BUSINESS | Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A busy day with much progress

by Lois Speelman*

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Equitable Compensation
Chair of Equitable Compensation Dan Bilkert explained the process for churches to apply for minimum salary support for appointed pastors.
In 2015-16 no churches received salary support. For 2017, three churches will receive a total of $51,783.

The cabinet has budgeted to invest $94,475 for key leadership support. This will focus on situations where vital ministry is taking place, but finances are available to cover the cost. This support will help churches to reach a point where they are self-sustaining.

Key missional support monies are used to fund a United Methodist ministry presence. An example would be Heart for the City Outreach Center in Akron is a covenant community supported by the conference.  $77,856 will be invested to insure continuing missional witness.

Board of Pensions
Board of Pensions Chair Bill Liming presented this report.  In the first months of 2017 the healthcare reserve took some major hits. Part of the self-funded plan includes a stop loss component which means that in any given year, when a participant reaches over $225,000 of medical expenses the stop loss carrier picks up the remainder. There were four instances that hit that stop loss in the first three months of this year.

A normal month shows a payout of around $600,000 but that figure was exceeded by $1.1 million in January and February.  A healthcare reserve of $3.1 million is a comfortable level for self-funding of health care. In April, that reserve bottomed at $1.8 million.

The board began asking how to stabilize the conference health care liabilities. With less income and rising costs the healthcare plan cannot be sustained as it is. The investment branch of Wespath Benefits & Investments offers a way to provide and maintain healthcare.

The Healthflex program is set up as the denominational healthcare plan.  27 UMC conferences are part of this private insurance exchange. The conference will provide the base plan. Individual participants will have the choice to buy additional benefits.  Deductibles will be going up along with out of pocket costs.  This is a reality and a challenge.

Focus: Engage in Ministry with the Poor

Kelly Brown, director of Congregational Vitality shared another area of focus, Engaging in Ministry With The Poor. He explained the challenge is to not simply engage in transactional ministry where we simply give to fill a need. Christians need to emphasize relationships in all we do. It is through relationships that lives and neighborhoods can be transformed.

Mission Awareness
Chair Jerry Krueger explained that the task of the committee is to promote the Advance, which is a compilation of global and US based opportunities for mission. The committee evaluates and suggests mission opportunities on a rotating basis. The committee also receives application for mission based funding for UM and non-UM projects.  This past year the committee awarded $104,000 to a total of twenty eight ministries. Krueger moved that the conference adopt the Advance projects from July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018.

Krueger thanked those who contributed flood buckets, cleaning kits and school kits for Midwest Mission Center. Thanks also for those who loaded the truck, logged donations and sorted and counted.

Linda Crowell, secretary for East Ohio Conference Global Ministries reminded all that the conference website is a source contact information regarding mission projects.  She announced the total of items collected for the Midwest Mission Distribution truck.

  • $5,728.75 in donations for funding
  • 3,100 Health Kits
  • 530 School Totes
  • 420 Cleaning Buckets
  • 250 misc items
  • 35 Layettes Kits
  • 4 Sewing Kits

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
Kathy Dickriede was introduced as the new UMVIM Coordinator for the East Ohio Conference. She shared her mission background and credited her time at Reach Out, an East Ohio church camp with a mission focus as part of her calling in ministry.

Lives are changed on the mission field and UMVIM helps to developed Christian leaders through leader trainings.  Trainings can be scheduled at the local or district level.

There are many opportunities to volunteer including Mission Discovery trips, Nehemiah Mission, Urban Mission, Epworth Center, Blue Rose Mission, OPEN M, and abroad to places like Mexico, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and more.

Ministries and Mission Funding
Chair Bob Myers presented the report. He announced that the General Church World Service shared ministry apportionment for 2018 is $1,422,602 which is an increase of $24, 155. This amount is apportioned to East Ohio Churches from General Conference for mission and ministry programs of the general church.

