In early 2021, when finances in The United Methodist Church looked very bad, the General Council on Finance and Administration recommended that all US jurisdictions consider reducing the number of bishops to save money. In response to that, Western Jurisdiction (WJ) delegates met in February, but it was apparent that we were not ready to reduce the number of bishops without looking at the whole mission and operation of the jurisdiction. The WJ Mission Cabinet commissioned five workgroups to explore how the jurisdiction’s work should adapt to a world that is changing quickly, to challenges posed by shifting denominational realities, and to an emerging vision for more collaboration across the region, including within the episcopacy.
After receiving initial reports at a special session in July of 2021, general conference delegates have taken the lead in further developing the initial reports and are currently bringing them in front of other interested United Methodists. The four groups explored these issues: the jurisdiction’s mission statement; theological and missional context for the work of bishops; the jurisdiction’s commitment to permeable boundaries across annual conferences and episcopal areas for the sake of mission and ministry; and the jurisdiction’s administrative and financial oversight.
The final versions of their reports were posted in September. A video summary (available above) was added in early November along with a feedback form where you can also submit your thoughts upon reading the reports.
Each annual conference is holding discussion and feedback sessions. The Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest conferences will have a joint discussion forum on January 23. Interested United Methodists in the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences are invited to register for this forum today.
These reports are not intended to be legislation, but the reports and the feedback received will form the basis of legislation that will shape the future of ministry in the WJ. If you are interested in the ministry of the UMC beyond your local setting, your input is needed.
The next step in this process is to write legislation based on material in the reports. The General and Jurisdictional Conference sessions are scheduled for later this year, but the pandemic has put this schedule in doubt. The leaders of the WJ feel strongly that we cannot stop and wait to see what the future will be. There is much to do to share God’s love in the world, and we must continue to work toward ways to do that work most effectively. We invite all United Methodists to participate in this process.
- By Jan Nelson, on behalf of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest general and jurisdictional conference delegations.