2015 West Ohio Conference
Nearly 2500 clergy and lay members and guests from across the conference convened at Lakeside Chautauqua on the shores of Lake Erie for the 46th session of the West Ohio Annual Conference, held Sunday, June 7 through Wednesday, June 10. This year continues the theme “Becoming the Beloved Community: Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given,” using the word “Broken” to shape the direction of this year’s annual conference session. Week in Review video.
During the session, the members of the West Ohio Conference tended to the business of the conference, voted on recommendations and reports, elected a General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation, worshipped, sang and celebrated the mission and ministry of our West Ohio United Methodist congregations. Sunday afternoon’s baptism, held by West Ohio Hispanic Ministries, was an inspirational beginning to the week as six children and three adult women dressed in white baptismal garments were baptized in the waters of Lake Erie. A milestone during the week was surpassing our conference’s $3.5 million campaign goal for Imagine No Malaria.
The clergy session having been previously held on May 13 at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, the laity session opened the week on Sunday evening, led by West Ohio Conference Lay Leader, Tom Slater. Slater introduced Bishop Gregory V. Palmer who convened the annual conference, describing the tasks before the membership this week as setting the policy, direction and rules for this annual conference and electing leaders who will inform the direction and rules of the larger denomination. The Rev. Cindy Garn and Bruce Boyd, chairs of the West Ohio election team, explained election procedures, introduced holy conferencing and encouraged respectful dialogue throughout the session. Laity nominated nine candidates from the floor in addition to the 26 already self-nominated and published in the Voter Guide. On Monday morning following worship, the Bishop reconvened the Annual Conference and the business and corporate sessions throughout the week included the following reports and actions:
- Election of eight lay and eight clergy delegates to both General and Jurisdictional conference, as well as eight alternates. Demographic charts for the elected delegation were shared with the members.
- Reporting from conference boards and committees including the 2014 Missional Report, which summarized to the members our shared work toward becoming the beloved community.
- Fixing of appointments for the upcoming appointment year beginning July 1, 2015.
- Reporting that with $403,735 given during Tuesday’s Global Praise Worship Service, West Ohio’s support of Imagine No Malaria reached 102 percent of its $3.5 million goal.
Voting on 11 Recommendations:
- PASSED Recommendation No. 1 Council on Finance and Administration Recommendations Calendar Year 2016, 2016 Mission and Ministry Funding Plan (electronic vote)
- PASSED Recommendation No. 2 Conference Center Building (electronic vote)
- PASSED Recommendation No. 3 Recommendation to Sell Camp Asbury (electronic vote)
- PASSED Recommendation No. 4 Commission on Equitable Compensation (electronic vote)
- PASSED Recommendation No. 5 2016 Board of Pension and Health Benefits (electronic vote) (electronic vote)
- PASSED AS AMENDED Recommendation No. 6 Resolution For Review Of West Ohio Conference Financial and Apportionment Strategies. (electronic vote)
- PASSED Recommendation No. 7 Petition to the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church for a Study and Global Conversation about Marriage. (electronic vote) (Will be submitted to General Conference)
- INDEFINITELY POSTPONED Recommendation No. 8 Petitioning the 2016 General Conference to Form a Task Force to Consider All “Common Way” Plans to Keep our Church United Despite Differences on Same Gender Marriage and Ordination Eligibility (vote by show of hands)
- PASSED AS PLURALITY BALLOT (electronic vote) (All will be submitted to General Conference)
- Recommendation No. 9 Resolutions Petitioning the 2016 General Conference Regarding Fossil Fuel Divestment Petition for General Conference Regarding General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Investments
- PASSED Recommendation No. 10 Petition for General Conference Regarding a Change in The Book of Discipline
- PASSED Recommendation No. 11 Petition for General Conference Regarding a Change in The Book of Resolutions
Special guests and recognitions
Each year, annual conference members are blessed to receive greetings and recognitions from leaders of the denomination, partner organizations, seminaries and United Methodist-affiliated universities. This year’s included:
- The Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director of the Global Health Initiative, United Methodist Communications, reported that West Ohio is the highest giver to Imagine No Malaria in the denomination.
- Denicia Roberts, from the General Council on Finance and Administration, informed the body that West Ohio paid 100 percent of general apportionment funds this past year.
- George Howard, deputy general secretary of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries delivered the United Methodist Committee on Relief report awarding West Ohio with The Advance Special Giving Award for the highest amount of designated giving in the denomination.
- Dominic Mejia, West Ohio internship coordinator, introduced the four new West Ohio Summer Next Generation Leadership Interns:
O Emily Benkert from Hoffman United Methodist Church who is interning at Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church.
O Jaired Birks from First United Methodist Church in Ada who is interning at King Avenue United Methodist Church
O Karli McDonald from First United Methodist Church in Marysville who is interning at New Albany United Methodist Church.
O Alex Shaver from Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church who is interning at Plain City United Methodist Church.
• The Rev. Wade Giffin, Director of the Office of Ministry, recognized two new West Ohio Residents:
O The Rev. Josh Tissot who will be serving as a resident at United Methodist Church for all People.
O The Rev. Dave Pettengill who will be serving as a resident at Epworth United Methodist Church, Toledo.
• Recognition and a prayer of blessing were given by Bishop Palmer to West Ohio disaster response leaders, newly Certified Lay Ministers, graduates of the Course of Study and Candidates preparing for ordination and commissioning answered the historic questions.
• Richard Boone was commissioned as a missionary to serve at Chillicothe Correctional Institution with Horizon Prison Initiatives. Emily Kvalheim was commissioned to serve as a mission fellow through the United Methdodist Board of Global Ministries.
