The Northern Illinois United Methodist Conference General and the North Central Jurisdictional Conference delegations recently endorsed the Rev. Dr. Larry Pickens for bishop.

Pickens has been a member of the Northern Illinois Conference for 23 years, having been ordained as an Elder in 1987. He has served as associate pastor at St. Mark UMC, and senior pastor at Gorham, Maple Park and First Elgin UMCs. Pickens has served on the United Methodist Judicial Council and as the General Secretary of the General Commission of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, from July 2004 to Dec. 2007.

Pickens has been and continues to be a delegate to the United Methodist Church General Conferences in 2000 and 2008, and a delegate to three World Methodist Conferences. He has been a board member and General Assembly delegate for the National Council of Churches and a member of the Central Committee as well as a delegate for the World Council of Churches in Australia and Brazil.

Pickens joins three other previously announced candidates for bishop from other conference delegations to the 2008 North Central Jurisdictional Conference coming July 15-19 in Grand Rapids, Mich. They include:

The Rev. Randolph Cross of the Dakotas Conference. As a pastor with 28 years of experience in a wide range of ministry settings, he has held appointments across both North and South Dakotas and currently serves as both the Lower James River District Superintendent and Dakotas Conference Director of Leadership Development and Connectional Ministries.

The Rev. Dr. David Alan Bard of the Minnesota Conference. Bard is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Duluth, Minn., and has served as superintendent of the conference's Northwest District (1998-2005). He was ordained an Elder in 1986.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Bias of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Bias is directing (senior) pastor of First UMC in Peoria, Ill. He was ordained an Elder in 1981 by the West Virginia Conference and has served churches in West Virginia and Illinois and as Director of Evangelism Ministries, General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, Tenn.

A candidate must gain the votes of at least 60 percent of the delegates to be elected as bishop. Balloting is held until there is an election. Once all elections are completed, the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy begins the work of assigning bishops to episcopal areas based upon the missional needs of the conferences and the gifts and graces of each bishop.

This is the same conference that elected Bishop Mike Coyner in 1996. He was assigned first to the Dakotas Area in 1996 and to the Indiana Area in 2004. He is expected to return to the Indiana Area this year.

The North Indiana and the South Indiana conferences delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference plan to meet separately this month to discuss candidates for bishop. They have met jointly in December and January at the Plainfield UMC.

A vacancy occurred in mid-2007 when Illinois Area Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher announced her retirement effective Sept. 1. She has served three four-year terms as bishop. A newly elected bishop will succeed her following the NCJ Conference. Bishops begin their new four-year assignments on Sept. 1.

The North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church is composed of 12 conferences, including the two Indiana conferences, in a nine-state region. It comprises the north central states from Ohio in the east to the Dakotas in the west.

For more information about the 2008 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, log on to www.ncj2008.org.