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SEJ Thursday morning brings strong message but no election

SEJ Thursday morning brings strong message but no election

Denominational News Leadership

LAKE JUNALUSKA, North Carolina—Day Two of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference started with much hope there would be the third and final episcopal election that morning. But after two invalid votes and the withdrawal from the slate of one nominee, Iosmar Alvarez, the session closed with a vote on Ballot 15 but no results.

Presiding Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, North Georgia Area, called the Thursday morning session to order after a worship service preached by Bishop R. Lawson Bryan.

Embracing mysticism 

In his message, Bryan lifted up the great “mystery” of God’s secret plan and urged all gathered to embrace that mystery as they strive to remain refreshed in the Lord.

Refreshment is key to everything, Bryan reminded the body, from relationships, business and community life to good preaching, yet we often go around feeling tired and worried, not refreshed.

Yet even in a time of much turmoil— political polarization, a pandemic, racial reckoning, economic ups and downs, one nation invading another—we must remember the apostle Paul also experienced difficulty, and he was able to persevere by embracing what really seized his heart: the beautiful mystery of God’s secret plan to unite the Jews and the Gentiles as God’s people.

We should do the same, Bryan urged.

“Is there any arena of life that does not benefit from refreshment?” he asked. “A mystery is not to be figured out but is to be lived.”

All sang Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be” to close the service.

Ballots 13-15

Haupert-Johnson began the morning business session by calling for prayer from retired Bishop Young Jin Cho, who called for a time of silence and stillness before the Lord.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth in this place today, and in all other jurisdictional conferences, as it is in heaven,” Cho prayed.

Conference Secretary Anne Travis next offered a moment of deep appreciation for the young adult panelists who spoke the evening prior. While the balloting during their discussion might have felt choppy, it was intentionally orchestrated and provided them more time to dialogue had they not designed it this way.

Before Ballot 13, Haupert-Johnson requested prayer again, this one from South Carolina clergy delegate the Rev. Will Malambri. Malambri lifted up the Spirit of God that moves like a wind and blows through this place, asking that God fit us all for faithful service so “our bones live abundantly for you, and our hearts, heads and hands work for you.”

Following the prayer, Alvarez approached the microphone, thanked all for their support and withdrew his name from the slate of episcopal nominees.

Ballot 13, which contained his name, became invalid, and Haupert-Johnson called for Ballot 14. However, that ballot also was invalid, as it called for a vote of two people, not one.

Ballot 15 came at 10:45, just before the memorial service.

Service of Remembrance honors three late bishops and six spouses

One of the realities of life is that our days are numbered, so let’s fill our days with wisdom and a faithful heart.

That was the word from Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, who preached the Service of Remembrance at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference Thursday morning, Nov. 3.

Taylor drew from Psalm 90:12, which reminds us, “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NKJV).

Taylor lifted up the three bishops and six spouses who passed away since the last in-person jurisdictional conference: Bishops Bevel L. Jones III, R. Kern Eutsler, and Robert Spain, and spouses Thelma H. Newman, Dorothy S. Lee, Jean Stockton, Mary Ann Hunt, Linda Carder, and Rose King.

She’d met all of those being remembered in the service except one, recalling touching or funny stories—such as Jean Stockton, a fashionista who introduced so many to liturgical dance, and Linda Carder, loved so deeply across Holston, Mississippi, and Tennessee conferences, who loved Lake Junaluska and the fellowship of bishops’ spouses.

Bishop Jones had been her pastor during her high school and college years and officiated her wedding.

“We don’t know how many days we have, but we only have so many,” Taylor reminded the body. “Because they are, we are invited to gain a heart of wisdom.”

A wise heart, according to the apostle Paul, is a heart filled with faith, hope, and love.

“All of us gathered here today believe the church is of God and will be preserved until the end of time,” she said. “All times are uncertain. (But) our faith is in eternal God who made the heavens and the earth.”

The service opened with the hymn “Give Me Jesus,” then a greeting led by Emily Ballard and a prayer for illumination led by Derrick Scott.

After Taylor’s sermon, the Rev. Virginia Kagoro led the body in the statement of faith, and Bishop L. Jonathan Holston served as liturgist, offering a prayer for the saints and faithful departed.

The hymn “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” closed the service.

Jessica Brodie is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism.


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