By Tyler Sprouse, TWK Communications Specialist

The Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) Conference will be held July 10-12 at Lake Junaluska, NC. At this quadrennial gathering, delegates from each of the SEJ’s 14 Annual Conferences will meet to attend to the jurisdiction’s business, which usually includes the election and assignment of episcopal leaders–a process facilitated by the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy (COE). 

During this summer’s SEJ Conference, the SEJ COE will decide on the new episcopal leader for the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. Bishop McAlilly will retire from the role effective August 31, 2024. 

The UMC Book of Discipline (¶406)* contains an Episcopal Assignment process that guides the SEJ COE’s work.

According to Rev. Harriet Bryan, senior pastor at Madison St. UMC, the committee will work hard to ensure a compatible leader is chosen for our conference. Rev. Bryan and Josh Shaw are the TWK delegates who will represent our conference on the SEJ COE.

“We covenant together to ensure that our work is done faithfully,” said Rev. Bryan. “We have already been hard at work gathering information from members of both the TWK Episcopal Cabinet and the TWK Connectional Table. We consider an array of factors when assessing the current needs of our conference, and we prayerfully strive to ensure a good episcopal match is selected.”

Due to the convergence of the SEJ Conference and General Conference, the SEJ COE has recommended an adjustment to this year’s proceedings.

“At this year’s SEJ Conference,” began Rev. Bryan, who has served on the committee for 11 years, “the COE has voted to recommend to the SEJ that no new bishops are elected. That means that the new bishop for the TWK Conference will be selected from the pool of the SEJ’s current episcopal leaders.”

Though the current needs of our conference have been assessed by the committee, no bishop has, as yet, been chosen. The approved distribution of the U.S. bishops, as determined at the recent General Conference, provides one less bishop to be assigned to the SEJ. This opens up the possibility that the TWK may share a bishop with another nearby conference. That decision will be made by the SEJ COE in July.

“Part of our covenant entails our commitment not to begin this work until we are together [at the SEJ Conference],” continued Rev. Bryan. “We do not know who the next bishop will be.”

As we approach the selection of a new bishop, uncertainty and feelings of anxiousness may be present. However, the SEJ COE assures us that whoever is selected will be the bishop we need.

“We are blessed to have gifted episcopal leaders in the SEJ,” said Rev. Bryan. “I want people to know and trust that our committee does its work collaboratively and prayerfully so that the Holy Spirit can lead our discernment in the selection process. We are trusting God to guide us in this decision.”

*¶ 406. Assignment Process—1. Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy—The jurisdictional committee on episcopacy, after consultation with the College of Bishops, shall recommend the assignment of the bishops to their respective residences for final action by the jurisdictional conference; it shall not reach any conclusion concerning residential assignments until all elections of bishops for that session are completed and all bishops have been consulted. A bishop may be recommended for assignment to the same residence for a third quadrennium. The date of assignment for all bishops is September 1, following the jurisdictional conference.