By: James Deaton and Rev. Cindy Gregorson
The North Central Jurisdictional Conference delegates and episcopal candidates landed in Fort Wayne, Indiana to gather under the theme of We Press On (Philippians 4:13). Rev. Carol Zaagsma, Dave Nuckols, Rev. Woojae Im, and Becky Boland are voting delegates from Minnesota. Alternate delegates attending are Rev. Jeff Ozanne, Walker Brault, Rev. Henry Dolopei, Cindy Saufferer, Rev. Donna Dempewolf, and Shirley Durr.
Black Methodists for Church Renewal held an episcopal forum Tuesday evening to introduce the ten candidates to the delegates. The forum’s purpose was to interview episcopal candidates, one at a time, and gain insight into who or what shapes their understanding of racism in the church and how they will continue the work of dismantling and eradicating racism in their role as bishop.
Each candidate was asked slight variations of the same questions. One question asked candidates how they see racism in the church, “What are resistors to progress in becoming an antiracist church?” A related question inquired about hoped-for results: “How will you know it’s been achieved, that we’ve successfully eradicated and dismantled racism within the church?” Each candidate chose one wildcard question during the forum, and the range of topics included the global nature of The United Methodist Church and emerging issues with General Conference in view. A final question was more personal in nature: “As a member of the College of Bishops and the Council of Bishops, what unique perspective or gift would you bring to each setting that would help shape the future legacy of the UMC?”
So what is needed in an episcopal leader in this time?
Rev. Woojae Im said what he is looking for is a leader who is deeply committed to racial justice and equality; a spiritual leader who is committed to healing the brokenness, scars and division within the system who work for unity; a bold leader dedicated to the full inclusion of LGBTQI persons and all other outcasts, least and lost; a pastoral leader who has deep understanding of and passion for ministry and mission of local churches and a vision casting leader who can lead the denomination with integrity through this turbulent time.
In studying the episcopal needs across the jurisdiction, Rev. Carol Zaagsma noted that there are a lot of similarities.
“Minnesota has an inclusive vision, initiatives around anti-racism and re-structure. We are not unique in that. So watching for candidates who have skills in those initiatives is most important to me,” she said.
In reflecting on the ten candidates, Becky Boland stated that she is excited about the number of strong leaders who have a vision of who we can be and how we get there.
James Deaton is the content editor for the Michigan Conference of the UMC. Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of connectional ministries and clergy assistant to the bishop for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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