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James "Jim" Dorff elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church

Bishop James (Jim) E. Dorff

By Linda Green
July 19, 2008 | DALLAS (UMNS)

The Rev. James (Jim) E. Dorff of McKinney, Texas, has been elected a bishop by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Dorff, 61, area provost of the North Texas Annual Conference, was elected July 18 following a long balloting process. He will fill one of the vacancies created in the denomination's South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops by the retirements of two bishops and the death of a third.

Endorsed by the North Texas Conference's delegation to the 2008 General and Jurisdictional conferences, Dorff was elected on the 23rd ballot, receiving 187 of 292 votes cast.

"This is quite a shock," he said. "I'm very excited and pleased … and looking forward to serving."

Dorff was the third bishop elected by 297 delegates attending the South Central Jurisdictional conference. He will be among 11 active bishops leading an episcopal area of one or more of the 15 annual conferences that make up the eight-state jurisdiction. The South Central Jurisdiction is home to 1.8 million United Methodists in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

A consecration service for the three new bishops will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 19, at First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas.

An episcopal assignment committee is already considering where Dorff and the other active bishops in the jurisdiction will serve for the next four years. Their assignments will be effective Sept. 1.

Dorff, a former superintendent of the Dallas-Denton District, learned about the episcopacy from North Texas Bishops William Oden and the late Rhymes Moncure. He described Oden as a superb thinker and Moncure as one who liked to be with people and bring people to the church.

The value of relationships is one of the most important lessons he learned from both men, he said.

"People need to know that you love, support and appreciate them, but that you need to be able to say the things to them that they need to hear," Dorff said.

A bishop needs to be thoughtful, strategic, thinking about the future and directly involved with people, helping people to be Christ in the world, he said.

Following his election, Dorff, who served as the director of pastoral care and counseling at Highland Park United Methodist Church from 1979-1989, said that his passion for ministry was three-fold.

"We need to get back to the business of youth ministry, campus ministry and ministry to young adults," he said.

Area provost since 2005, Dorff said the church has to be about building the leadership of new churches so that they become lasting communities of faith. He wants to examine how the church and bishops "can continue to increase clergy effectiveness, moving to excellence."

While the South Central Jurisdictional Conference is occurring, four other United Methodist jurisdictional conferences are also meeting to elect bishops.

A United Methodist bishop is elected for life. Although eight years is the standard term for a bishop to serve in an episcopal area, it is not unusual for a bishop to be assigned to one area for 12 years for “missional reasons.”

Bishops are charged by the church’s Book of Discipline to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline of the Church" and "lead all persons entrusted to their oversight in worship, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in their mission of witness and service in the world." They are also charged "to be prophetic voices and courageous leaders in the cause of justice for all people."

A jurisdictional conference has the following power and duties:

  • To promote the evangelistic, educational, missionary and benevolent interests of the church and to provide for interests and institutions within their boundaries. The South Central Jurisdictional Conference institutions are Mt. Sequoyah, Fayetteville, Ark.; the Lydia Patterson Institute, El Paso, Texas; and Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
  • To elect bishops.
  • To establish and constitute jurisdictional conference boards as auxiliaries to the general boards of the church.
  • To determine the boundaries of annual conferences.
  • To make rules and regulations for the administration of the church's work within the jurisdiction.
  • To appoint a committee on appeals.

The United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches. Methodists elected their bishops at one national gathering until 1940, when the jurisdictional system was instituted. Bishops in the EUB church were elected at one national gathering until 1968.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn.,  (6... or newsdesk@umcom.org

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