Yesterday was the first day of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC. The conference will meet for three days, but most of what goes on is fairly peripheral to the election of the bishops. There has been some discussion on the practice of electing bishop and it’s merit – or, rather, it’s lack of merit (Andrew Conard, the Methoblog, and the UM Reporter [you will have to search the site – I can’t be bothered to go through their steps of linking to an actual story]). So far, no replacement system has seemed to gain traction. It is extremely unfortunate that since jurisdictional conferences are also only every four years like General Conference, the UMC elects bishops in the same year as the USA elects its president.
Controversy appears to have been with selecting bishops, even in the early church. How about the Cappadocian fathers where Basil appointed his own brother Gregory to be the bishop of Nyssa? I wonder if trying to overhaul the system would cause as much controversy as what is done now?
Anyway, after the first day and five ballots, there is no clear winner, so voting will continue today. There does appear to be a front runner, Paul Leeland, but that’s no guarantee. He’s about 50 votes off, but I have seen later ballots turn and one who seemed assured slowly drop. Still, we may see a new bishop today.
After the bishop(s) have been elected, it will be time to station them (I have been a British Methodist so long I don’t remember the American Methodist term for this!). Bishops normally ‘reside’ in an episcopal area (usually the boundaries of the annual conference, but not always) for no more than two terms (8 years), afte which they move on to another episcopal area.
Like General Conference, the SEJ is streaming the conference live on their website.