By Rick Wolcott*
Bishop Tracy S. Malone announces that two members of the East Ohio Conference Executive Staff Team have submitted their requests to retire from active ministry. Assistant to the Bishop the Rev. Dr. Gary George and Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Steven Court each intend to retire effective June 30, 2021.
“As I share plans for retirement, I praise God for the opportunities I have been given to serve in the body of Christ through The United Methodist Church,” Court shared.
“It has been a blessing and joy to serve the Lord Jesus Christ over the course of my 41 years of service in the East Ohio Conference as a pastor, district superintendent, and assistant to the bishop,” said George.
Rev. Dr. Gary George
Throughout his ministry, Rev. Dr. Gary George lived out his personal mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to encourage and empower others in this mission. He was youth pastor at two United Methodist churches when he received his first East Ohio Conference appointment in 1980. He served Dellroy/Leavittsville, Dueber, Mt. Zion, and Newcomerstown Christ UMCs prior to 1999 when Bishop Jonathan Keaton appointed him to the Cabinet.
George served as superintendent of the Steubenville District for six years before being named the first superintendent of the then newly created Tuscarawas District. Bishop John L. Hopkins appointed him to serve as assistant to the Bishop in 2006 and Bishop Tracy S. Malone continued that appointment when she was assigned to be resident bishop of the Conference in 2016.
George is a member of both the Commission on General Conference and the North Central Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. He previously served on numerous committees, commissions, boards and agencies and was elected six times to be a delegate to General and Jurisdictional conferences of The United Methodist Church.
“The relationships I have formed with laypersons, pastors, Cabinet members, Conference staff and others throughout The United Methodist Church have shaped and enriched my life, my faith and my ministry,” he shared.
George has been active in each community in which he has lived and served. He’s coached youth sports teams, been involved in Scouting and Rotary International, served as a coordinator for Financial Peace University, and participated on national and international mission teams.
He and his wife Lorraine look forward to what God has in store for them in the next chapter of their lives.
“We plan to spend more time with family, travel and continue to volunteer at the church and in the community and I also plan to do some coaching and consulting work,” George said.
“I have witnessed Gary’s deep love and unwavering commitment to The United Methodist Church. He has given exceptional leadership in the East Ohio Conference and throughout the denomination. His institutional knowledge and understanding of church polity have benefited the Conference in tangible ways over these many years. He has been instrumental in helping to develop policies and providing strategic support to help strengthen the missional work of the Conference. I am thankful for Gary’s ministry and pray God’s blessings upon his retirement,” shared Bishop Malone.
Rev. Steve Court
Rev. Steve Court is a second-career pastor. He worked as a systems analyst and project manager for Exxon Chemical Americas prior to answering the call to ordained ministry while serving as a volunteer youth leader at New Dover UMC in New Jersey. His first pastoral appointment was to Allerton and Norton UMCs near Clinton, NJ while earning his Master of Divinity at Drew University. He later served St. John’s UMC in Hope, NJ, before transferring in 1995 to the East Ohio Conference, where he served Senecaville/Mt. Ephraim and Strasburg UMCs.
In 2008, Court was appointed to the Cabinet by Bishop John L. Hopkins. He served six years as superintendent of the Southern Hills District and was then appointed to be director of Connectional Ministries for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Tracy S. Malone continued that appointment when she was assigned to be resident bishop of the Conference in 2016.
As director of Connectional Ministries, Court has coordinated the Council on Ministries staff to equip and support the missions and ministries of East Ohio Conference local churches and mission sites so that each can fulfill the mission and vision of the Church. He finds meaning and spiritual growth in bible study, conversation, youth fellowship, and hands-on service, including disaster response and mission teams.
“Since my first appointment in 1987, I have been humbled by the witness, dedication and faith of brothers and sisters in Christ who have walked together with me in times of joy and times of challenge. I am especially thankful for the support and vision of our bishops and leadership at all levels of the church. Our connection has been and continues to be a source of strength,” Court shared.
As he transitions into a new expression of ministry, Court looks forward to spending time with his wife Elsa and their children, grandchildren and friends.
“I have appreciated Steve’s passion for mission, leadership development and the spiritual vitality of laity and clergy. His analytical skills and ability to work with complexity have helped to guide and strengthen the connectional ministry throughout the annual conference and has helped to foster the stewardship of resources. He has given excellent leadership in the local church, the Conference and within the denomination. I am thankful for Steve’s ministry and pray God’s blessings upon his retirement,” said Bishop Malone.
* Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.