Mar 28, 2023 | John W. Coleman

A new task force will study and recommend a new strategic direction for The United Methodist Church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ), with the aid of a hired consultant. The study will consider prospects for reduction and realignment of episcopal areas, due to the NEJ’s declining attendance and membership and “a reimagining of the church in these liminal times,” according to an announcement.

At the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in November 2022 Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi (center) chairs a session, flanked by The Rev. Tom Salsgiver (left) and Bishop John Schol, among other leaders

At the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in November 2022, the Boundaries Committee recommended the task force’s formation, drawing members from the Episcopacy Committee, the Boundaries Committee and the College of Bishops. The task force was authorized to contract with an outside consultant to facilitate its work, leading to recommendations that ultimately may go to the next Jurisdictional Conference in 2024.

The NEJ members responsible for organizing and overseeing the task force include the Rev. Lydia Munoz, chair of the Boundaries Committee; Judi Kenaston, chair of the Episcopacy Committee; Bishop John Schol, who is assigned to the Committee on Boundaries; and the Rev. Tom Salsgiver, Secretary of the NEJ.

That group announces that Erin Hawkins-Smith, Executive Director of Connectional Ministries for the California-Pacific Annual Conference, has been engaged as the facilitator for this work.

Hawkins-Smith worked at the General Commission on Religion and Race for 19 years and led the agency as General Secretary. The members of the new task force and their conferences or NEJ leadership roles are:

  • Judy Ehninger, Eastern PA
  • Jennifer Cho, Greater New Jersey
  • The Rev. Leigh Goodrich, New England
  • The Rev. Denise Smart Sears, New York
  • Christie Latona, Baltimore Washington
  • The Rev. Jackie Ford, Peninsula Delaware
  • The Rev. Jake Waybright, Susquehanna
  • Ian Urriola, Upper New York
  • Tracy Merrick, Western PA
  • The Rev. Jeff Taylor, West Virginia
  • The Rev. Lydia Munoz, Eastern PA, Boundaries Committee Chair
  • Judi Kenaston, West Virginia, Episcopacy Committee Chair
  • Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, President NEJ College of Bishops
  • Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, member of NEJ Vision Table
  • Bishop John Schol, Episcopal Representative to Boundaries Committee
  • The Rev. Tom Salsgiver, Secretary of the NEJ.

The task force will begin it’s work in April. As they work over the next several months, there will be significant opportunities for people from the Jurisdiction to have conversation and input into the discussion.