Message From Bishop Schol | EPA/GNJ Affiliation

November 22, 2022 | | GNJ News, Messages from the Bishop

See, I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it. -Isaiah prophesied

New Appointment Announcement and EPA/GNJ Affiliation Update

Dear United Methodists of EPA and GNJ,

We are living in a challenging season as we emerge from the pandemic, disaffiliation and the continuing movement of secular culture away from religion and the church. But every time, in the midst of challenge, God has been ready to do a new thing. For a tormented people enslaved in Egypt, or a wandering people on a dusty trail in the wilderness, or three young people in a fiery furnace standing up to a king, or a huddled group of disciples in an upper room, God was working a new thing.

Can’t you see it? God’s new thing is springing up all around us even today. (Isaiah 43:19 and 65:16-17).

At the most recent Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference (NEJ) where we elect new bishops, the conference could have elected four bishops but chose to elect only one, in part because of membership and financial realities. It is becoming clearer that alignments and affiliations between conferences will be the future model within the NEJ, and that EPA and GNJ will be working together into the future.

For months, leadership from both conferences have recognized this possibility and have asked what is the new thing God wants to do? What will we do so that the mission thrives during the challenges? After prayer and discernment, we believe that new thing is to collaborate to enhance and grow the mission of Jesus Christ through our congregations.

The question is, how will the mission thrive in EPA and GNJ? What can we do better, more effectively and more efficiently together to serve Christ, the church and the world? To prepare for this, there have been steps taken already to better align mission and ministry. These alignments have included a common purpose or mission, shared goals, shared commitments and collaborative ministries. Some things have already been approved by our Connectional Tables, Councils on Finance and Administration and the extended cabinets of both EPA and GNJ. Some things are in the planning stages.

To assist with these strategic alignments, Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, starting December 1, 2022, will be appointed as the Assistant to the Bishop for EPA and GNJ, and Director of Connectional Ministries for EPA. Dawn will lead the planning and implementation of the strategic alignments as we affiliate ministry and mission.

The following are areas that are in progress or we are moving toward.

  • Regionalization – staff collaboration to develop leaders and congregations through regions. There will be four regions, two in each conference.
    • EPA – North-West Region (sharing resourcing and staff between the North and West Districts).
    • EPA – South-East Region (sharing resourcing and staff between the South and East Districts).
    • GNJ – Metro Highlands Region (sharing resourcing and staff between the Skylands, Meadowlands and Raritan Shore Districts).
    • GNJ – Coastal Plains Region (sharing resourcing and staff between the Cape Atlantic, Central and Delaware Bay Districts).

The regions will have a district superintendent for each district, assisting/circuit elders, regional resource staff and a regional administrator. The regional administrators from both conferences will work as a team to support the administration of the districts. An entire regional team will work together to recruit and develop transformational leaders to make disciples of Jesus Christ and grow vital mission congregations for the transformation of the world.

  • Appointments – the two appointment cabinets will work together to make appointments.
  • Leadership Development – leadership development staff from both conferences will work together to develop lay and clergy leadership.
  • Connectional Ministries/Pathways – EPA and GNJ will share ministry to grow vital congregations, develop leadership and grow community partnerships. For instance, GNJ has a strong youth conference, IGNITE, that has attracted 1,500 young people. EPA has a strong camping and retreat ministry that attracts more than 11,000 guests a year. Both conferences will share resourcing and best practices in the following areas.
    • Youth
    • Camping and Retreats
    • Ending the Sin of Racism
    • Ethnic Ministry
    • Urban Ministry
    • Hope and Wholeness Centers
  • Communication – The communication teams of EPA and GNJ will be combined to form one communications team under the direction of Rev. James Lee, communications director. The staff from EPA and GNJ will focus on their assigned ministry area for both EPA and GNJ.
  • Database – Explore using one database so that staff from both EPA and GNJ are using similar platforms.
  • Conflict Resolution – This has already begun, with Nicola Mulligan, assistant to the bishop, for administration and conflict resolution will continue to engage with congregations from EPA and GNJ that are experiencing conflict.
  • Project Management – both EPA and GNJ will use a project management approach for different projects with one person overseeing all project teams.

EPA and GNJ will not be affiliating budgets, pension programs, property insurance programs, administrative agencies, chancellors, or legal work. But we will focus on ministry and mission together and provide administrative support for the ministry life of both conferences. The goal of our affiliation is to enhance our mission to recruit and develop transformational leaders to make disciples and grow vital mission congregations for the transformation of the world.

