Pundits, consultants, and political leaders are all giving their summaries, analyses, and projections about the future based on recent election results. What is hardly covered by most media is the impact of the elections on the future of The United Methodist Church. These 2022 elections are a bellwether for our denominational future. This week the future of the UMC is already coming into sharp focus.

Okay, I admit it: my headline for this piece is a lame attempt at “click bait”. You likely think the headline refers to this week’s national mid-term elections as a datapoint for projecting the future of the United Methodist Church. There are, indeed, some dynamics in the midterms that I think are contextually informative for church leaders, but I have in mind a different set of elections entirely.

Last week the five Jurisdictional (Regional) Conferences of the United Methodist Church in the USA met to elect bishops. The results of the election of bishops unequivocally signal the future direction of the UMC.

Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter, Lead Pastor of First UMC in Geneseo, Illinois and the curator/commentator on www.peopleneedjesus.net, is a premier source for news and analysis regarding the UMC. I especially appreciate that he notably avoids the frequent reactionary swamp-fever hyperventilation of others. If you are not familiar with his compendium of pertinent United Methodist news and analysis, you should login and, I recommend, subscribe for the modest monthly cost. You will receive a weekly analysis as well as access to a compendium of all the news and social media scuttlebutt from various perspectives and sources within the larger landscape of United Methodism.

Here’s Dr. Ritter’s round-up of the results and impact of our recent Jurisdictional elections, included here with his permission:


The Future UMC Sets Its Course

By Chris Ritter

Just a few years ago, we would not think of talking about the United Methodist denomination setting a course without the action of General Conference. But the old days are gone. Control of the United Methodist Church institution has been successfully wrested by a progressive/centrist coalition that ran U.S.-based elections in 2019. While the people in the pews are just about who and what they have always been, a new regime holds the levers of power.

The jurisdictional conferences came pre-loaded with presentations supporting LGBTQ rights and, especially, transgenderism. The South Central Jurisdiction sent a video apology to the Western Jurisdiction for questioning the election of lesbian bishop, Karen Oliveto, in 2016. The Western Jurisdiction elected its second gay bishop, Cedrick Bridgeforth, who seems to have married his long-time partner, Chris, in an October 1 wedding just prior to jurisdictional conference.

The consecration of Bridgeforth as a bishop seems to be hitting Africa with more force than the election of Bishop Oliveto. It will be more difficult for African Bishops to hold the church together awaiting General Conference 2024.

Dottie Escobedo-Frank was elected by the Western Jurisdiction. Her local church bio: “Dottie believes we are living in a time of epochal change, which requires the church find sacred ways to die in order to be reborn. She calls for heretics and edge-dwellers to lead the church forward. Now is the time, she says, to push these new leaders to the forefront of church restarts.”

Tom Berlin, who called the Traditional Plan a virus like unto Ebola during a speech at General Conference 2019, was elected and appointed to the Florida Conference. None of the thirteen elected bishops support the current teachings of the United Methodist Church on marriage and human sexuality. The Northeastern Jurisdiction refrained from electing a second planned bishop when a female candidate willing to uphold the current Discipline was gaining traction against Jay Williams, an LGBTQ activist. The rules were amended to hold off on elections until 2024.

Stan Copeland took the floor of the South Central Jurisdiction to shame three bishops he accused of cooperating with churches seeking to disaffiliate. The South Central Jurisdiction accomplished an unprecedented feat of electing all three bishops on the first ballot. This signals tight coordination among multiple delegations… “You vote for ours, and we’ll vote for yours.” The Western Jurisdiction, however, had an impossibly large slate of candidates and became deeply mired in identity politics and charges of racism. This most progressive UMC jurisdiction took the unprecedented step of going into executive session to hear people’s complaints. They were the last to complete elections.

Identity politics were evident In the Southeastern Jurisdiction, as well. The Rev. Sharon Austin, a candidate for bishop from the Florida Conference, described the process as “humiliating” and objected to be submitted to the scrutiny of the “White gaze.” For all its talk of diversity, the United Methodist Church is nearly the whitest in America, second only to the Lutherans. Most of its people of color live outside the U.S. and are staunchly traditional on human sexuality. These new bishops, however, are bishops of the entire church and funded by the general church.

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the only body empowered to speak on behalf of The United Methodist Church. The Book of Discipline forbids church funds from being used to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. Practicing homosexuals are not to be ordained or accepted as candidates for ministry. While the Judicial Council has ruled the consecration of a gay bishop as a violation of church law, that ruling was ignored by Western Jurisdiction bishops.

A second wave of church disaffiliations is now forming to beat the expiration of the disaffiliation process next year. There was nothing in the 2022 jurisdictional conference session to encourage traditionalists that they will have a role in the UMC beyond payment of apportionments and being targeted for re-education.


One Other Thing

Newly elected Bishop Dan Schwerin has been assigned to the Northern Illinois Conference. He will begin his tenure in the NIC on January 1, 2023. Click for more information on our new bishop.

Rev. Dan Schwerin Biographical Information

Click here

Rev. Dan Schwerin Video Interview

Rev. Dan Schwerin from Dakotas UMC on Vimeo.

During the month of August 2022, each registered candidate was invited to a 15-minute interview where they were each asked the same questions. Some interviews exceeded the allotted time, but we have chosen to share all of them in their entirety.

To return to the NCJ website’s candidate information directory, click this link: http://www.ncjumc.org/episcopal-candidates-biographical-information/

Rev. Dan Schwerin Video Greeting to NIC

Bishop Schwerin Greeting from Northern Illinois Conference on Vimeo.

Newly-elected and consecrated Bishop Dan Schwerin

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REV. DR. SCOTT N. FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT N. FIELD

Interim President
Wesleyan Covenant Association
1 Corinthians 15:58

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