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.

Rev. Néstor Nazario Appointed Mid-Ohio District Superintendent

Bishop Tracy S. MalNestor Nazarioone is appointing the Rev. Néstor Nazario to the East Ohio Conference Cabinet.  He will serve as superintendent of the Mid-Ohio District. Nazario is currently in his fourth year as pastor of Hope United Methodist Church (North Coast District), which was birthed out of the merger of Bedford UMC, Maple Heights UMC, and Hathaway UMC.

“Néstor is a capable administrator and brings the experience of serving in a variety of ministry contexts,” said Bishop Malone.  “He has successfully merged congregations and has a deep commitment to social justice ministry.  He brings a deep faith, a love for people, and a passion for the church.”

Nazario’s first East Ohio Conference appointment was to Christ Community United Methodist Church (North Coast District) in 1985.  In 1988, he became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.  During 20 years in the Navy, he served side-by-side with clergy from different faith traditions providing him with an appreciation and respect for people of other faith groups and religions.  After retiring from the Navy in 2008, he returned to the local church, serving five years as pastor to both Christ UMC and First Hispanic UMC (North Coast District), before his appointment to Hope UMC in Bedford.

“I am honored and humbled to be joining the Cabinet,” Nazario said.  “Becoming a DS was never on my list of things to do, so before taking the leap of faith and accepting Bishop Malone’s invitation I pondered on the internal struggle many of the Old Testament prophets experienced during their initial call.”

Nazario serves on the East Ohio Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, on the Commission on Religion and Race, and on the Church and Society Committee.  He will follow the Rev. Karen Oehl as superintendent of the Mid-Ohio District.

“I look forward to getting to know the clergy of the district and to journeying with them the narrow path Jesus has called us to take of making disciples for the transformation of this world, so that all people can experience the reign and realm of God’s loving grace in their midst, and find abundant life,” Nazario said.

His appointment to the Cabinet and Oehl’s appointment to Gay Street United Methodist Church (Three Rivers District) in Mount Vernon are effective July 1.

Nazario earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, a Master of Divinity from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, and a Masters in Counselor Education from Mississippi State University.

He is the father of two adult children.