For further understanding, below is an FAQ, a timeline, and a schedule of three webinars to respond to your questions and elaborate on the affiliation of EPA and GNJ.

In the midst of challenges, God is doing a new thing. Now God is ready to grow our mission together.

Keep the faith!

Bishop John Schol
The United Methodists of
Greater New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania
Equipping transformational leaders for 
New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Timeline and Webinar Dates


  • Will EPA and GNJ be merging?

No. This is not a plan of merger but affiliation.

  • What is the difference between affiliation and merger?

In their affiliation, EPA and GNJ will remain distinct conferences with their own tax exempt and incorporation status. A merger is where two entities become one organization and merge all functions together. Most functions between the two conferences will remain distinct and separate, such as pension programs, finances, health insurance programs and property insurance programs. Affiliations ask, “What can we do better together for the mission?”

  • Is a merger anticipated in the future?

No. This is not a step toward merger. It is aligning certain ministry functions so that the mission thrives.

Clergy Appointments

  • If the cabinets of EPA and GNJ will be working together, will they be appointing clergy across conference boundaries?

Rarely, and the pastor must agree to be appointed across conference boundaries. From time-to-time, clergy ask to be appointed in another conference because of family or other needs or an interest in a particular ministry. The superintendents may also initiate such an appointment when there is a strategic opportunity.

  • If a clergy person is appointed across conference boundaries, does the clergy person have to become a member of the other conference?

No. They continue their membership in the same conference. Clergy must request to join another conference.

  • Will each conference be able to see each other’s appointments?

Yes. Open churches and new appointments will be listed on both EPA and GNJ websites, and clergy may communicate interest in any of the appointments.

Assistant to the Bishop

  • Will there be two assistants to the bishop, and will they work with both conferences?

Yes. Dawn Taylor-Storm will oversee the affiliation of EPA and GNJ and work to align each region with resourcing leaders and congregations, as well as lead particular ministries shared by both EPA and GNJ. Nicola Milligan will oversee conflict resolution, episcopal office administration and appointment process management.

Leadership Development

  • Will leadership development opportunities be reported in both EPA and GNJ?

Yes, and lay and clergy leaders will have the opportunity to sign up for workshops in either conference.

  • Will any leadership programs be combined?

Possibly. For example, if there are only a few clergy available for the Residence in Ministry (RIM), there may be one RIM offering. Certified Lay Ministry, Christ Servant Ministry and Local Pastors School trainings and other programs may fall into this category as well.

Ending the Sin of Racism

  • How will ending the sin of racism be affiliated?

Both EPA and GNJ have had important anti-racism initiatives. Today, the focus is on education and action, including congregational plans to end the sin of racism in the church and community. Both EPA and GNJ will continue their present strategies and leadership, but they will be able to participate in one another’s training and planning efforts.

Camping and Youth

  • Will camp & retreat ministry and youth ministry opportunities be available for EPA and GNJ youth?

Yes, IGNITE youth conferencing will continue to be offered and will be open to both GNJ and EPA. In addition, camping and retreat ministry opportunities will be provided to both conferences, including confirmation camp, summer programming and year-long retreat opportunities.


  • If there is one communications team between both conferences, to whom do I send information?

All communication material is to be sent to or The material will all go to the same person who shares the information across the team.

  • What happened to the communication staff that worked for my conference?

They continue to work with the team. The team includes:
Director of Communications – James Lee
Editorial Manager – John Coleman
Video Producer – Corbin Payne
Communications Strategist – Laura Canzonier
Graphic Designer – Linsey Cotman
IT and Web Specialist – David Beverly

  • Will there be one communication media source for both conferences?

No, there will be the present communications media for both EPA and GNJ: dual websites, newsletter and newspapers. This question may be revisited in the future.


  • Will this increase apportionments?

No. Apportionment rates will not increase because of affiliation.

  • Will there be cost savings?

Not initially, but it is anticipated that better efficiencies will be created, and cost sharing may save money. Any savings will be invested in the mission and in our congregations.

  • Will there be one budget?

No, each conference will maintain its own budget, finances and apportionment systems.

  • Will there be one annual conference session?

No, each conference will continue its own annual conference and conduct the business of annual conference separately.


