60 Jurist 85 (2000)
Episcopacy, Democracy, and Leadership in the United Methodist Church

handle is hein.journals/juristcu60 and id is 87 raw text is: THE JURIST 60 (2000) 85-102

EPISCOPACY, DEMOCRACY, AND LEADERSHIP
IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
WILLIAM B. LAWRENCE*
On the eve of Ash Wednesday 2001, at Methodism's mountain retreat
center called Lake Junaluska, an extraordinary event occurred. For the
first time ever in the denomination's history, a special called session of a
Jurisdictional Conference' assembled for the sole purpose of electing a
bishop.
The only thing truly extraordinary about it was the fact that a special
session was called. The late Bishop Cornelius Henderson, who while
battling a serious illness had just begun a new four year assignment in
Florida on September 1, 2000, died on December 7, 2000. He was just
three months into his term. Though a retired bishop could have been as-
signed to serve the remaining period of the quadrennium, the Jurisdic-
tional College of Bishops exercised its prerogative to call the special ses-
sion in order to have a new bishop chosen.2 Since the jurisdictional
system was created in 1939, no such called session had ever been sum-
moned. Therefore, it really was an extraordinary occasion.
However, everything else about the event was rather ordinary, at least
in the way that United Methodist polity operates these days. From the
nine states and fifteen annual conferences of the Southeastern Jurisdic-
tion came five hundred and twenty four credentialed delegates (half of
* Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology,
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.
1 In 1939, when three Methodist bodies (The Methodist Protestant Church, The
Methodist Episcopal Church, and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South) reunited to
form The Methodist Church, an organizational unit was created to satisfy some demands
that the reunion be regionally and racially segregated. Six jurisdictions were established:
five of them were regional (Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central, Western);
the sixth jurisdiction was called the Central, and it included all of The Methodist Church's
black congregations in the nation. In 1968, the Central Jurisdiction and its segregated
structures were eliminated, with the predominantly African American United Methodist
Churches being assigned to their regional jurisdictions. So the Jurisdictional Conference
system has existed for a little more than sixty years, principally (though not exclusively)
to elect and assign bishops.
2 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2000 (Nashville: The Unit-
ed Methodist Publishing House, 2000) 302, par. 519.2.

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