On the fifth day of General Conference there is a gathering of the Interjurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy. It is made up of representatives (lay and clergy) of the various jurisdictions. At this meeting they consider matters that pertain to the function of the jurisdictions in the U.S.
This year the Northeastern Jurisdiction, of which we are a part, will appeal to the Interjurisdictional Episcopacy Committee to be allowed to keep nine episcopal areas for another four years. As it stands, our jurisdiction does not have the membership numbers to sustain nine areas, and we were told last year that we would have to reduce to eight areas beginning in September of 2016.
Should the appeal be granted, we will likely keep nine areas until 2020. If it is not granted, we will likely divide the Philadelphia Area and create two new two-point episcopal charges. The most likely realignment would be for the Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware conferences to form one episcopal area and the Greater New Jersey and Eastern PA conferences to form another–thus, reducing three areas down to two.
How this gets decided for sure may depend on the Judicial Council. They too will meet in May in Portland, Ore., just before the General Conference. Our jurisdiction is requesting a clarification about what body actually decides the configuration of the jurisdiction. The Discipline, as it is now written, seems to give contradictory statements. One part indicates that the decision is to be made by the Jurisdictional College of Bishops. The other part indicates that the Jurisdictional Conference members decide when they meet in July.
When the Interjurisdictional Episcopacy Committee and the Judicial Council have ruled in May we will have a better idea of what will happen to the Philadelphia Area come September 1. We remain hopeful and prayerful because God is in the midst of it always, working good in this world for the good of God’s kingdom.