On Monday, two weeks after an announcement that General Conference 2020 has been postponed until next year, all 2020 delegates and alternates in the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) received a letter from Rev. Paul R. White, secretary of the NCJ Conference, indicating that the NCJ Conference will also be postponed, likely until 2021. (See below for full letter.) Prior to the postponement, it was scheduled for July 15-18 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Because the election and assignment of bishops happens at jurisdictional conferences and in light of Bishop Bruce R. Ough's mandatory retirement at the end of August, a big question these postponements raise for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area is: Who will be our bishop between September 2020 and the rescheduled jurisdictional conference? We do not yet know. The North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops and Episcopacy Committee are responsible for arranging episcopal oversight in interim situations, and often it is a retired bishop who serves in that capacity. We will let you know as soon as we have more information about interim episcopal oversight for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area.
Amid all the uncertainty swirling around us in this season, rest assured that the Minnesota Conference will continue to focus on our scriptural imperatives to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world—and we will continue to live into our aspirational vision that envisions a Methodism rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all persons, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation. This extended liminal time does not change who we are as the Minnesota Annual Conference or who we are in Christ. If you haven't already, we encourage you to take some time to read these two documents:
- Better Together names who we are, lets you know what you can count on in and from the Minnesota Annual Conference, and explores how and why we are better together
- Moving Forward: FAQs provides detailed responses to questions you might have related to General Conference, who we are, funding and assets, and structure and status.
The letter recently sent to delegates and alternates is as follows:
Dear NCJ Delegates and Alternates,
I trust you are all doing well and that you are safe and healthy.
After conversation with Bishop David Bard, President of the NCJ College of Bishops, I want to let you know that we received news that all U.S. Jurisdictional Conferences for 2020 are postponed.
Once the dates for the General Conference are finalized, the Council of Bishops will set the date for the Jurisdictional Conference. The plan is for the Commission on General Conference and the Council of Bishops to release a combined announcement of both dates in the very near future.
There are many, many questions about what this means for the work of the Jurisdictions now through the next Jurisdictional Conference (most likely to be in 2021). While there are lots of questions, the answers are unknown. The UMC has never been in this situation before. Rest assured the NCJ College of Bishops, Episcopacy Committee, and Mission Council will be working to find answers to the many questions. As soon as there are specific answers to the myriad of questions, I will share them with you.
I know that even beyond Jurisdictional and General Conference concerns and questions, we are living in the midst of hurting, scared, and worried communities. God will take care of the General and Jurisdictional Conference in God’s time. Much more important than spending time wondering about future meetings, let us join together continuing to pray for the hurting people in our families, in our churches and communities, and in God’s world. Let us also pray for a solution soon that will help alleviate the future threat of Covid-19.
Holy Week Blessings,
Rev. Paul R. White, Secretary