The total of the World Service and Conference Benevolence Ministries and Missions budget is $3, 763.796. Myers moved for the adoption of the budget.

Conference Secretary Cindy Patterson explained the procedure for resolutions. Steve Stultz Costello than presented:

Resolution 2017-01 titled Effectively Recruiting and Retaining Young Clergy of Color for consideration.  Resolution adopted with a substitute language change.

Resolution 2017-02 titled Welcoming the Immigrant in Our Midst. Resolution adopted as amended.

Board of Trustees
Chair Allen Laferty shared that the board assisted with the transition for Bishop Tracy Malone last September when $50,000 was spent on updates, repairs and upgrades to the heating and cooling system at the episcopal residence.
The board is studying lease agreements with Epworth Center. Discussions are on-going looking at different options. Mission work will continue at the center but other property consisting of cottages and a park may be sold. A report will be brought to the conference in 2018.

Annual inspections of the district superintendent residences were completed in November and a budget of $52, 789.00 was set for updates and repairs needed.

The board will be updating parsonage standards in relation to radon and mold issues. Those new guidelines will be brought to the conference for approval.

The Area Center will be assessed current needed repairs/replacements will be identified.

Litany for Closing of Churches
Sondra Snode, Western Reserve District superintendent, shared scripture and thanks for eight churches who in word and deed worked hard to share in the name of Jesus Christ.  Those churches are:

  • Firelands District: Sand Hill UMC was built in 1894, and the first service held was the funeral of a Civil War soldier. Sand Hill’s last service of celebration was September 25, 2016.
  • Ohio Valley District: Simpson UMC
    Simpson UMC formed in 1873 and was originally known as the Sixth St. Methodist Episcopal Church. Through the years the church sponsored many ministries to feed, clothe and educate. The closing worship service was held December 11, 2016.
  • Southern Hills District: Beallsville UMC began with six members in the early 1800s. In 1839 the church built a simple structure, the first church in Beallsville.  January 8, 2017 was the final worship service.
  • Southern Hills District: Beech Grove UMC
    The church was organized in 1840, meeting in a log structure, then in a school house and then a frame structure. Ministries such as Bible schools, Sunday classes and working with Newport UMC were ways the congregation served. Their concluding worship service was April 23, 2017.
  • Three Rivers District: Guernsey UMC
    Guernsey UMC was organized in 1830 and was known as the Birds Run Bible Society. The church first met in a log structure before building in 1893. A flood in 1935 destroyed the contents of the building but not the spirit of the people. A final worship service will be held June 25, 2017.
  • Three Rivers District: Branch UM
    This church was formed in 1839. Through the years the church yoked with others to strengthen mission in the area. Branch UMC will close June 30, 2017.
  • Canal District: Goodyear Heights UMC
    Goodyear Heights UMC was formally organized in 1920.  In 1970, Goodyear Heights and Epworth UMCs merged with a commitment to neighborhood ministry. The concluding worship service was held January 8, 2017.
  • Canal District: Living Hope UMC
    Living Hope UMC was birthed in 1997 when Norton and New Hope UMC merged. Living Hope’s legacy is one of risking new adventures in order to reach the community. The closing worship service will be June 25, 2017.
  • Bloomville UMC and Attica UMC, Firelands District merged on January 1, 2017. The Bloomville UMC donated their building to the local food pantry.
  • Park UMC and Coshocton Grace UMC, Three Rivers District will merge on July 1, 2017.

Prayers were offered for all those whose legacies will now live into the future.

Office of Christian Unity & Interreligious Relationships
Chair Karen Graham presented this report.  This group is charged with interpreting, advocating and working for the unity of the Church in every aspect of the life of the conference and its churches.  Dialogue is encouraged and cooperation with the bishop and cabinet, the development of ecumenical relationships and planning for mission work with other agencies.
Scholarship funds are available for clergy to attend events or continuing education programs that foster ecumenical or interreligious understanding and cooperation.

