By Rick Wolcott*
Following an opening prayer from lay member Michael Warschauer, Episcopacy Committee Chair the Rev. Joe Burkhardt reported the results of the just-completed mid-quadrennial assessment on behalf of the North Central Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. Clergy and lay respondents indicated that the greatest strengths of the East Ohio Conference are our diversity, our missional commitment, and our Conference leadership. Our greatest challenges include maintaining unity, increasing outreach and growth, as well as recruiting, training, and retaining pastors. Respondents further indicated that Bishop Malone is “leading well, especially by virtue of her intentional listening and openness to all viewpoints, her capacity to lead effectively through difficult times, and most importantly, through her life of integrity as a disciple of Christ,” Burkhardt reported.
Four resolutions were received by the March 15 deadline and were included in the Pre-Conference Workbook. Another resolution became timely after that date, was submitted by the Sunday night prior to Annual Conference deadline for consideration, was presented to the body and was approved for inclusion on the agenda. Resolution 2019-05 A Healthy Way Forward will be considered later in the week.
One resolution was introduced, debated and voted on during Tuesday’s morning business Intro to resolutions. Resolution 2019-02: A Culture of Call Sunday, submitted by East Ohio Conference Spiritual Formation Committee and the East Ohio Board of Ministry Executive Committee was approved by the house.
Tuesday afternoon two resolutions were introduced to the body for debate and vote.
Resolution 2019-01: To Rebuild, Reclaim the Christian Community: “Church,” submitted by East Ohio Methodist Federation of Social Action, the East Ohio Reconciling Ministries Network, the East Ohio Board of Church & Society, and the East Ohio United Methodist Women was approved by the house.
Resolution 2019-04: Educate and Inform the Conference Concerning the Need for Reform of Post Release Sexual Offender Laws such as Public Registries and Residency Restrictions, submitted by Dennis P. Brinton was approved by the house.
Once again, this year, there is scheduled time devoted to intentionally focus on the three key components of our East Ohio Conference vision: being, making and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ; being God’s agents of transformation in our communities and throughout the world; and being bold and courageous leaders in reaching new people, younger people, and a more diverse people.
Conference Lay Leader Kim Green began Tuesday’s Vision segment by stating, “As disciples, our outcomes are visible signs in which the good news of Jesus Christ brings hope, forgiveness and healing to our neighbors and the communities in which we live. We do these things and share these ministries so that people may have life and have it abundantly.”
Director of Congregational Vitality the Rev. Kelly Brown then presented the One Matters Discipleship Award to the Rev. Adam Davis and Pastor Kelsey Orosan of Lorain Lighthouse UMC (Firelands District). The award was created in 2015 in partnership with Discipleship Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee to lift up churches that in recent years have moved from zero baptisms and zero professions of faith into positive numbers as the congregation has begun to focus on intentional discipleship. In presenting the award, Brown stated, “With this award, we recognize what moving from a zero to a one represents: a life transformed by the grace of God, a life that matters to God, and a life that matters to us. Each one matters.”
Orosan said, “Growing in small groups is the centerpiece of our GATHER-GROW-GO formula at Lighthouse. When we go through our membership classes, teens and adults alike make commitments to one worship service, one small group, and one area of ministry in joining the church. In our first year here, 28 individuals made that 1-1-1 commitment to Christ and to carry on his ministry through our church. To God be the glory!”
Brown then offered a brief glimpse of a new concept in the East Ohio Conference, Catalyst Faith Communities – which create change by breaking down barriers through an authentic witness of Christian community. These new expressions of Christian community are established where people already gather. He encouraged Annual Conference members to watch their district newsletters for information about vision days that will be held this fall to share information about Catalyst Faith Communities.
A new video highlighting the life-changing power of Camp Aldersgate, Camp Asbury, and Camp Wanake and the East Ohio Conference Camps and Retreat Ministries brought a powerful conclusion to the East Ohio Conference ministries highlighted in the first Vision Segment: Being, making, and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ.
The segment concluded with challenging words from keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr. The director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership told those gathered in Hoover Auditorium at Lakeside Chautauqua, and those watching via live stream, that our United Methodist churches are not as inviting to strangers as they think they are. And when they do welcome new people to the church, leaders and members of the church do not make room for the gifts of those individuals. He said it is the responsibility of each of us to change this.
“All of us are called to share how we experience God’s transforming love,” Powe said.
We are seeking ourselves to be restored into the image of God and we are also then helping others take the journey so they can be restored into the image of God. And when we’re taking this journey together we are growing into the likeness of Christ,” he said.
Powe will join us again as keynote speaker on Wednesday afternoon as the Annual Conference will highlight East Ohio Conference ministries that are transforming lives in the Conference, across the denomination, and around the world.
Taking a moment of privilege, I thank the Rev. Gary Henderson, General Secretary Dan Krause and United Methodist Communications for presenting the Epikoinonia Excellence in Communications Ministry award to me and the East Ohio Conference Communications team during Tuesday morning’s business session.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.