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Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference starts Nov. 2

Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference starts Nov. 2

Conference News Leadership

A delegation from the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church will join their colleagues throughout the South this week at the 2022 Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The Conference runs from Nov. 2-4. A livestream of the event will be available starting Nov. 2 at 9 a.m.

While the Conference will address multiple important issues, all eyes will be on the election of at least three bishops to serve four-year terms in locations to be determined.

There are nine episcopal candidates for delegates to consider, including Rev. Dr. Sharon Austin, Director of Connectional and Justice Ministries for the Florida Conference.

Rev. Dr. Sharon Austin

The Florida Conference is currently served by Bishop Kenneth Carter, who also presides over the Western North Carolina Conference.

The episcopal elections were necessitated by the retirement of five bishops—four in September of this year and one more at the end of 2022.

However, the Conference Committee on Episcopacy recommended having two bishops preside over two Conferences, although it authorized the election of five bishops if the delegates chose to do that.

"We believe strong and consistent episcopal leadership is needed in this time as we experience the disaffiliation of some churches, denominational uncertainties, and as we respond to other changes wrought by the pandemic and challenging societal issues," the Committee said in its pre-Conference guide for delegates and attendees.
"There is stress in our system and stress on our bishops."

The Committee made no recommendation about which episcopal areas could be combined.

Bishop Kenneth Carter

Another reason for electing only three bishops is the uncertainty facing the United Methodist Church over the issue of ordaining gay and lesbian pastors.

"Additionally, we believe it would be irresponsible to ignore the potential negative financial impact of electing five bishops until we have clearer evidence of the sustainability of such elections," the Committee said.

"At least four conferences have planned a called Annual Conference meeting regarding disaffiliation this Fall, which adds to this uncertainty. … Therefore, realizing the anxiety of not knowing the future while trusting that future into God's hands, we are confident that our recommendation offers a prudent resolution based on the information known to us today."

Rev. Dr. Austin, Florida's nominee, has been a clergywoman for over 40 years, including the last 25 years in The United Methodist Church.

She has become an outspoken champion for racial equality and opportunity as the Conference Director of Connectional and Justice Ministries since 2013.

Rev. Dr. Austin also served in three local churches and as Superintendent of what then was called the South-Central District.

One of her favorite sayings is, "every clergyperson was once a layperson."

She also served as a clinical chaplain for a women's prison and completed 8.5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education in several hospitals.

Dr. Ruben Hopwood, the Founding Director & Psychologist of Hopwood Counseling & Consulting, served with her at the Chaplain's Dept. of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

"During that time and in the friendship that developed, I came to know Sharon as a passionate and intentional witness in word and deed. Sharon's grace-filled conversations form connections between factions, and she is instrumental in forging alliances and compassion where once there was distrust and painful separations," he said.

"Sharon is a service-oriented leader of integrity who lives her faith and changes the lives she touches for good. Sharon embodies the grace of God in her open acceptance of all people without judgment and undergirded by deeply faithful love."

​Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for

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