By Jessica Connor
After a gathering that included the election of five new bishops for The United Methodist Church, the passage of a $4.4 million budget and the election of dozens of men and women to a host of church boards and agencies, delegates headed home to prepare for the next four years of denominational disciple-making.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church elected five new bishops: one woman and four men, including one African-American voted in on the very first ballot and the first Korean-American bishop in the SEJ.
Consecrated during a service Friday morning, July 20, new bishops are as follows: Jonathan Holston (North Georgia nominee, on Ballot #1), Ken Carter (Western North Carolina nominee, on Ballot #3), Bill McAlilly (Mississippi nominee, on Ballot #5), Debbie Wallace-Padgett (Kentucky nominee, on Ballot #11) and Young Jin Cho (Virginia nominee, on Ballot #29).
Carter actually was elected twice. The first election, on Ballot #2, was ruled invalid because of a system malfunction, though he had received the most number of votes. Taking the stage to a standing ovation after the valid results of Ballot #3, Carter quipped, "Thank you each time."
The fifth and final bishop, Cho, was elected 20 hours after the fourth bishop, Wallace-Padgett. Cho had garnered slender votes earlier in the election process, but numbers climbed steadily, until he took the lead and ultimately achieved election.
The 13 bishops of the SEJ have been assigned their locations. Announced by the SEJ’s Committee on Episcopacy July 19 just after 10 p.m., the assignments will take effect Sept. 1.
Bishops James Swanson, Hope Morgan Ward and Mary Virginia Taylor are changing locations. Swanson will move from the Holston Conference to the Mississippi Conference. Ward will move from the Mississippi Conference to the North Carolina Conference. And Taylor will move from the South Carolina Conference to the Holston Conference.
The five new bishops have been assigned as follows: Carter will serve the Florida Conference. Cho will serve the Virginia Conference. Holston will serve the South Carolina Conference. McAlilly will serve the Memphis and Tennessee conferences. And Wallace-Padgett will serve the North Alabama Conference.
The five remaining bishops will continue in their current assignments: Lindsey Davis, Kentucky and Red Bird Missionary conferences; Larry M. Goodpaster, Western North Carolina Conference; James King, South Georgia Conference; Paul L. Leeland, Alabama -West Florida Conference; and B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Conference.
Delegations hosted receptions for their bishops following the announcement of assignments.
Five retiring bishops honored
Also July 19, the SEJ celebrated the denominational service of five retiring bishops, including the first female bishop elected in this jurisdiction. Honored through a video montage and words from the podium were Alfred Wesley Gwinn Jr., Charlene Kammerer, William H. Willimon, Richard J. Wills Jr. and Timothy Whitaker.
Jurisdiction’s budget halved
Besides the election of bishops, the SEJ passed a $4.4 million budget for 2013-2016 that is exactly half of the $8.8 million budget for the last quadrennium. The drastically reduced budget eliminates operational funds for agencies, plus reflects a significant savings because a Lake Junaluska debt will soon be paid off. Also, apportionment payments for every conference also have been halved.
Social media has big impact
As with General Conference 2012, many delegates and attendees turned to social media to pray, debate, discuss and express concerns – or add some much-needed humor to the gathering.
Facebook was a platform for many delegates, conferences, agencies and United Methodist newspapers. Twitter also was a major player in the discussion, from more mainstream/official Twitter accounts, such as @sejumc (the jurisdiction’s account), @UMNS and @lake_junaluska, to tweets by various annual conferences, to the edgier, more comedic accounts, such as @GhostJohnWesley and @FakeUMCDS.
Several bishops and episcopal nominees also used Twitter throughout the gathering.
Flickr, a photo-sharing site, also was widely used during the gathering.
Photos from Jurisdictional Conference 2012 are online at www.flickr.com/lakejunaluska.
Planning for Jurisdictional Conference 2016 has already begun.