This fall begins a season in which Elders in the Baltimore-Washington Conference are asked to discern if they may feel a call to serve as a bishop in The United Methodist Church.
At the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference, which will be held July 13-17, 2020, in Hunt Valley, it is expected that one or two bishops will be elected. The process to choose these bishops begins with the nomination process this fall.
A candidate for the episcopacy may nominate themselves or be nominated by another person by submitting a 500-word statement to the Rev. Sarah Schlieckert, the BWC delegation secretary, by Nov. 30.
The 24-member delegation and alternates, who were elected to represent the Baltimore-Washington Conference at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference meeting, will interview the candidate at their monthly meeting on Jan. 11.
The delegation will bring a recommendation about who they endorse to the BWC Annual Conference Session, which meets May 27-29, 2020, in Baltimore. Nominations can also be received from the floor at that session. Annual Conference members will vote to endorse a candidate(s), who will then go forward to be on the ballot at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
In considering the qualities that they might be looking for in a strong episcopal candidate, the delegation, in a process led by Tracy Collins, came up with a list of qualities and characteristics. (The specific responsibilities of bishops are listed in Paragraph 414 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.)
Essential Qualities and Characteristics of an Episcopal Candidate
From the 2020 BWC Delegation to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference:
- Those who are discerning a call to the episcopacy should be able to articulate Biblical, theological, and spiritual groundings that are at the very core of their personal wholeness and authenticity. These grounding principles should lead to actions that demonstrate a personal relationship with Christ.
- Episcopal candidates should be risk-takers who are prophetic, visionary, courageous, and relational and show a track record for galvanizing others to be the church – bringing together the evangelical and social Gospels – in innovative and compelling ways, fueled by the Holy Spirit and informed by our United Methodist (Wesleyan) heritage. As bishops, they will be required to address the cultural realities, challenges, and sometimes competing dynamics of sustaining communities of faith in rural/small communities, suburbia, and inner-city and gentrifying urban areas. They must demonstrate a willingness to assist communities in developing and claiming new ways of engaging in, and growing, fruitful ministries in these changing environments.
- Episcopal candidates should be servant-leaders, set apart for this special area of ministry and should demonstrate a commitment to removing systemic oppression and discrimination of any and all people; including on the basis of age, ability, racial/ethnic/national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, level of education, geography, theology, ideology, or on the basis of any other identities that cause division.
Additionally, candidates must demonstrate a track record of:
- Racial/ethnic justice and reconciliation;
- Full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning persons in accordance with BWC policies, and behaviors, and actions; and
- A commitment to learning, adopting/developing and deploying a framework/model for Intercultural (or Cross-Cultural) Competence. As leaders in this arena, they should:
- Exercise Cultural Humility – understanding that the world in which one was born is just one model of reality;
- Listen for Understanding – acknowledging that agreement is sometimes optional;
- Assume Positive Intent – as we are all striving toward perfection;
- Examine Assumptions and Perceptions – so that one might avoid projecting one’s own cultural values onto others;
- Respect Different Forms of Expression – understanding that one may not really always understand all the dynamics of any one issue or problem set; and
- Seek Relationship – this is how Jesus lived.
Candidates should demonstrate a vital and renewing spirit. They should be able to show a proven track record of growing vital churches and/or ministries, and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Those seeking this office should also possess a compassionate, calming, and non-anxious presence, and be gifted in conflict resolution and reconciliation as the church navigates through impending changes.
Bishops must possess the executive-level managerial and leadership skills and technological acumen that are necessary to manage complex organizational, missional, programmatic and financial systems through denominational disruption and shifting realities that will directly impact the clergy, staff and laity in communities of faith, as well our partners in ministry and the beneficiaries of our missions throughout the world.
In November, prospective candidates must submit a written statement of qualifications that does not exceed 500 words, to the delegation secretary, Sarah Schlieckert at . The deadline for submissions is Nov. 30.
Questions about the nomination process for episcopal candidates can be addressed to the delegation’s leaders: The Rev. Ianther Mills at , or Cynthia Taylor at