Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ! I believe God has an exciting plan for our growth in faith and congregations as we humble ourselves, develop God-sized vision, lead courageously and serve faithfully. I am seeing renewed signs in our spiritual leaders and congregations.
I have just returned from a College of Bishops meeting and want to update you on some of the important things we are working on. Within the United Methodist Church, there are Colleges of Bishops and a Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops is the world-wide gathering of 68 active bishops and more than 70 retired bishops. A College of Bishops is the regional body of bishops. As the bishop assigned to GNJ, I participate in the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops which includes the nine bishops serving in the northeastern part of the United States.
At these meetings we discuss and work on how we will strengthen the church in the northeast to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world. The number of bishops in a region is determined by the number of church members in that region. The number of members in the Northeastern Jurisdiction may slip below the number of members required for nine bishops. If this occurs, we will go from nine active bishops to eight active bishops. To accommodate fewer bishops, conferences are sometimes linked together and served by one bishop, much like a two point charge or one pastor serving two congregations. We already have one such arrangement in the Northeastern Jurisdiction in which one bishop serves both the Eastern Pennsylvania and the Peninsula Delaware Conferences. We will know later this year if we will need to reduce by one bishop in 2016. I will keep you informed as I learn new information.
While such challenges create anxiety for some, others see this as an opportunity for clarity and a renewed call to the mission. There are creative possibilities for how we deal with this challenge. Your College of Bishops is appropriately addressing this challenge and are focusing on what we will do to strengthen congregations, conferences and the jurisdiction. I invite you into the same spirit within your congregation as we serve together as a conference.
Attached is a report that the College of Bishops reviewed about episcopal area supervision. An episcopal area is the conference(s) served by a bishop. It will provide for you a comparison of conferences within the jurisdiction. I commend it for your review so that you may better understand our jurisdiction and GNJ. Click here to read and download the report.
You may have already known that Greater New Jersey is a diverse conference, but you may not have known how that diversity has strengthened us in comparison to other conferences in the Northeast. Some of the steps we have made over the last few years have strengthened our financial position and increased our vitality in comparison to our peers. From the study, you will see that GNJ has laid the foundation for the future.
What’s most important for us now is to stay focused on our mission to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey