With the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference now underway, here is the “lay of the land” regarding who may be selected as the next North Georgia bishop.
It is unlikely that any of the six bishops elected four years ago will be moved from their current locations. It is also unlikely that Bishop Charlene Kammerer, assigned to the Va. Conference in 2004 after eight years in Western North Carolina, will be moved.
That leaves only four current bishops who could be reassigned to North Georgia: Bishop Timothy Whitaker (currently assigned to the Florida Conf.) Bishop Larry Goodpaster (currently in the Alabama-West Florida Conference), Bishop James King (Kentucky/Red Bird), and Bishop Mike Watson (South Ga.).
Bishop Whitaker, elected in a special election in 2001, has not yet served two full terms in the Florida Conference, so it is possible that he will not be moved (he has served about six months less than two full terms.) Bishop Whitaker is also something of a “reluctant bishop,” having withdrawn his name from the special election in 2001, only to be elected anyway. I have heard that he may wish to retire after this next term, so I would not be surprised if he is allowed to remain in Florida for another term.
That would leave the choice for North Georgia to be among Bishop Goodpaster, Bishop King, and Bishop Watson. (Bishop King has connections in Georgia — he’s a graduate of ITC and has family in both Athens and Atlanta — but I’m not sure if that would influence things one way or the other.)
This Jurisdictional Conference will also elect one bishop. At this point, it looks as though that person is likely to be Paul Leeland (PDF of resumé), currently the director of ministerial relations in the North Carolina Conference.
Dr. Leeland gave an excellent presentation to delegates today. You can listen to the stream below — or download the mp3.
(UPDATE: Video here, courtesy of the South Carolina Conference communications team. Note: Large file — 69MB.)
It is possible that Mr. Leeland, or whomever the newly elected bishop turns out to be, could be assigned to North Georgia (Bishop Lindsey Davis was assigned to North Georgia following his election in 1996). However, since the North Georgia Conference is now the largest U.S. conference in the connection (2008 North Ga. Conf. Report—PDF) and is one of the few U.S. Conferences that is growing, my sense is that Committee on the Episcopacy will select someone with episcopal experience, rather than a newcomer.
If I had to make an educated guess, I would predict that the next bishop of North Georgia would be either Bishop Goodpaster (author of a recent book on “clergy excellence, congregational health, and Wesleyan theology”) or Bishop Watson, who already knows a good bit about the North Georgia Conference because of the close cooperative nature of the North Georgia and South Georgia Conferences.
Of course, one hopes that the Episcopal Committee will go into their meeting room and discern what God wants — and what God wants is sometimes a surprise to everyone.
By the way, just to give a sense of how strong the SE Jurisdiction is (numerically) in relation to other U.S. jurisdictions, consider this list of all the Jurisdictional Conferences taking place this week and the number of delegates to each conference:
Southeastern (Lake Junaluska, N.C.) – 504 delegates
South Central (Dallas, Tex.) – 296 delegates
North Central (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – 276 delegates
Northeastern (Harrisburg, Pa.) – 252 delegates
Western (Portland, Ore.) – 80 delegates