Bishops of The United Methodist Church provide spiritual leadership to more than 11 million persons in a broad range of settings on four continents, including North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Historically, bishops preside over Annual and Central Conferences (regional areas of the church). They play an important leadership role in helping to set the direction of the church and its mission throughout the world.
What are a bishop’s responsibilities?
A bishop serves as a general superintendent for the church, assigned to a geographical area. In the United Methodist tradition, bishops are not “ordained” as bishops, but are clergy elected and consecrated to the office of bishop. Bishops give general oversight to the worldly and spiritual interests of the church. Bishops also have the responsibility to see that the rules and regulations developed by General Conference are carried out. Bishops are responsible for setting all clergy appointments in the annual (regional) conferences they serve. Most bishops also serve on a general agency board, often as the president. The bishop is the presiding officer at the annual conference session and rules on points of law.
How are bishops selected?
Bishops are elected by the jurisdictional conferences in the United States and by the central conferences outside of the United States. “Any clergy member of an annual conference is eligible to be elected a bishop. Nominations or endorsements of individuals are common, but not necessary for election....The number of votes needed to elect a bishop is determined by each jurisdictional conference but the church’s Book of Discipline recommends that at least 60 percent of those present and voting be required to elect. Bishops are consecrated at the jurisdictional conference and are expected to report for work in their new areas September 1.”
How are bishops assigned?
Bishops are assigned by their jurisdiction to serve a geographical area for a four-year term. There are 50 episcopal areas in the United States and 19 episcopal areas outside of the United States. New bishops may not be assigned to the area where they were a clergy member for at least four years after their election. According to ¶407 of the 2004 Book of Discipline, this restriction can be ignored by a two-thirds vote of the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy and a two-thirds vote of the jurisdictional conference.
How long can a bishop serve?
In the U.S., bishops normally serve in one area for up to two terms, but they can continue for a third term with special approval of the jurisdictional conference. Bishops are elected for life and serve in their assignment until retirement (required by the Book of Discipline to be the jurisdictional conference following their 68th birthday).
In the Central Conferences, bishops are elected for a specific term. If not reelected at the end of the term, the bishop returns to the pastorate and is no longer considered a bishop. Bishops who retire while serving their term are considered bishops for life. In the Africa Central Conference, bishops who are reelected for a second term then become bishops for life.
*All information courtesy of www.umc.org. For more information about the Council of Bishops, click here.