  • How will staffing work if there is joint resourcing and programs?

There is still more work to be done on staffing and reporting. As listed above, the combined communications staffing is one model, with one director and staff serving both conferences in their ministry area of expertise.

  • Will any staff be let go?

No, staff will continue in their roles and be organized into an EPA/GNJ team.

Will Affiliation Work?

  • How will we know if affiliation is working?

Affiliations have been working in nonprofit organizations, hospitals, corporations and higher education. They have been successful in helping their mission thrive and creating efficiencies and better quality. This is our aim as well; to help the mission thrive and increase efficiencies and quality. This work will begin as an 18-month pilot effort. At the end of 18 months, it will be evaluated by each conference, with input from lay and congregational leaders across both EPA and GNJ. We will measure:

  • Are we growing more leaders and improving the abilities of leadership? Measured by an increase in the number of leaders participating in leadership development programs and the number of clergy available for appointments.
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number and quality of vital mission congregations? Measured by the number of vital congregations–that is, increases in worship attendance, small groups, new disciples, disciples engaged in community mission, and giving.
  • Is the administration of the affiliated areas being done with excellence? Measured through surveys of clergy and lay leadership.
  • Are we able to do more without increasing costs to congregations? Measured by maintaining the percent of the budget apportioned to congregations.
  • Who has reviewed the affiliation work and who will continue to review the work?

Human resources, CFA, Connectional Table and Extended Cabinets of both conferences have reviewed the initial affiliations, communications, regionalization and training. They will continue to monitor the work and progress.

The cabinets began having retreats, joint training and appointment procedure alignments more than six months ago. The cabinets will meet together starting January 1, 2023, for appointment-making.

  • What happens if affiliation does not work, or everything does not go as planned?

There will be regular reports to CFA and the Connectional Table and surveys of leaders in both EPA and GNJ. Adjustments will be made along the way. If it is not producing the desired results after 18 months, because the present structures, budgets, finances and staffing will be maintained in both EPA and GNJ, all or some of the affiliations can be ended without significant disruption to either EPA or GNJ.

What can lay and clergy leadership do to help the mission and affiliation thrive for Christ and the Church?
The leadership of EPA and GNJ recognize the pandemic has impacted congregations, its mission, and clergy and lay leadership. The staff of EPA and GNJ want to do all we can to support you through this season.

We also recognize there will be aspects of affiliation that will not go as planned or as designed.  We pledge to continue to improve. Here are some things you can do to  be helpful.

  • Pray for the leadership and staff of both EPA and GNJ during this time. They are also praying for you.
  • Take time to complete the surveys. Generally, they will occur in the fall and spring. Your feedback helps us to improve.
  • Let us manage each other up. Instead of talking down the conference or staff, recognize the things that are going well and focus on the positive. We have a better chance of improving through positive reinforcement than through negativity. Also, know that staff continue to stamp out talking negatively about congregations and clergy. It is not of God.
  • If you have experience with affiliations, please share with us what you learned, what cautions to take and how to do this well.
  • Engage. Give the affiliation ministries a chance, even 2nd and 3rd chances, by participating in the various resourcing activities offered.

What does success look like?
A seamless shift to affiliated ministries, so that EPA and GNJ laity and clergy hardly realize what conference person is doing the work but appreciate that their experiences are positive and rewarding.


  • Appointment of Dawn Taylor-Storm as Assistant to Bishop – December 1, 2022
  • Regionalization – January 1, 2023
  • Affiliation in Appointments – January 1, 2023
  • Affiliation in Leadership Development – April 1, 2023
  • Affiliation in Connectional Ministries & Pathways:
    • Youth Ministries– March 1, 2023
    • Camping & Retreats– March 1, 2023
    • Urban Ministries – May 1, 2023
    • Hope and Wholeness Centers – May 1, 2023
    • Ending the Sin of Racism – May 1, 2023
    • Racial-Ethnic Ministries – May 1, 2023
  • Affiliation in Communications – December 1, 2022
  • Affiliation in Databases – Exploration by January 15 and implementation June 1, 2023
  • Affiliation in Conflict Resolution – Already occurring
  • Project Management Procedures – May 1, 2023

Webinars for Further Clarification and to Answer Questions
The following link will be used for each session.

  • Wednesday, December 7, 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.
  • Thursday, December 8, 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 8, 7:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.