When voting was done Wednesday night, after ten ballots, NCJ delegates had elected three new bishops of The United Methodist Church.
PEORIA, Illinois—It was 9:40 pm CDT, ten ballots down and the North Central Jurisdiction had elected the Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone, the Rev. Dr. Frank Beard and the Rev. Dr. David Bard.
As they went into delegation meetings and then on to sleep on July 13, delegates would rise to the task on Thursday morning of electing one more bishop.
When Bishop Julius Trimble pronounced the Conference adjourned the vote counts for others on the 10th ballot were as follows: Rev. Laurie Haller (West Michigan) 89; Rev. Dr. Gary George (East Ohio) 69; Rev. Dr. Lillian Gallo Seagren (Iowa) 30; Rev. Sylvester Weatherall (Illinois Great Rivers ) 23; and Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai (West Michigan) 21.
“I stand before you as one who feels so very blessed—blessed for the journey, blessed by your prayers, and blessed by your confidence in my leadership,” Smith Malone told delegates from the podium. “I am a child of the church. You raised me. You formed me. And I consider it a privilege and honor to be able to serve the church. To God be the glory.”
Beard, meanwhile, told delegates that in 1968, he was a “snotty-nosed” kid playing around a United Methodist Church when its members invited him for cookies and Kool-Aid—and then provided a scholarship so he could attend United Methodist Church camp. “That little Methodist Church took me under their wing,” he said. “In 1968, it wasn’t popular for white churches to invite little black boys to be part of their congregation.” Beard said that church blessed him and God called him to the glorious task of preaching the good news.
Bard gave thanks to God, whose love in Jesus Christ he said touched a 13-year-old in a United Methodist Church in Duluth, Minnesota—the same place he now serves. “I pledge with God’s grace and the help of God’s spirit and all of your help to work to make The United Methodist Church the best it can be, for us to be a church that indeed offers hope and healing in a broken and battered world,” he said.
Smith Malone and Beard were frontrunners from the very beginning, having garnered the most votes in all of the ballots prior to their election. Bard, meanwhile, ranked seventh on the first ballot based on the number of votes received—but his number of votes increased substantially over the course of the day.
Three candidates withdrew their names from consideration as the day progressed: Rev. David Meredith, Rev. Dr. Christopher Ritter, and Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue. Meredith, an openly gay candidate from the West Ohio Conference, delivered a heartfelt “thank you” when he publicly withdrew after the fourth ballot.
For the first time at a North Central Jurisdictional Conference, delegates are using electronic keypads to enter their votes.
Time for listening, prayer, and sign-acts
After introductions were made and a roll call was taken at the beginning of the first business session, Bishop Julius Trimble, who leads the Iowa Conference, addressed delegates on behalf of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. He made a special calendar request. Trimble noted that the College prayed and reflected upon the news of the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, when members met prior to the start of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. He requested that 75 to 90 minutes be set aside at some point during the conference for “listening, prayer, and sign-acts.” It was approved by an overwhelming margin.
“The business of the church is to be an instrument of God’s grace,” Trimble said in making the request. “In light of the shootings and the angst and anguish that grips our society, we believe there is a need to make time at this conference for prayer and conversation. The anger and hurt that has resulted in protest and, in some cases, violence cannot be divorced from the frustration and historic racism that is systemic and sickening. All is not well with our souls and the souls of our nation,” he concluded.
Conference Secretary Paul White said this time of prayer and conversation will likely take place sometime Friday.
Other key decisions
In Wednesday afternoon plenary, delegates also voted to accept a recommendation of the Committee on Rules and Order to eliminate six of the 13 jurisdictional committees and reassign their duties to others. The committees that will be eliminated are the Committee on Election, the Committee on Agenda, the Committee on Credentials, the Committee on Journals, the Committee on Presiding Officers, and the Committee on Rules of Order.
The 2012 NCJ Conference called for a review of committee structure within the jurisdiction, and the recommendations came out of that review.
Another key decision delegates made Wednesday was to add a stipulation to the procedure on episcopal elections to rule that balloting will continue until the elections are completed by noon on Friday. Diane Brown, a lay delegate from the Detroit Conference and a member of the Committee on Rules of Order, explained that the Committee on Episcopacy can’t have conversations about bishop assignments until all elections have been completed and said committee members need ample time to make such assignments. Should delegates need more time for elections as of noon on Friday, they will have to suspend the newly approved rule in order to continue balloting past that time.
Greeting from Peoria mayor
A number of greetings were delivered during the opening business session—including one from Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. In addition to welcoming visitors, he also made a request.
“I would really like to ask you all…if you would please keep our community in your prayers too,” he said, noting that the power of prayer can’t be underestimated and we must put our faith in Christ. “These are really difficult times right now, and I think we’re all feeling a real heavy weight trying to understand what’s going on in our communities, in our states, and in our country—and, for that matter, in the world.”
Kay DeMoss, Michigan Area, and Christa Meland, Minnesota Conference, contributed to this report.