One more year: General, jurisdictional conferences and bishop’s tenure postponed to 2021

By Jessica Brodie

Everything slated for 2020 now appears to be pushed to 2021.

The Commission on the General Conference has announced new 2021 dates for The United Methodist Church's General Conference following the postponement of the event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The quadrennial legislative event will now take place Aug. 29 to Sept. 7, 2021, though still at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis.

On the heels of the postponed 2020 General Conference, jurisdictional conferences have also been pushed back. Now, all jurisdictional conferences in the United States—including the Southeastern Jurisdiction’s—will be held Nov. 10-12, 2021.

This also means South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston will remain as resident bishop here through that next session of the SEJ Conference.

The SEJ Committee on Episcopacy, in consultation with the SEJ College of Bishops and the UMC Council of Bishops, decided to continue current episcopal assignments through the dates of the SEJ Conference.

“Felecia and I are so pleased to have the privilege of continuing to serve in South Carolina,” Holston said about the news that he will remain in South Carolina. “We are eager to build on our eight years of ministry with each of you—seeking a more excellent way as we strive to live beyond the bounds of expectations.

With the extension of the 2016 quadrennium by the COB, all board members whose term of office ends in 2020 will also be extended until the quadrennium ends, said the Rev. Joseph James, chair of the South Carolina Conference Board of Nominations. This applies also to what this annual conference refers to as “non-quadrennial” as well, James said. There will be no election in 2020 of any board, agency, commission or committee whose members are nominated by the Conference Committee on Nominations.

The new conferences will not be called the 2021 General and Jurisdictional conferences but rather the “postponed General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference 2020.”

Why next year?

The Commission on the General Conference said they decided to focus on 2021 as it was not feasible to schedule anything earlier with so much uncertainty over international travel and the spread of the pandemic.

They wanted to remain in Minneapolis as, “Nearly seven years of pre-planning and preparations by the host team have gone into this event,” said Kim Simpson, chair of the commission.

This is not the first time a health issue has shifted dates for a General Conference, the commission noted. The start date of the 1800 General Conference was moved up from October 20 to May 6 because of the prevalence of yellow fever during the fall.

‘Unceasing prayer’

Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey said the November dates chosen by the bishops for the Jurisdictional Conferences intentionally followed the postponed 2020 General Conference.

According to Para. 26 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, bishops have authority to set dates for the Jurisdictional Conferences. Para. 30 of the Discipline states that Central Conferences outside the United States will be held within a year following the postponed 2020 General Conference, now slated for 2021.

“The Council of Bishops encourages the entire United Methodist Church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide us through these unprecedented times of challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. God, who has been with us on this journey, will see us through and bring us together in praise and worship,” the call letter from Harvey stated.

‘Thrilled’ Holston will stay on

As for Holston’s stay until November 2021, South Carolina’s two representatives on the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy, Dr. Tim McClendon and Barbara Ware, expressed deep pleasure and gratitude about the decision.

“I hope this means Bishop Holston will remain for the entire quadrennium,” said McClendon, pastor of St. John’s UMC in Aiken.

“I have seen so much progress in the way we work together as laity and clergy,” said Ware, the conference lay leader. “I am thrilled to know Bishop Holston and his wonderful spouse, Felecia, will continue to be a part of our South Carolina family.”

Holston was elected as bishop on the very first ballot at the 2012 SEJ Conference. He was assigned as resident bishop to the South Carolina Conference and reassigned here for a second quadrennium in 2016.

McClendon and Ware—with the extension of the 2016 quadrennium by the COB—will remain on the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy and will represent the South Carolina Conference in the assignment of its next bishop.

For more on the postponed General Conference, click here.

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