The question was pondered a lot by Missouri conference leaders recently as they interviewed several candidates: “Could this person be our next bishop?”
I’ll describe those interviews below. But first, some background: Bishop Robert Schnase has provided exemplary leadership of our Missouri Conference for almost twelve years. We’re so thankful for his ministry, and we’re glad that he still will be with us to preside over our upcoming annual conference in June. With his twelve years of service, Bishop Schnase has reached the maximum term for a bishop in one area, under our denomination’s current rules. So Missouri will be receiving a new bishop this coming September. Who will be that new bishop? And how will that person be selected?
While there are several possibilities, it could be that our next bishop will be newly elected in July at the Jurisdictional Conference. That’s where delegates from United Methodist conferences in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana will gather to prayerfully discern who should be selected to lead in the role of bishop. Missouri has 24 delegates and 4 alternates, equally balanced with laity and clergy, who will be part of that process. They were elected at our Annual Conference last June. We expect that 3 new bishops will be elected this July, each of whom will be assigned to lead a conference – such as Missouri. They, along with continuing bishops, will be assigned to conferences by a jurisdiction committee composed of representatives from each conference.
Eight candidates have been endorsed by their conference delegations or a recognized organization. Each of the eight has offered to serve and has provided information about themselves, including answers to questions asked of all candidates. We’re excited that among the group are two from Missouri – Bob Farr (endorsed by our delegation) and Lynn Dyke (endorsed by the jurisdiction Women’s Leadership Team).
Our Missouri delegation held interview sessions with each candidate in early March. It was two days of meeting the candidates one-by-one, learning about their ideas for the church, asking questions, praying with and for them, and asking about each one: “could this person be our next bishop?” Listed below are the candidates with their endorsing group.
Each interview lasted about one hour. Delegates had done their homework, reviewing dozens of pages about the candidates and their ideas for the church. Each candidate provided insight ahead of time into their personal theology, appointment-making philosophy, perspective on critical issues facing the church, suggestions about strategies to accomplish our mission, and ideas for working with laity. The interviews then allowed the delegates to see their relational skills and ask follow-up questions.
I was thankful for our delegation and the positive, insightful way they worked together to ask probing questions in their discernment process. And our conference staff and directors provided tremendous “radical hospitality” to each candidate, from a warm greeting and snacks in the hospitality room to personalized tours of our conference facilities and the community of Columbia. I’m certain that Missouri made a very positive impression upon these candidates, which they can relate back home to their delegations.
The discerning process will continue as we see many of the candidates at events in the weeks to come, including during General Conference next month in Portland. Our delegation will meet in early July to share insights again prior to going to Wichita in mid-July for the Jurisdictional Conference and the election process.
What can you and your congregation do now? Pray. Pray for each candidate. Pray for the delegates, especially our Missouri delegates. Pray for pastors, the congregations, and those who can be reached in the mission fields of our conference and our jurisdiction. And pray that God’s Spirit will guide us all into the “new thing” God is planning.
I’m thankful for Bishop Schnase’s leadership the past 12 years. I’m thankful for the opportunities ahead. And I’m excited to be with you in the Methodist movement in Missouri, transforming lives with the timeless message and ongoing ministry of Jesus – whoever our next bishop may be.
Endorsed Episcopal Candidates:
Robert Farr – Missouri conference
Lynn Dyke – Women’s Leadership Team
Ruben Saenz – Rio Texas conference
Jimmy Nunn – Northwest Texas and NM conferences
Morris Matthis – Texas conference
Janice Gilbert – Texas BMCR
David Wilson – Oklahoma Indian Mission conference
Eradio Valverde – Rio Texas MARCHA