Bishop elections continue around globe

Liberian Area Bishop John G. Innis distributes Holy Communion at First United Methodist Church in Monrovia marking his return to Liberia at the end of the Ebola crisis. Innis is one of four African bishops scheduled to retire this year. ~umns photo/Julu Swen

United Methodist Central Conferences will elect and re-elect bishops over the coming eight months.

JOEY BUTLER
United Methodist News Service

Over the coming months and into next spring, the United Methodist central conferences will meet to elect new bishops.

Central conferences are United Methodist regions in Africa, Asia and Europe. While the U.S. jurisdictional conferences all met in July of this year, the central conferences gather on varying schedules. The earliest is the Africa Central Conference in August and the latest being Germany in March 2017. Only some of the central conferences have bishop elections.

There are seven central conferences — Africa, Central and Southern Europe, Congo, Germany, Northern Europe and Eurasia, Philippines and West Africa.

They will meet as follows:

•Africa Central Conference: Aug. 11-14

•Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference: Oct. 19-23

•Philippines Central Conference: Nov. 28-Dec. 4

•West Africa Central Conference: Dec. 13-16

•Congo Central Conference: March 6-10, 2017

•Central and Southern Europe Central Conference: March 8-12, 2017

•Germany Central Conference: March 15-19, 2017

A total of five bishops in the central conferences are scheduled to retire:

Bishop John Innis (Liberia) in the West Africa Central; Bishops Kainda Katembo (Southern Congo), Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo (North Katanga) and Bishop David Yemba (Central Congo) from Congo Central; and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner from Germany Central.

All three bishops in the Philippines — Bishop Peter Torio (Baguio), Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco (Davao), Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso Juan (Manila) — will be running for re-election. Bishops in the Philippines face re-election every four years. Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda of the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area is also running for re-election in Africa. If Unda is re-elected, he is a bishop for life. Bishop Christian Alsted, Nordic-Baltic Episcopal area, is also up for re-election to a four-year term.

The 2016 General Conference passed new legislation that mandated a central conference bishop whose 68th birthday is reached on or before the opening day of his or her scheduled conference “shall be retired at a date no later than three months following the adjournment of General Conference,” which ended May 20.

Though only Africa Central will meet within that three-month window, the new legislation did not affect any of the bishops already scheduled to retire, and did not lead to the retirement of any other active bishops.

At its February 2016 annual meeting, the Liberia Conference upheld legislation banning divorced clergy from running for bishop before endorsing two episcopal candidates to send to the West Africa Central Conference for election in December 2016.

It is unclear whether nominations will be taken from the floor or if the West Africa Central Conference will overturn the Liberia divorce rule. Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu, secretary of the College of Bishops of the Central Conferences, said the committee must meet in collaboration with the West Africa College of Bishops to establish guidelines for the conduct of the election. Retiring Bishop John Innis is president of the West Africa College of Bishops.

“Whatever guidelines or rules we develop have to be ratified by the delegates of the central conference,” Yambasu said.

The new bishop will be assigned to the Liberia Annual Conference.

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