishop Schnase realize that he would preside over such a significant conference business session. History was made when all three bishops were elected during the first ballot. While the body celebrated, Bishop Schnase and other leaders double checked the math and found it to be sound. Also unprecedented, was the election of the first Black female bishop in the Jurisdiction – Bishop Dee Williamston and the first Native American to be elected as bishop in the denomination – Bishop David Wilson. Bishop Laura Merrill from Río Texas Conference was also elected and counted herself blessed to be elected with these colleagues.
The New Mexico Conference Episcopal Candidates: Rev. Dr. Eddie Rivera and Rev. Dr. Randall Partin expressed their gratitude for the support and looked forward to their continued shared ministry with the Conference. Read more
The Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee began their work to assign bishops to conferences on Thursday morning, with the hope that they would be able to announce their recommendations to the Jurisdictional Delegates by Thursday evening. At approximately 5:00 pm on Thursday, the recommendations were accepted by the conference delegates with resounding enthusiasm.
The bishop assignments are as follows and will begin January 1, 2023:
- Arkansas: Bishop Elect Laura Merrill
- Central TX/North TX: Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
- Great Plains: Bishop Elect David Wilson
- Louisiana: Bishop Elect Dee Williamston
- Missouri: Bishop Robert Farr
- Oklahoma/Oklahoma Indian Missionary & NWTX: Bishop Jimmy Nunn
- New Mexico & Rio Texas: Bishop Robert Schnase
- Texas: Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
Along with episcopal elections, other important business was conducted. Three retiring bishops’ ministry were celebrated: Bishop Jones, Bishop McKee and Bishop Mueller. Bishop Saenz offered an excellent episcopal address. He said that we are fortunate to have a good picture of what the next 30 years holds. We need to consider all that’s before us and act for next generations. “The snooze button doesn’t work and the alarm is sounding.” He said that the election of three diverse bishops in the first ballot was “…an Acts moment…A spirit moment.”
Several resolutions were submitted and all were adopted. The first resolution Leading with Integrity concerned asking leaders from the local church to the bishop levels to recuse themselves, if they plan on disaffiliating from the UMC. One speech against contended that traditional delegates were elected to represent more traditional views and he would do so with integrity.
The second resolution, Supporting of US Regional Conference involved support of the Christmas Covenant. It also advocated involving representatives from each jurisdiction to bring structure and organizational recommendations to the 2024 General Conference.
The third resolution was entitled, Queer Delegates’ Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in the UMC. The presentation of this resolution brought several impassioned speeches for and one speech against, citing paragraphs in the Book of Discipline which oppose the resolution.
New Mexico Delegate and Chair of the Boundaries Committee, Dr. Susan Brumbaugh submitted a resolution requesting that the committee expand their work through the end of the quadrennium and present a report on the number and boundaries of annual conferences at the next jurisdictional conference. It was adopted.
Rev. Stan Copeland took the floor to request that the Jurisdictional College of Bishops address the conduct of retired Bishop Jones, Bishop Hayes and Bishop Lowry (who has joined the GMC). Rev. Copeland’s concern regarded the promotion and support of the GMC in UMC congregations and he also had a question regarding Bishop Lowry’s credentials. The College of Bishops will be investigating.
Several reports were offered. Among them was a report from President Carla Cardoza of Lydia Patterson Institute. She shared that LPI experienced an increase in enrollment and continue to serve their students well. She was proud that one of the episcopal candidates was Rev. Dr. Eddie Rivera, an LPI graduate.
The NM and Río Texas Conference Delegations shared breakfast together on Saturday morning with Bishop & Esther Schnase. Bishop Schnase offered the Call to Worship as the Consecration Service began. Bishop Farr presented the sermon, “For and With”. He joked that no one will remember the words of his sermon, given the enormity of what we were about to do. The families of each bishop elect stood with them as they were led to the kneeling rail and consecrated by the other bishops. It was a solemn, sacred, powerful service.