Bishop Malone Shares East Ohio Conference Ministry Vision

By Rick Wolcott*

Bishop Tracy S. Malone began unveiling a ministry vision for the East Ohio Conference during her Annual Conference 2017 Episcopal Address.

“As your Episcopal Leader, I hold out a vision and a hope that you will be bold, faithful and courageous in your Christian witness and behold the power, the Holy Spirit’s power, that has been poured out upon you!” she said during her address.

The East Ohio Conference ministry vision is the result of the countless hours the bishop spent touring each district with its superintendent, meeting pastors, congregations, and faith communities.

“I saw places where ministry was strong, vibrant and viable, and places where there is new emerging ministries,” Malone said.  “I also saw places and communities where there are great needs and opportunities for us to expand our witness and reach.”

The ministry vision comes after  visiting and preaching in many EOC churches; following listening sessions with ministry candidates; having one-on-one conversations with laity and clergy; meeting with community leaders and partners; and seeing first-hand the needs and opportunities within the Ohio East Area.

“After much prayer and discernment, this is what God gave me as a vision,” Malone said.

The ministry vision has been shared with Conference directors, Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM) elected leadership, the Cabinet, the Extended Cabinet, and is now being shared with all East Ohio Conference laity, clergy and churches.

“While there is anxiety about the future of the Church and what might happen as a result of the Special Session of General Conference called for February 2019, the mission of the Church still stands,” Malone said.  “It is our shared mission and our vision that holds us together and keeps us focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Download Ministry Vision video.

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

Rev. Bruce Hitchcock to lead Ohio Valley District

Rev. Bruce HitchcockBishop Tracy S. Malone has appointed the Rev. Bruce Hitchcock as superintendent of the Ohio Valley District.  He succeeds the Rev. Jim Winkler, who is appointed as lead pastor of Mayfield UMC (Western Reserve District).  Both appointments are effective July 1.

“Rev. Bruce Hitchcock is a visionary leader, a strategic thinker and one who brings many learnings and experiences from serving in a variety of ministry settings. He has a deep faith and has demonstrated throughout his ministry a strong commitment to discipleship, evangelism, and mission,” Malone said.

Hitchcock is pastor of Geneva United Methodist Church (Western Reserve District).  Prior to being appointed to the church in July 2011, he was executive director of the Urban Mission in Steubenville for nine years.

“I celebrate the opportunity to return to the Ohio Valley.  The pastors and congregations of the district are wonderful, and deeply committed to loving God and serving neighbor,” Hitchcock said.

Ordained a Deacon in 1987 and an Elder in 1989, Hitchcock has served churches across the State of Ohio during his ministry.  While earning a Bachelor’s degree from Malone College, he also was pastor of Pleasant Grove UMC in Carroll County.  He then served State Road UMC in Germantown in the West Ohio Conference while attending United Theological Seminary, where he earned his Masters of Divinity.

Upon graduation, Hitchcock served East Rochester-Bayard UMC (1989-1993), East Sparta UMC (1993-1996), and Huron UMC (1996-2002) before accepting the position at the Urban Mission.

Hitchcock is chair of the Western Reserve District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and is chair of the Conference Commission on Pastoral Care, a position that places him on the Conference Personnel Committee.

He and wife Melissa are the parents of two sons and a daughter.

United Methodist leaders respond to #MeToo and #ChurchToo movement

January 23, 2018

Over the recent weeks and months, and continuing on a seemingly daily basis, the media have been saturated with stories of persons coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct perpetrated by individuals in positions of power and authority. The pervasiveness of the power imbalance is a part of every story being told. Responses have ranged from immediate termination of employment of the accused and bribery for silence to invitations for victims to feel shame.

The Council of Bishops together with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women reaffirm the core beliefs found in The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles which clearly state, “sexual harassment must be understood as an exploitation of a power relationship and interfering with the moral mission of the Church.”

Further we recognize “sexual assault as wrong no matter the circumstances,” and “among women and men, [we] reject the erroneous notion [that] one gender is superior to another.” Further, our General Rules, founded by John Wesley direct us to do no harm and do good in every possible way at all times. The sin of sexual misconduct must be named by the Church at every level of ministry. Further, we must confront the environment of coarser public dialog and discourse that provides license and cover for sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

We acknowledge that the Church is also a place where sexual misconduct happens when persons in power positions choose to abuse their power. The stories are all too similar. Alleged victims are often reluctant to come forward fearing they will not be believed or they will experience retaliation and the decision to report will be held against them. Sexual misconduct is a symptom of a systemic problem within our Church and society where patriarchy flourishes.

The Church is a place for spiritual growth. Unfortunately, spiritual violence happens every time a person experiences sexual misconduct within the Church. Nothing excuses this behavior.

In November 2017, before the most recent flurry of stories came forward, the Council of Bishops affirmed, through its members, renewed commitment to addressing the systemic causes of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Upon invitation, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women provided two training sessions to the bishops during their recent meeting on topics of sustaining integrity in ministry and response to sexual misconduct.

The Council of Bishops is committed to leading The United Methodist Church in the prevention of sexual misconduct, to offering healing to the victims, and to finding paths for Christ’s love to be shown to the perpetrator while maintaining standards of accountability.

The Council of Bishops joins with The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women to strongly encourage and support the reporting of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment allegations within the Church. Our denomination’s website, offers information and a toll free, confidential number for support through the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

To the extent of our ability, we pledge to do the right thing in every complaint received, including listening well to hear the story and developing a response which holds persons accountable and offers healing for all affected.



Media Contacts:

Jenn Meadows
Director of Communications
General Commission on the Status and Role of Women

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications
Council of Bishops – The United Methodist Church