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2012 West Ohio Annual Conference

West Ohio Annual Conference
June 10-13, 2012, Lakeside Chautauqua, Ohio

God's miracles were abundant at the 43rd Session of the West Ohio Annual Conference, evidenced through the breakthrough spirit, unity and faithfulness of its members. Held at Lakeside Chautauqua, June 10-13, 2012, the focus was global health: eliminating the diseases of poverty. In attendance were 2,142 lay and clergy members and 485 guests who found many ways of demonstrating this year's theme, "Unleashed! Proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere."


Throughout the week, worshipful music ushered in vibrant praise led by the Gaines Unity Choir with Ohio River Valley Friends, organist Fred Chatfield, song leader Justin Williams, violinist In-Hong Cha, the Grove City United Methodist Church Worship Team, the West Ohio Conference Choir and the Children's Choirs from Church of the Messiah and Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Churches.

The Miracle Offering this year was dedicated to adding the final dollars needed for the purchase of the Cessna Grand Caravan fo Wings of the Morning, a multi-conference campaign for $1.6 million started a year ago, and health kits for those in need. By the end of the 2012 Annual Conference, West Ohio members responded to the needs of God's people by giving more than 14,000 health kits valued at nearly $200,000. After spontaneous calls from the membership for more offerings for the purchase of the plane, members generously gave $986,754. The spirit of giving swelled up from the congregation and when calls to reach $1 million rose from the floor of the session, five churches pledged another $37,500, bringing the total West Ohio Conference giving for the purchase of the plane to a miraculous total of $1,024,254!

The Celebration of Life and Ministry began as the Bishop, cabinet, clergy, and two deacons, nine provisional elders, and 13 elder candidates formed a processional joined by candidates' families behind vivid, brilliant banners. Bishop Bruce R. Ough, the presiding bishop, laid hands on each candidate, offering a blessing to their lives and ministries. In his message, he called for all God's people to "let the naming continue," to overcome the fear that may cause them to avoid using the name of Jesus. There is power to unleash in the name of Jesus; we need to be bold in using the name of Jesus, in telling our personal Jesus stories and proclaiming the name of Jesus to reach and transform the lost into disciples. Memorial candles were lighted while a solemn bell rang in honor of each of 32 clergy members from the conference who passed away within the last year. Forty-four retirees were also honored and, as Bishop Ough stated, "their witness and work, sacrifice and service, have set a standard for all."


Bishop Bruce R. Ough's final episcopal address to West Ohio reflected on his own personal experiences and development through his service to the conference. He showed the continued aligning of the conference to support the vision cast at the episcopal address from the 2001 annual conference, the vision that "every congregation is a healthy, growing, spiritually vital, risk-taking center for making and equipping disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Bishop Ough said that the identity of the conference lies in it "recession proof mission," gifted leadership, spirit of innovation, desire to carry the gospel message to "where the road runs out," and its spirit of selfless generosity. Calling for response from the members present, he addressed West Ohio, "Are you ready to look to a future with hope, to build on your strengths, to remain focused on that which remains unfinished or undone, and to place your trust in God's Spirit to lead you?"

Bishop Thomas Bickerton, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference, presented the message for the opening service on Sunday, beginning by asking, "Do you have something leashed that needs to be set free?" He spoke on the need for the church to be unleashed from its hesitation and fear. Instead of being held by worry, we need to extend our hands into a world that needs healing and trust the Spirit to carry us into the future.

Monday, Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, reflected on Jeremiah 8, pointing out that the people of Israel cried out to God for health and wholeness, much like the cries, prayers and efforts of the West Ohio Conference. Like God's people who asked, "Is there a balm in Gilead?" we are all in need of restoration.

"In the name of Jesus, stand and walk!" Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda shouted, preaching from Acts 3:1-12, which recounts Peter and John's encounter with a crippled beggar. The Bishop from the North Katanga Area, Democratic Republic of the Congo, related this story to the many ways that God has done the unexpected for the people in the North Katanga Conference. "God makes the impossible possible," he affirmed. "How many lives may now be saved?"


