OKLAHOMA CITY—Bishop Scott J. Jones was named bishop of the United Methodist Church in Kansas and Nebraska by the 2012 South Central Jurisdictional Conference July 20.
Jones will serve the new Great Plains Episcopal Area effective Sept. 1. He will reside in Wichita, Kan.
The Great Plains Area includes nearly 1,000 United Methodist congregations and more than 229,000 United Methodists in the states of Nebraska and Kansas.
“I am excited to be the bishop of the Great Plains Area,” Jones said.
Previously United Methodists in Kansas were served by one bishop and Nebraska was served by another bishop. Jones has been bishop of the two Kansas United Methodist conferences since his election in 2004. Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson, who has served the Nebraska Conference since 2004, is retiring Aug. 31.
“It is a great new beginning for us,” said Rev. David Lux, head of the Nebraska delegation. “There is a great sense of possibility and hope about the future.”
Lux said a sense of family began developing at a Great Plains Area breakfast July 21 as Bishop Jones and his wife shared their backgrounds and values and members of the three delegations had an opportunity to learn more about each other.
In order to get to know Nebraska churches, Jones announced that he plans to get to as many Nebraska United Methodist churches as possible in the coming year.
“I believe one of the great benefits we in Nebraska will experience having Bishop Jones as the first bishop of the Great Plains Area is the fact that he already is familiar with Kansas folks and can more comfortably spend additional time with Nebraska during this important transition,” said Tom Watson, Nebraska lay leader and delegate to Jurisdictional Conference. Watson also serves as chairperson for the Great Plains Area Transition Team.
Jones will serve three conferences only from September 2012 through January 1, 2014, when the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska annual conferences become one new conference to match the geography of the episcopal area.
“What better opportunity is there for someone as deeply rooted in United Methodism as I am than the opportunity to create a new annual conference? I’m excited about that,” Jones said. “I think it’s a huge opportunity to rethink how The United Methodist Church can best accomplish its ministry in the 21st century.”
Jones and Sherer-Simpson have led a team from the three conferences charged with determining the best way to move forward as the new episcopal area. The team’s recommendation led to affirmative votes for the one-conference proposal this spring.
“Bishop Jones has the experience, energy, vision and skills to provide effective leadership in this endeavor,” said Rev. Mark Conard, pastor at Hutchinson First UMC and head of the Kansas West delegation. “We have a remarkable opportunity to create something new in the Great Plains. Bishop Jones’ assignment is strategically important as we move toward becoming one conference.”
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted in 2008 to reduce the number of active bishops in the United States by one in each jurisdiction to allow more bishops to be elected in areas where the United Methodist Church is growing, especially in Africa.
In September 2009, the bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction announced it would comply with this mandate by combining the Nebraska and Kansas episcopal areas. The jurisdiction includes the United Methodist churches in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Jones’ wife, MaryLou Reece is owner of Reece Construction, a bridge construction company based in Salina, Kan. They have three grown children, Jameson and wife Malena of Denver, Colo., Arthur of Plano, Texas, and Marynell of Prosper, Texas.