• Presentation of the 2015 Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, which celebrate outstanding personal evangelism of clergy, laity and youth in West Ohio. Recipients were the Rev. Kevin Pees, the Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, Sile Singleton and Tyler Norris.
• The William B. Murray Vital Town and Country Church Award was awarded to the Rev. Tyler Kleeberger and Metamora United Methodist Church.
• Bishop Palmer, along with Rev. Tim Bias, top executive of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, presented the One Matters Discipleship Award, recognizing achievements of baptisms and professions of faith, to the Rev. Alethea Botts and Jennifer Bartrum from New Beginnings United Methodist Church in Pomeroy.
• The bishop also awarded the Francis Asbury Higher Education Award to the Rev. Paul Risler of Central Avenue United Methodist Church in Athens for his commitment to higher education and work with campus and young adult ministries.
Bishop Palmer began his address by reminding the members of the annual conference of the five "asks" from his 2014 address and praising the year's accomplishments. “The world is hungry for the living bread,” said the bishop. He challenged each of West Ohio’s districts to engage in eight bold new ideas throughout the coming year. The bishop also called members into a season of prayer and weekly fasting for the 2016 General Conference and consider that “maybe we need to stop trying to save the church and start trying to save the world.”
Opening worship was held this year on Sunday evening to a standing-room only audience. “The Gospel Mass,” by composer Robert Ray, was performed with combined choirs from Church of the Messiah United Methodist, First United Methodist in Newark and Powell United Methodist Church. The service also featured Holy Communion and a time of remembrance for clergy, spouses, children and laity who passed on this year.
Monday began with a powerful worship service that focused on the theme of brokenness. The morning’s call to worship set the tone for the day as the room joined together by saying, “We are the blessed, beloved and broken people of God.” Bishop Palmer led those who had gathered for worship with a message on brokenness. “We live in a world that we have shaped that has walls and we believe those walls need to be guarded,” said the Bishop as he charged those gathered with finding common bonds, tearing down walls and responding to brokenness around the world.
At the Tuesday morning Global Praise worship service, the altar was set with African artifacts and colorful symbols reminding worshippers of a global identity and mission. Jorge Lockward, program director of global praise for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, accompanied by the praise team from Central Avenue United Methodist Church in Athens, led a joyful celebration of praise and thanksgiving focused on West Ohio’s work with Imagine No Malaria. Worshippers stood, hands raised, as dancers from Grace United Methodist Church in Dayton took the stage, adding to the spirit-filled room. The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, lead pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, delivered the morning’s sermon, asking “What is in you that will cause you to rise?” With background music with words in both Swahili and English, members moved from their seats to participate in the offering, giving $403,735 for Imagine No Malaria.
The Celebration of Ministry service honors retirees and provides the commissioning and ordination of deacons and elders for ministerial leadership. Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey addressed the candidates offering a challenging and encouraging word as they take next steps in ministry. “As you have promised to give your life to the work and ministry of God within The United Methodist Church, know that God’s promises to you will never fail,” Kiesey said. “God will continue to challenge you. God will continue to call you. God will continue to carry you through life for God’s promises are true and they are forever.” Kiesey challenged candidates to take bold steps in trusting God so that they continue to change themselves, others and the world. Bishop Palmer commissioned five provisional deacons and 16 provisional elders to lead the church in service, to proclaim the word of God and to equip others for ministry. The bishop directed the three deacons and 21 elders being ordained to take authority to lead in their respective ministries.
The final worship service was a Hymn Sing on Wednesday morning where members lifted their voices in song led by members of the Young Justice Advocates. Songs included “It Is Well with my Soul” and “How Great Thou Art,” selected by members on Monday practicing using their electronic voting devices.
The Rev. Thomas Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology offered two teachings during the week. Long delivered a humorous and thought-provoking message in his first teaching about the state of the church. “The problem is not atheism, it’s superficiality,” Long said. “No one is qualified to be a leader who has not had the experience of being on the outside.” Long’s second teaching focused on the Gospels of Luke and John and challenged leaders to extend welcome and invitation to all people.
- Tuesday began with the Bishop’s 5K Run for Their Lives, a walk/run to benefit Imagine No Malaria. For the fourth year in a row, runners, walkers and spectators gathered early outside The Patio Restaurant in downtown Lakeside for the 7 a.m. race, which started along the lakeshore and, from there, looped through the scenic Lakeside grounds.
- Clergy spouses gathered with Cynthia Palmer for Coffee with Cynthia “Just Breathe,” an opportunity to laugh, learn and dialogue about the unique roles shared by clergy spouses.
- Family Fun activities were scattered throughout the week and included a kid-friendly worship experience in the park’s gazebo, movie, games and crafts with a Dr. Seuss theme.
- The annual Laity Luncheon featured speaker the Rev. Tony Miltenberger. Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Candler School of Theology also hosted special luncheons, which served as opportunities for alumni, students and friends to reconnect with one another. Multiple districts hosted ice cream socials and clergy spouse gatherings. Young people gathered for several youth events through the week including a Youth Commissioning at the Youth House.
- At Wednesday’s Holy Currencies Culture luncheon, churches were recognized for their efforts in missional and sustainable ministries. Other luncheons included the All In Community luncheon, a time to learn and share about prison ministry with incarcerated persons, and the Retired Ministers Association Luncheon for retired clergy members.
As of December 31, 2014, the number of West Ohio churches was 1,029 (down 22); membership stands at 175,791 (down 6,648); average weekly worship attendance is 104,555 (down 3,403); average weekly church school attendance is 28,756 (down 1,589).
— Lisa Streight, conference communications