OKLAHOMA CITY--Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe (left) with his advocate, the Rev. Zan Holmes, a retired clergy member of the North Texas Annual Conference, before the start of the July 16 personnel hearing that will decide Bledsoe's fate.
BULLETIN 10:50 PM JULY 17:
In a late-night decision reported by United Methodist News Service, the South Central Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy has voted 24 to 4, with 2 abstentions, to place Dallas Area Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe on involuntary retirement effective Aug. 31.
Bishop Bledsoe is expected to appeal the decision.
The vote of the 30-member committee provided the necessary two-thirds majority to remove Bledsoe from office. Authorities across The United Methodist Church said the action was unprecedented in recent memory.
Sam Hodges, managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter, wrote:
"Assuming Bishop Bledsoe does appeal, he’ll remain an active bishop until the Judicial Council rules, though he could be assigned to another conference. A Judicial Council ruling is unlikely to come quickly, given that the council doesn’t meet again until October and has already set that meeting’s docket."
Thus it appears that the South Central Jurisdiction will elect three bishops at the session that starts July 18. The committee issued the following statement:
The South Central Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy held its hearing to consider involuntary retirement of Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe on July 16, 2012 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City. The hearing was closed to the public, following the required vote of the committee. Bishop Bledsoe was accompanied by Rev. Zan Holmes. By invitation of the committee, representatives from the General Commission on Religion and Race were also in attendance. All thirty members of the South Central Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee were present, representing every annual conference in the jurisdiction.
The hearing began at 2PM on July 16, recessed in the late evening, and concluded at 10:15AM on July 17. At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee began a period of discernment, study, and discussion. Materials presented by Bishop Bledsoe before and during the hearing were reviewed by the committee.
After extensive discussion and prayer, a motion was made to place Bishop Bledsoe in the retired relation as an episcopal leader in the South Central Jurisdiction, as of August 31, 2012. A secret ballot was taken at 7:30PM July 17, with all 30 members present. According to ¶ 408.3 in the 2008 Book of Discipline, a 2/3 majority is required to support the motion. This majority was attained with a vote of 24 in support of the motion, a vote of 4 against the motion, and two abstentions.
Donald House, Chair of the Committee, accompanied by Rev. Charlotte Abram, Vice Chair of the Committee, visited with Bishop Bledsoe, in person, to disclose the results of the vote. Bishop James E. Dorff, President of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops was then informed of the vote.