East Ohio Conference Week of Prayer: July 30 to August 5, 2017

Praying Our Way Forward Logo

The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a worldwide time of focused prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the ongoing work of the Commission on a Way Forward.  This season of prayer began in 2016 as the bishops of the church were asked to pledge 15 minutes a day in prayer for the selection and initial work of the Commission on a Way Forward. It continues in 2017 with each annual conference hosting a week of intentional prayer.

We are asking every clergy and lay member of the East Ohio Conference to pray specifically for the work of the Commission beginning Sunday, July 30 and continuing each day through Saturday, August 5, 2017.  In addition, we ask that every congregation include a time of prayer for the Commission on the Way Forward during worship on July 29 and 30.

The 2016 General Conference gave a specific mandate to the Council of Bishops to “lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and to explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” In response, the Council proposed – and the 2016 General Conference approved – the formation of a Commission that will assist in helping us find our way forward. The Commission on a Way Forward has been named by the Council of Bishops, and the 32 members have begun their work.

“Finding our way forward is the work of the whole church. As United Methodists we believe in the power of prayer and holy conferencing. Every annual conference is asked to be active preparers of the way forward by making a commitment to pray for the work of the commission, and by engaging in meaningful dialogue.” (Bishop Tracy S. Malone, September 9, 2016)

In her Episcopal Address during Annual Conference 2017, Malone asked that each East Ohio Conference congregation do something bold in this next ministry year, that they connect with the Four Areas of Focus, and that they do these three things:

  • Pray for the Commission on a Way Forward,
  • Participate in the a Way Forward conversations that will take place in our conference beginning this fall and continuing through the spring of 2018, and
  • Stay encouraged and focused on the mission of Christ and his Church.

We invite you to share prayers using the Facebook page East Ohio UMC Prayer. The Upper Room has made resources available at http://umcprays.org/.

A Way Forward … Building God’s Beloved Community

By Bishop Tracy S. Malone

“Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.”  Ephesians 4:1-6  (CEB)

This passage of scripture really resonates with me as I consider the faithful work we are all being called to do as United Methodists across the connection … to find our way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality. This monumental task of maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church is all of our work to do.

One of the marks of the Christian calling is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unity of the Spirit is created through our baptism and our common faith in Jesus Christ. Our unity in Christ does not exist in the absence of diversity (experience, perspective, theology or culture) but because of it. For we are all uniquely created in the image of God.

We are one body, and one spirit, just as God called us in one hope. When we “live as people worthy of the call we received from God and when we conduct ourselves with all humility, gentleness, patience and accept each other in love” … we will find our way forward and create God’s beloved community.

I encourage you to continue to pray for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward that has been named by the Council of Bishops. These persons have committed to work together on our behalf to propose a way forward toward maintaining and strengthening the unity of the Church.

I invite you to pray for our A Way Forward design team here in East Ohio as we begin our work later this month to develop a plan and process for engaging clergy and laity in meaningful dialogue across the conference.  The design team is comprised of a diverse group of laity and clergy from all 10 districts:

Resident Bishop:

  • Bishop Tracy S. Malone

EOC A Way Forward Design Team:

  • Dr. Gloria Brown, North Coast District
  • Rev. Jim Cooper, Southern Hills District
  • Rev. Steve Stultz Costello, Tuscarawas District
  • Ms. Sandra Hodge, Firelands District
  • Rev. Jared Littleton, North Coast District
  • Rev. Cindy Patterson, Canal District
  • Rev. Keith Peachey, Three Rivers District
  • Dr. Josh Reichard, Mahoning Valley District
  • Rev. Dr. Ivy Smith, Tuscarawas District
  • Rev. Ashley Steele, Ohio Valley District
  • Rev. Dr. Valerie Stultz, Mid-Ohio District
  • Rev. Scott Wilson, Western Reserve District
  • Rev. Gail Angel, Southern Hills District Superintendent
  • Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey, North Coast District Superintendent
  • Rev. Steve Court, Director of Connectional Ministries
  • Rev. Dr. Gary George, Assistant to the Bishop

The conference-wide conversations will begin in the Fall of 2017. Together we will reflect on:

  1. Our diverse and global existence and our shared mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  2. Proactive ways to live together in our differences without presuming that we will resolve our differences.
  3. Discerning a form of unity that would empower us living together and claiming what is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in relation to our differences.

Together we will find our way forward … and build God’s beloved community. We grow in our relationship with Christ and in deeper relationships with each other when we sit at the table together and engage in meaningful dialogue. We discover that when we share our different perspectives and our unique experiences we learn to see each other for who we are, and not for what we think.

Together, let us continue to focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; let us give time for the Commission on a Way Forward to do its work; and let us commit to doing our work by engaging in meaningful dialogue.

Vera Rebrovich Hired as Director of Financial and Administrative Services

Vera RebrovichVera Rebrovich is the new director of Financial and Administrative Services for the East Ohio Conference, effective April 1.

“Vera brings a strong accounting background and more than 20 years of experience as a financial manager and analyst with major firms in our area,” said the Rev. David Palmer, Council on Finance and Administration chairperson.

Rebrovich has extensive finance, accounting, and management experience, and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the State of Ohio.  She is a small business owner who previously worked for The Coral Company in Cleveland, TRW Automotive in Valley View, and Squire Sanders in Cleveland.

“I’m very happy to be joining the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.  I attended Rittman UMC growing up and have many happy memories of Sunday school, youth group, and summer camp at Camp Wanake,” Rebrovich said.  “I look forward to working with Bishop Malone, the Area Center staff and the local churches of our conference, and sharing my financial and accounting knowledge to advance our mission and vision.  It feels like my career has come full circle and I could not be happier.”

She succeeds Jessica Vargo in the re-titled position.  Director identifies the position as being part of executive staff.  Financial and Administrative Services aligns the position with the body that oversees it, the Council on Finance and Administration (CFA).

“Vera brings to the East Ohio Conference high quality financial and administrative skills, and professional experience. We look forward to her leadership among us, and to welcoming her as the director of Financial and Administrative Services,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone.

Rebrovich earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Cleveland State University.  She has been recognized as a Charter Global Management Accountant, and is a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.

She and her husband Frank are parents of six adult children.