As I mentioned in this post, I spent much of last week at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in Lake Junaluska, NC. I was actually elected as a reserve delegate to the Conference, so it was an honor to go.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC covers the states from Kentucky over to Virginia, down through Florida, over to Mississippi and then back up through Tennessee to Kentucky again. You can read more about the jurisdiction here. The SEJ Conference meets every four years and its primary role is to elect and assign bishops.
What is a bishop in the United Methodist Church? They are specially consecrated pastors who are given oversight responsibility for a large region of Methodist churches. Once elected, a bishop no longer serves a local church but becomes the pastor to all the pastors in a given region.
The bishop for the Western North Carolina Conference, for example, has spiritual responsibility for the 1100 UMCs in the western half of our state as well as the 1500 or so pastors who serve them. Bishops are — in theory at least — responsible for teaching, guarding, and promoting the core doctrines of our faith.
At this year’s Jurisdictional Conference, we in Western North Carolina received a new bishop, Rev. Larry Goodpaster. That’s “Goodpaster,” not “GoodPastor.” You can read about him here. For the last eight years he has been the Bishop in the Alabama-West Florida region of our church. By all accounts, he did an excellent job there. He describes some of that conference’s accomplishments in his recent book, There’s Power In The Connection.
It seems like all of us who represented Western North Carolina were happy with this assignment. I’m not sure what direct impact this will have on Good Shepherd itself, but I sense that this new bishop is the right person at the right time for Methodists in our area.