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2009 West Ohio Annual Conference

West Ohio Annual Conference
June 9-12, 2008, Lakeside, Ohio

The 40th session of the West Ohio Annual Conference, presided over by Bishop Bruce R. Ough, emphasized the development of principled Christian leaders for the church and the world under the banner of "Love in Action: Developing Leaders," with the foundation of "I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:15)

The approximately 3,000 members and guests attending the conference at Lakeside, Ohio, received a powerful reminder from Bishop Ough that "as a Love First Conference, the Four Areas of Focus are ways we can faithfully and fruitfully put our love for God and love for neighbor into action within the 21st century context." Each of West Ohio's annual conference sessions throughout Bishop Ough's third quadrennium in West Ohio will focus on one of the Four Areas of Focus.

Ough's episcopal address, "Is The United Methodist Church Like the Big Three?" challenged the people of West Ohio to believe that there has never been a better or more critical time to be the church. "This is an urgent time," stated Ough. "The human needs are urgent. The economic realities are urgent. The institutional questions are urgent. Let us not waste or squander this urgency&ellipsis;.Let us transform our economic urgency into a Reign of God urgency. Let us seize this moment to embrace, with new urgency, Christ's call to make and equip disciples for the transformation of the world. Let us be the Church!"

The most dramatic and visible evidence of inspiring love came when the "Love First" Miracle offering of more than 10,000 school kits was laid at the altar by the churches of West Ohio for distribution in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, cash donations and pledges of nearly $225,000 were collected for leadership development ministries globally.

The Rev. Junius Dotson, senior pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, the largest African-American church in the state of Kansas, led two worship services, and the Hope for Africa Children's Choir performed during several worship services. In keeping with the developing leaders theme, the teaching team of the Rev. Mike Slaughter and the Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey, from Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, a West Ohio missional church focused on the development of leaders, each contributed powerful teaching presentations to the conference audience.

Throughout the week both spontaneous challenges and planned events invited participation and offered excitement. Highlights included a Youth vs. Cabinet Water Balloon Volleyball game, a "Rock the Dock" concert and dance, an Internet Café where members could "plug in," and live-streaming for those unable to attend the conference but interested in participating. Interspersed throughout the agenda were a series of ministry moments, lifting up leadership-focused churches and ministries supported by and partnered with the West Ohio Conference. A Ministry Fair offered exhibits by churches and other ministries excelling at developing leaders.

In other conference business members voted on the Constitutional Amendments from the 2008 General Conference, and members approved West Ohio resolutions that:

  • Called upon individuals, clergy, congregations, general agencies, Ohio & U.S. legislative bodies, and the United Nations to make a commitment to live healthier lives & and work toward health care for all;
  • Called upon members of West Ohio congregations to pray and actively engage in opposing the gambling interests that are again attempting to bring casinos and slots to Ohio;
  • Established a committee to investigate companies within West Ohio's investment portfolio that support the occupation of Palestinian territories and recommend divestment from these companies.

Bishop Ough ordained 20 elders and four deacons. He commissioned 16 probationary and two associate members, and honored 28 pastors in their retirement.

Membership stands at 212,113, down 6,681 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 117,180, down 1,525. The conference reported 38,204 in church school attendance, up 506 from the previous year.

- Lisa Streight