Yesterday I was a part of the public announcement at Indiana University Health about the retirement of Dan Evans, CEO and President, and the transition to a new CEO and President by next spring. Effective immediately, Dan is stepping down as President but continuing as CEO, while Dennis Murphy the current COO will step into being President now and next May will become both President and CEO when Dan retires. This is a planned transition and succession model, put in place carefully by the IUH Board (of which I am a member – fact the UM Bishop of Indiana and the President of Indiana University are the two permanent members of the IUH Board). This plan for a "smooth transition" is very important in terms of helping a large organization to move forward without interruption. A transition and planned succession can only happen when the leaders involved are willing to work together, to set aside their own ego needs, and to focus on the mission and purpose of the organization.
Such "smooth transitions" have also worked in some of our congregations, I am thinking of churches like Franklin Grace UMC where Bob Coleman and Andy Kinsey made a smooth transition as senior pastors. There have been others, there are others in process, and there will be others in the future. Why? Because a "smooth transition" is best for the congregation. Our UMC system of moving pastors has too often resulted in abrupt changes of leadership and an interruption of the mission of the church. That is one reason the Cabinet tries to announce all pastoral changes several weeks in advance of Annual Conference – so that even if there is not an actual overlap of succession there is at least time for the departing pastor and the incoming pastor to make a smooth transition.
I pray that my retirement next year will be another one of these smooth transitions. The timeline is fairly short and tight, but I believe we can make it work well.
Here is the timeline: today I have written my official letter to the various church structures to announce my intention to retire on September 1, 2016. There will be at least three of us bishops in the North Central Jurisdiction who will be retiring at that time (the others are Bishops John Hopkins and Jonathan Keaton). Over the next several months the Conferences of the NCJ will be considering persons to be nominated for election as bishops, and in July of 2016 the NCJ Conference will elect persons (3 as of now) to serve as bishops. Then the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy (composed of one clergy and one lay member from each Conference of the NCJ) will assign all 9 of the active bishops of the NCJ to their episcopal areas for the next four years. So once the new bishop for Indiana is named in mid-July, we will have only about six weeks to make a smooth transition. However, we are already working on that transition. Our Indiana Committee on Episcopacy has named a transition team, led by Doris Clark (our Conference Lay Leader) and Cindy Reynolds (Executive Assistant to the Bishop). Their team is already working on plans for a smooth transition.
I pray that I may be an instrument of a smooth transition for our Indiana Conference. There is much work to do in the next year, and the "regular" work of being a bishop will continue. But alongside that work will be the essential task of making a smooth transition. I will do my part because I love the pastors, people, churches, and ministries of the Indiana Conference, and I want to keep us focused upon our mission.