East Ohio 2019 Annual Conference Report

By Rick Wolcott*

Bishop Tracy S. Malone presided over the 50th session of Annual Conference, which was held again this year at Lakeside Chautauqua on the shore of Lake Erie.

Annual Conference 2019 was the third conference centered on our quadrennial theme Bearing Fruit that Lasts: Called, Committed, Connected. This year we highlighted the joy of making a commitment to take up residence in God’s love and extend that love to others.

“Being committed to Christ commits us to one other. We are bound together in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We are bound through the covenant of our baptism. Friends, this is who we are,” Bishop Tracy S. Malone said in her Episcopal Address.

The six worship services of the week were guided by the words from John 15:9-15 (CEB) and the business sessions reinforced our East Ohio Conference vision to “equip and support pastors, congregations and faith communities to grow in their capacity bear fruit that lasts” making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

There were 60 first-time members to Annual Conference among the 691 clergy and 727 lay members assembled in Hoover Auditorium.

Monday morning’s opening service, the Service of Commemoration and Holy Communion, recognized 49 saints who joined the church triumphant since Annual Conference 2018. The Celebration of Retirement that evening saw 35 clergy feted for their combined 868 years of service.

“Think of the difference you have made in so many lives,” Malone said. “All you’ve given and all you have received is blessed.”

The Service of Commissioning and Ordination began with a procession of nearly 200 clergy, showing their covenant to one another. Ten clergy were commissioned and seven were ordained during the service this year.

Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary was the keynote speaker for each of the three learning components centered around the emphases of the 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. Ministries of the people, churches and agencies of the East Ohio Conference opened each of the three segments.

A component of the Annual Conference 2019 business sessions was election of General/Jurisdictional Conference delegates. The East Ohio Conference delegation to General Conference 2020, to be held May 5-15 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is: Rev. Gary Henderson, Rev. Andy Call, Rev. Dan Bryant, Rev. Matthew Laferty, Rev. Armando Arellano, Rev. Benita Rollins, Jerry Rinehart, Ellen Burrows, Dr. Martha Banks, Betty Wilson, Bob Wagner, and Holly Grant.

Each of those delegates will also be part of the East Ohio delegation to Jurisdictional Conference 2020, to be held July 15-18 of that year in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joining them on the delegation are: Rev. Cara Stultz Costello, Rev. Abby Auman, Rev. Nestor Nazario, Rev. Karen Oehl, Rev. Jon Priebe, Rev. Susan Brown, Connor Prusha, Sarah Dixon, Donald Burdsall, Thomas Lewis, Susan Achberger, and Lucinda Starr.

The alternate reserve delegates to Jurisdictional Conference 2020 are: Rev. Carrie Antczak, Rev. Heidi Welch, Rev. Jared Gadomski Littleton, Rev. Laura Jaissle, Rev. Clinton Quillen, Jr., Allen Laferty, Kimberly Green, William Watts, Richard Corder, and Kathy Palmer.

East Ohio Conference statistics from Thursday’s Financial Report:

  • East Ohio Conference paid General Church Apportionments at 100% for the 14th-consecutive year.
  • Proposed 2020 Conference budget is $11,559,663, a 5% decrease from the 2019 budget.
  • Membership continues to decrease, in 2018 by 4.09%, to 133,219.
  • Average worship is down 6.04% from the previous year to 47,722.
  • Professions of faith have decreased 3.98% to 989.
  • Baptisms decreased 7.15% in 2018 to 1,233.
  • Average weekly attendance in Sunday school decreased approximately 1.32% to 14,626.
  • The number of ongoing small groups, support groups or classes other than Sunday school saw a 3.12% increase to 2,515.
  • The number of persons serving in mission/community ministries increased 4.05% to 27,628 in 2018.

Closed Churches:

Cabinet recognized the ministry that has taken place during the life of five churches that closed this year. The churches are:

  • Aurora UMC (Western Reserve District),
  • Dennison Good Shepherd UMC (Tuscarawas District),
  • North Lawrence Faith UMC (Canal District),
  • Seven Hills UMC (North Coast District),
  • Wellsville UMC (Mahoning Valley District).

Midwest Mission Distribution truck and Eastbrook Mission Barn truck left Lakeside carrying more than $12,000 in cash donations as well as:

  • 850 cleaning buckets,
  • 750 hygiene kits,
  • 540 school kits,
  • 1,325 personal dignity kits,
  • 185 baby palettes,
  • 300 homemade hospital gowns, and
  • medical supplies.

Thanks to the generosity of clergy and laity members of Annual Conference and their congregations, countless lives will be touched because of the money given during these offerings:

  • $24,958.46 was given during the Annual Conference offering at Lakeside. This total does not include donations sent to the Conference lockbox, which will increase the total given in the offering. Each of the following will receive one-third of the offering: Urban Mission in Steubenville, the general fund at Africa University, and the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund.
  • $7,391 was raised during the 5k Run /1-mile Walk for missions.

