Tighter ministry

By Jessica Brodie

Our jurisdiction might be getting smaller—but this is not a bad thing.

For those who need a refresher on our denominational organization, The United Methodist Church in the United States is organized into jurisdictions—regions of the country. South Carolina is part of the Southeastern Jurisdiction, and as the Page 1 article SEJ to Consider Reduction in Episcopal Areas from 13 to 10 explains, disaffiliation within the SEJ is prompting some changes.

In November 2022, the SEJ voted to go from 14 episcopal areas in the Southeastern Jurisdiction to 13 starting in January 2023. Now, if delegates to SEJ Conference approve when they gather July 10-12, the SEJ will shift to just 10 episcopal areas. No new bishops would be elected this session if so, and as one bishop is retiring—Bishop Bill McAlilly—this means the remaining 10 bishops would be assigned among the 10 episcopal areas.

(The proposal would combine the Alabama-West Florida, North Alabama and South Georgia conferences into one area and would combine the Holston Conference into one area with the Central Appalachian Missionary and Kentucky Conference. South Carolina would remain as-is under the proposal, as would the rest of the conferences.)

The proposal is coming from the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy and is supported by the SEJ College of Bishops. In their Jan. 8 letter summarizing the proposal, they noted their recommendation to elect no new bishops comes “in consideration of the conversations around the connection and a prayerful response to the impact of disaffiliations in our areas.”

The Advocate thinks this is a good idea.

The United Methodist Church is in a time of change. While change can be scary, it can also be magnificent, ushering in a season of tremendous growth that enables the Holy Spirit to soar with vibrant power among God’s people. Yes, some churches are leaving. Yes, finances are getting tighter. Some things might end, while a great number of things will likely begin.

It’s logical and necessary that we make changes and streamline our organizational systems as we adapt and align ourselves with our new reality.

God provides for God’s people, and things truly will work out exactly as God intends. And we can trust that whatever it is God intends will be absolutely, irrepressibly wonderful.

We serve a mighty God, and we humans cannot get in the way of God’s plan and purpose. There is nothing we can do that will mess up what God wants to do in the world through the UMC.

So let’s embrace the coming changes with open hearts and minds, ready and excited for whatever it is that God is doing.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (NIV).

Amen. Thanks be to God.

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