South Central Jurisdiction 2016 Conference Summary

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WICHITA, Kan.—Delegations from eight states and 12 annual conferences gathered July 13-16 for the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, held in Wichita’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. Clergy and lay delegates met to elect and assign bishops, and to take care of the business of the jurisdiction for the next four years.

Three new bishops were elected to serve in the South Central Jurisdiction. The third round of balloting brought the election of the Rev. Ruben Saenz Jr., connectional ministries and mission vitality center leader of the Rio Texas Conference. The conference elected the Rev. James “Jimmy” Nunn, director of mission and administration for the Northwest Texas Conference, on the 21st ballot, and on a record 35th ballot the Rev. Robert “Bob” Farr, director of congregational development for the Missouri Conference, was elected to fill the remaining open seat of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops.

The following episcopal assignments were made for the 2016-2020 quadrennium: Arkansas – Bishop Gary E. Mueller; Central Texas – Bishop J. Michael Lowry; Great Plains – Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.; Louisiana – Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey; Missouri – Bishop Robert “Bob” Farr; North Texas – Bishop Michael McKee; Northwest Texas/New Mexico – Bishop Earl Bledsoe; Oklahoma/Oklahoma Indian Missionary – Bishop James G. “Jimmy” Nunn; Rio Texas – Bishop Robert C. Schnase; Texas – Bishop Scott J. Jones.

Although Arkansas originally was allocated three positions in the South Central Jurisdiction Nominations Report, five persons from the Arkansas Conference were eventually elected to serve on General Boards and Agencies:  G. Miller Wilbourn on the Connectional Table; Kelly Murray-Norman on the General Board of Global Ministries; Todd Burris on the United Methodist Publishing House board of directors; the Rev. Rodney Steele on the General Commission on Communications; and the Rev. Mark Norman on the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

In response to the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s election and consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto – a self-avowed lesbian who is legally married to another woman the South Central Jurisdictional Conference approved a motion requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council, the denomination’s high court, on several questions of church law related to the action of the Western Jurisdiction. The Judicial Council is not expected to address the questions raised until its regularly scheduled October meeting.

In other business, delegates approved a motion from the South Central Jurisdiction Mission Council, the College of Bishops and the Mount Sequoyah Center Board of Directors that divests the South Central Jurisdiction from all “ownership interest, control or responsibility” in Mount Sequoyah Center, Inc., a retreat and conference center in Fayetteville, Ark., which has been owned by the Jurisdiction or its predecessor bodies since its founding in 1922. Under terms of agreement, if Mount Sequoyah is sold or becomes profitable, money paid to the SCJ up to $1 million will be given to Lydia Patterson Institute, the Jurisdiction-owned high school in El Paso, Texas, for either its capital campaign or for leadership development programs as part of its operating budget.

The South Central Jurisdiction includes the states of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana and is composed of twelve annual conferences supervised by ten bishops.