By Craig This and Elaine Moy
The 2008 U.S. Jurisdictional Conferences elected
eight clergypersons (six men and two women)
to replace the seven retiring (and one resigning)
bishops (five men and three women). As a result,
the total number of active U.S. women bishops
dropped by one, from 15 in 2005-08 to 14 currently.
There are 50 active U.S. bishops serving the United
Methodist Church, all elected for life terms and
assigned to specific episcopal areas. The U.S.
bishops, plus 30 active bishops in the Philippines,
Africa and Europe, and the 86 retired bishops
constitute the international Council of Bishops.
Three women bishops retired as of this fall: Violet
Fisher of the New York West Area and Beverly
Shamana of the San Francisco Area (both African
American), and Sharon Brown Christopher of
the Springfield (Ill.) Area (who is white).
Delegates in this year’s round of voting elected two
white clergywomen as bishops: Elaine Stanovsky,
assigned to the Denver Area (Western Jurisdiction),
and Peggy Johnson, assigned to the Philadelphia
Area (Northeastern Jurisdiction). No women
of color were elected by U.S. jurisdictions.
As a result, only two U.S. women of color
serve as active bishops on the council: Minerva
Carcaño of the Phoenix Area, a Latina, and
Linda Lee of the Wisconsin Area, who is African
American. The denomination has yet to elect a
woman bishop from the Asian-American, Native
American, or Pacific Island community.
Women bishops comprise 28% of all
active U.S. bishops (14 of 50). The North
Central Jurisdiction saw its total number
of female bishops drop from 4 to 3, while
the remaining jurisdictions retained the
same number of female bishops.
In terms of total denomination-wide
membership, women account for more
than 50% of U.S. United Methodist
members. Overall, then, U.S. women
are underrepresented at the bishops’
table. The one exception is the Western
Jurisdiction, where half the current
bishops are women and half are men.
In the North Central and Northeastern
jurisdictions, male bishops outnumber
female bishops 2 to 1. In the Southeastern
Jurisdiction, male bishops outnumber female
bishops 3 to 1, and in the South Central
Jurisdiction male bishops outnumber female
bishops 4 to 1. For the most part, these
ratios remain unchanged from 2004.
Within the South Central and Western
jurisdictions, women oversee the largest
episcopal areas (Bishop Janice Riggle
Huie, Houston Area, and Bishop Mary
Ann Swenson, Los Angeles Area). In the
Southeastern Jurisdiction, Bishop Charlene
Kammerer leads the Richmond (Va.) Area,
the second largest area in that region, and
bishops Mary Virginia Taylor (South Carolina)
and Hope Morgan Ward (Mississippi), each
serve areas of 100,000-plus members.
In the Northeast Jurisdiction, Bishop Jane
Allen Middleton (Harrisburg Area) also oversees
a 100,000-member area (Central Pennsylvania).
However, in the North Central Jurisdiction, the
three women bishops (Bishop Deborah Lieder
Kiesey, Dakotas Area; Bishop Sharon A. Brown
Christopher, Illinois Great Rivers; and Bishop Sally Dyck, Minnesota) administer three of the
four smallest membership conferences.
is data analyst in the Department of
Institutional Research at Wright State University in Ohio.
is associate general secretary of GCSRW