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Photo by Burt Williams

Bishop Sharma Lewis is consecrated in a service at Lake Junaluska, N.C., on July 16. She was the first United Methodist bishop elected in 2016 and the first African-American woman to be elected in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Photo by Eugenio Hernandez, Great Plains Conference

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and his wife, Maria, are introduced as he new episcopal family for the Great Plains Conference. Saenz was the first of three bishops elected in the South Central Jurisdiction.

Photo courtesy of the North Central Jurisdiction

Now Bishop Tracy Smith Malone (left) is introduced to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference by Maggie Jackson, chair of the Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy. Smith Malone was the first of four bishops elected in the jurisdiction.

Photo by Melissa Lauber, Baltimore-Washington Conference

Bishops LaTrelle Miller Easterling (left) and Cynthia Moore Koikoi catch their breath before the service in which they were consecrated. They are the new bishops in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.

Photo by Patrick Scriven, Pacific Northwest Conference

Bishop Karen Oliveto is consecrated after being elected the only new bishop in the Western Jurisdiction.

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U.S. bishops begin new assignments


Linda Bloom
September-October 2016

Most of the 15 United Methodist clergy elected as bishops in the United States in mid-July are now settling into new homes and preparing for official welcomes and installations within their episcopal areas.

After the elections, the denomination's five jurisdictional conferences announced assignments, effective Sept. 1, for 46 active bishops serving episcopal areas in the U.S. Twenty-two will continue in the areas they have served at least since September 2012.

The 2016 episcopal elections in the U.S. sparked both interest and controversy.

Western Jurisdiction delegates meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, elected the denomination's first openly gay bishop, Bishop Karen Oliveto, despite a prohibition against gay clergy in The Book of Discipline.

Reaction to her election has ranged from jubilation to disappointment to concern over how to uphold the current church doctrine. Delegates to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference have asked the Judicial Council ā€“ the denomination's supreme court ā€“ to rule on the validity of Oliveto's election. The Judicial Council announced Aug. 22 that it will place the petition on its spring docket.

At Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, the Southeastern Jurisdiction elected its first African-American woman as bishop by electing the Rev. Sharma Lewis on the first ballot.

That vote helped propel The United Methodist Church into electing the most women in any new class of bishops in this denomination or its predecessor bodies. In total, jurisdictional delegates elected seven women, four of whom are African American.

The new bishops, ballot on which they were elected, previous appointment and conference are listed by jurisdictions.

North Central: Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, 6th ballot, superintendent; Chicago Southern district, Northern Illinois; Bishop Frank Beard, 6th ballot, senior pastor, Castleton UMC, Indianapolis, Indiana; Bishop David Bard, 10th ballot, senior pastor, First UMC, Duluth, Minnesota; Bishop Laurie Haller, 13th ballot, senior pastor, First UMC, Birmingham, Michigan, Detroit.

Northeastern: Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, 11th ballot, superintendent, Baltimore-Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington; Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling, 17th ballot, superintendent, Metro Boston Hope District, New England.

South Central: Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., 3rd ballot, leader, connectional ministries and missions vitality center, Rio Texas; Bishop Jimmy Nunn, 21st ballot, director of mission and administration, Northwest Texas; Bishop Robert "Bob" Farr, 35th ballot, director of congregational development, Missouri.

Southeastern: Bishop Sharma Lewis, 1st ballot, superintendent, Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District, North Georgia; Bishop David Graves, 4th ballot, Church Street UMC, Knoxville, Tennessee, Holston; Bishop Leonard Fairley, 7th ballot, superintendent, Capital District, North Carolina; Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, 10th ballot, superintendent, Gulf Central District, Florida; Bishop Robert Lawson Bryan, 10th ballot, senior pastor, First UMC, Montgomery, Alabama, Alabama-West Florida.

Western: Bishop Karen Oliveto, 15th ballot, senior pastor, Glide Memorial UMC, San Francisco, California-Nevada.

Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at