Award Recipients:

  • Council of Bishops United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training (UMEIT) Certificates presented by Bishop Tracy S. Malone to the Rev. Karen Graham, chair of East Ohio Conference Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR) committee; Will Jones, East Ohio Conference director of Multicultural Vitality; and Joy Parker, director of new ministry development in the North Coast District.
  • Epikoinonia (Eppy) Award for Excellence in Communication Ministry presented by the Rev. Gary Henderson, chief relationship officer with United Methodist Communications, to Rick Wolcott, director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.
  • One Matters Discipleship Award presented by the Rev. Kelly Brown, East Ohio Conference director of Congregational Vitality on behalf of Discipleship Ministries to the Rev. Adam Davis and Pastor Kelsey Orosan of Lorain Lighthouse UMC.


Resolution 2019-01: “To Rebuild, Reclaim the Christian Community: ‘Church’”
This resolution calls for encouraging Conference members to actively model care and compassion for people who are often overlooked and marginalized in our society; to combat bullying, racism, xenophobia, greed, the hoarding of privilege and power, sexual assault and the detention of minor immigrants, separating them from their families; to support all efforts to build relationships among people, instead of building walls among diverse ethnicities and cultures; to celebrate the joy of difference God created, instead of denying and judging. In pursuing this end, local church units should commit to building a true “community” through personal and public activities such as reading Scripture, praying, and seeking to discern God’s guidance in our individual lives, striving towards true discipleship, and transforming our communities by our example and participation in relationship with others.

Submitted byEast Ohio Methodist Federation of Social Action, East Ohio Reconciling Ministries Network, East Ohio Board of Church & Society, and East Ohio United Methodist Women

The motion was approved.

Resolution 2019-02: “Culture of Call Sunday”
This resolution calls for all worshipping communities to celebrate a Culture of Call Sunday, or series of Sundays, at least once a year, possibly on or around Pentecost, lifting stories of callings to various ministries, including but not limited to, Ordained, Consecrated, Licensed, and Lay Ministry within The United Methodist Church; and that each congregation encourage their members and friends to prayerfully consider how God is calling them to serve in the life of the Church and the wider community.

Submitted byEast Ohio Conference Spiritual Formation Committee, East Ohio BOM Executive Committee

The motion was approved.

Resolution 2019-03: “Maintain Unity through the Structural Realignment of The United Methodist Church”
This resolution calls for the East Ohio Annual Conference 2020 General Conference delegation to work in favor of a structural realignment of the United Methodist Church that creates an expression of Wesleyan Methodism that allows both traditional and progressive understandings of LGBTQ+ Clergy and same-gender weddings to co-exist within the Church; and that the East Ohio Annual Conference notify the Council of Bishops that the stipulations of the Traditional Plan represent neither the spirit nor the practice of mutual love and shared mission of our annual conference.

Submitted byRev. Dan Bryant, Rev. Karen Oehl, Tim Beck, Rev. Andrew Call, Rev. Joe Burkhardt, Rev. Kimberly Arbaugh, and The Young Clergy Network

The motion was not approved.

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”
This resolution calls for the East Ohio Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to encourage the Board of Church and Society to investigate how the conference could best respond to the issue of the need for reform of post release sexual offender laws including: How to best educate United Methodists, whether and how to interact with lawmakers about reforms; and any recommendations of the Conferences Board of Church and Society be brought to the 2020 Annual Conference for review and/or action.

Submitted byDennis P. Brinton

The motion was approved.

Resolution 2019-05: “A Healthy Way Forward”
This resolution calls for the East Ohio Conference to acknowledge the need for a healthy way forward that is characterized by dialogue, mutual respect and understanding, and multiple viable pathways; and that the East Ohio Conference make known and embrace four tenets developed by the diverse leadership and constituency of UMC Next: 1) We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness. 2) We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities. 3) We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation. 4) We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in The Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

Submitted byJoy Parker, Dr. Martha Banks, Jason Hockran, Rev. Dianne Tobey Covault, Kelsey Orosan, Rev. Dan Bryant, Connor Prusha, William Jones

The motion was not approved.


Petition 2019-01: “Jurisdictional and Central Conference Equivalency”

The motion was not approved.

Petition 2019-02: “Remove Geographical Restrictions on Jurisdictional Conferences”

The motion was not approved.

Petition 2019-03: “Establish Process of Reinstatement of Provisional Membership”

The motion was approved.

Petition 2019-04: “Add Domestic Violence to the List of Chargeable Offenses”

The motion was not approved.

Annual Conference 2020 is June 15-18, 2020 at Lakeside Chautauqua. The last Annual Conference using the quadrennial theme Bearing Fruit that Lasts: Called, Committed, Connected will underscore the importance of being connected to God and to our neighbors if we are to bear fruit by making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.