The Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church has approved episcopal supervision recommendations for the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ), due to the retirement of four bishops.
The recommendations were made by the SEJ College of Bishops following consultation with the Jurisdictional and respective Annual Conference Committees on Episcopacy.
This follows decisions by Bishops Lawson Bryan (South Georgia Area – South Georgia Conference), Hope Morgan Ward (Raleigh Area – North Carolina Conference), Paul Leeland (Charlotte Area – Western North Carolina Conference) and Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor (Holston Area – Holston Conference) to request retirement effective September 1, 2021.
Under Paragraph ¶407 of the Book of Discipline, the Council of Bishops has authority to fill a vacancy for presidential/episcopal supervision of an episcopal area due to death, retirement (¶ 408.1, .2, .3), resignation (¶ 408.4), judicial procedure (¶ 2712), leave of absence (¶ 410.1), or medical leave (¶ 410.4).
After much prayer and discernment, the bishops have approved the following recommendations for episcopal supervision:
Bishop Ken Carter as the resident bishop of Western North Carolina Conference (Charlotte Area), in addition to his role as resident bishop of Florida Conference (Florida Area).
Bishop Leonard Fairley as resident bishop of North Carolina Conference (Raleigh Area), in addition to his role as resident bishop of Kentucky Conference (Louisville Area).
Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett as resident bishop of Holston Conference (Holston Area), in addition to her role as resident bishop of North Alabama Conference (Birmingham Area).
Bishop David Graves as resident bishop of South Georgia Conference (South Georgia Area), in addition to his role as resident bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference (Alabama-West Florida Area).
The new roles are effective September 1, 2021, and will continue until new bishops are elected in the SEJ. The SEJ Committee on Episcopacy will make the assignment of bishops once the new bishops are elected.
"It is good to see the collaboration that is happening between the Colleges and Committees on Episcopacy as they work together to determine the coverage that best fits the missional needs of the conferences involved,” said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops.
“These are important in-between times that call for collaboration and creative ways to ensure the ministry continues in the conferences,” she added. “The Council has received and affirmed the recommendations of the Colleges for coverage.”
The COB Executive Committee also approved a recommendation from the NCJ College of Bishops of medical leave for Bishop Frank J. Beard effective July 1; and for Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer to serve as interim bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (Illinois Area) until December 31, 2021, while Bishop Beard is on medical leave. Bishop Palmer will continue to serve as resident bishop of the West Ohio Conference (Ohio West Area).