Two pre-conference workshops were offered Sunday afternoon for early arrivers. "Strategies for Worship that Stick," highlighted the transformation of communication in worship, such as using engaging images or metaphors to encapsulate ideas or truths. "An Invitation to the Spirit-Filled Life," emphasized placing trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, to stop being afraid and creating a culture of fear in our congregations.

Conference members had the opportunity to attend any of 10 Summer "Shorts" workshops. Leaders, pastors and directors from within the conference gave instruction on a broad range of topics, covering health and ministry initiatives and ideas for new church starts, church safety and excellence in administration. These courses provided valuable take home advice and insight to enhance and energize ministry effectiveness and leadership.

This year, OhioHealth partnered with West Ohio to provide Health Fair and a free General Health Assessment that screened several aspects of a participants overall health and well-being including blood pressure, cholesterol, nutrition, exercise and memory. Several workshops were led by the week's featured speakers, as well as leaders, directors and instructors from around the conference. Topics all focused on global and congregational health initiatives.

In the early morning on Wednesday, nearly 400 members of the West Ohio Conference participated in a 5K run and walk event, as a finale to the Bishop's Health Challenge, which began in February. Some 145 conference teams and individual members had walked 161,504 miles prior to the start of conference. The added distance from the 5K race as well as what was turned in throughout Annual Conference made the grand total for the challenge 174,363 miles walked, nearly 6 ½ times around the world!


Before the opening service on Sunday, the Laity Session met to focus on the laity's own personal calls and to be unleashed in their calling. All leaders promoted the renewal of strength, moving in courage in your calling and growing in unity for the future of the laity in the church.

Among the reports given throughout the general sessions, theWest Ohio 2011 Missional Report was presented by the West Ohio Conference Leadership Team as a celebration of all that God is doing among us. Using a balance beam, Rev. Brian Brown demonstrated the spirit of the Missional Report as a movement from fear to faith.

The Council on Finance and Administration also reported on the financial stability of the conference and recommended the 2013 budget, which was approved under Recommendation No. 1. Bill Brownson was also nominated to continue as treasurer and was re-elected to the position.

In total, 10 recommendations were made, discussed and voted on by the membership throughout the week. The entire list of recommendations with text and results are available on the WestOhio 2012 Annual Conference web pages (click on 2012 Annual Conference). Below is the list with links to each:


Passed1Council on Finance and Administration Recommendations Calendar Year 2013

Passed2Commission on Equitable Compensation

Passed3Board of Pension and Health Benefits

Passed as edited4Recognize Otterbein-Lebanon Senior Lifestyle Community as a United Methodist Historical Site

Passed as amended5Resolution to Stop Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

Passed as amended6Recommendation for the Elimination of Elective Abortion Coverage in West Ohio Conference Health Insurance Plan

Failed7Encouragement to Respond to Convictions Related to Modern Times-Opening Minds

Passed as amended8Meeting The Needs Of The Hungry And Homeless

Failed9Conference Health Insurance Assistance Program

Passed10Resolution prohibiting gun play at WOC Camps


In only a few eventful days, the 2012 Annual Conference reached a wide audience of viewers and social networkers. The conference live stream was viewed 2,300 times by 1,500 different viewers across the United States and in countries as far away as Japan, Ukraine, Germany, Canada, and Macedonia. The event website was viewed 5,000 different times by people from Ohio as well other parts of the U.S., and beyond. Lively twitter conversations were tweeted with the hash tag #westohioac, referencing memorable moments and quotes each day. On Facebook, 1,389 people were talking about the conference reaching 14,553 unique people, and thousands of friends of fans were potentially exposed to the ministry of the West Ohio Conference.

More importantly, the real miracle is the thousands and thousands of people who will be reached with Christ's transforming love because of the breakthrough generosity of the people of West Ohio. Health kits are being distributed in Ohio and beyond, thousands of pounds of collected potatoes will feed hungry people, and a plane will be purchased that will provide needed healing to our sisters and brothers in the North Katanga Conference.

Praise God for his miracles!

Membership stands at 193,258, down 6,742 from previous year. Worship attendance stands at 111,043, down 1,350 from previous year. Church school attendance stands at 33,533, down 2,261 from previous year.