3Cs 5K Run/ 1 –Mile Walk
$6,000 was raised that will benefit 3Cs mission partners.

Spiritual Formation/Christian Education
Spiritual Formation and Christian Education Chair, Janet Zimmerman shared that the committee is actively involved in the task of making and maturing disciples for the transformation of the world.

A Safe Sanctuary policy for small churches has been developed. Resources are available from the Conference Media Center. A workshop will be held in September presenting social media guidelines.

A blog has been launched, Resources for the Journey and is available through the conference website.

Commission on Religion and Race
Chair Edgar Brady presented the CORR-ageous honorees. Charles Yoost, retired, was selected for his laying the groundwork for the Church of the Saviour and Windermere UMs to unite.

Judith Wismar Claycomb was named for her dedication to inclusion and embracing of diversity.

Pryde Bass was honored for his ministry with Farmer to Farmer which provides farm equipment and seeds to help resource farmers in Liberia.

The priority of this commission is to develop culturally competent leadership and ministries and promoting institutional equity.

Black College Fund
Edgar Brady introduced Shani McMichael, a Lina H. McCord Ambassador.  She attends Bennett College, majoring in psychology. She serves in leadership positions on the campus and has studied abroad.

Church and Society
Chair of Church & Society, Terrie Baker gave the report. The purpose of the committee is to teach the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church following the example of Jesus Christ, and to advocate for the realization of God’s vision of abundant life for all.

The committee is involved with the Peace with Justice Grant program which provides seed money for advocacy ministry. 

They also oversee two scholarship programs. The Peace with Justice Scholarships are awarded annually.   $1,000 awards were given to Gabrielle Darrin, Howland UMC, (Mahoning Valley District) and Lindsey Morrow, Fields UMC (North Coast District.)
The Teen Total Abstinence Scholarships were awarded to Erin Ross, Middlefield UMC, (Western Reserve District) and Regan Thomas, Christ UMC (Tuscarawas District).

The committee co-hosted the Church and Society /Commission of Religion and Race Banquet with keynote speaker Rev. Neal Christie speaking on “Responding to the Ohio Crisis of Drug and Opiate Addiction.”

Commission on Status and Role of Women
Chair Laura White shared the work of the committee which advocates for full participation of women in the life of The United Methodist Church.  Areas of focus include awareness, resources and training regarding sexual ethics, institutional equity, education and leadership.

The committee worked in partnership with the Board of Ordained Ministry and conference leadership to conduct a comprehensive survey of all ministry candidates in recent years about their experiences during district and conference ordained ministry processes.  A comparison study was also made of salary levels for full-time clergy based on 2016 salary data of 347 clergy; 98 women and 249.

The average salary for clergy women in this study is $5,000 less than men. The committee suggests that conference leadership continue this review process.

Board of Ordained Ministry
Cara Stultz Costello, chair of the board presented this report. She reviewed the covenant which is affirmed in baptism. All are called to ministry with clergy supporting and enabling the ministry of all Christians. Clergy are called to a servant leadership role to which clergy are called, licensed or ordained by the church, supervised by the bishop.

The report featured a variety of speakers and videos sharing examples of the collaborative work of the board.                    

The Cabinet Address
The Cabinet address report can be found here.

Introduction of New District Superintendents
Bishop Tracy Malone thanked out-going superintendents Dan Bryant, Mahoning Valley District and Karen Oehl, Mid-Ohio District for their service on the cabinet.  They were presented with Bibles by the bishop.

She introduced Abby Auman, incoming Mahoning Valley District Superintendent and Nestor Nazario, Mid-Ohio District. She then asked them to affirm their commitment to the special ministry of supervision and leadership.  Bishop Malone offered a prayer.

Fixing of Appointments
The district superintendents gathered onstage and shared scripture and recognized the shared ministry of the conference, both lay and clergy.  Prayers were offered for receiving newly appointed clergy and the bishop offered a prayer of blessing.

* Lois Speelman, East Ohio Conference Communications

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