As the 2011 Annual Conference began, music from the Marty Ford Experience opened Sunday night, and worship for the week was led by the team from Ginghamsburg UMC as well as the team from Ft. McKinley UMC. Vibrant praise ushered in a spirit of celebration that would continue throughout the week.
Periodically, Breakthrough Ministry videos were played, telling stories of how churches across the conference are transforming lives. Copies of all the videos can be found on the West Ohio YouTube Channel.
Bishop Ough, in his Episcopal Address, focused on the impact of a transformed life that comes from giving oneself to Christ. He implored congregants to break free from restraints that would prevent the empowering of believers to share their stories and give new life to others. “What people want,” Bishop Ough expressed, “are transformed lives and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Faith is about transformed lives and about transforming lives.”
Several guest speakers were also invited to this year’s Annual Conference. Monday, speaking on the conference’s theme of “Unleashing New Life,” Rev. Vance P. Ross challenged attendees. “We gotta recognize what it means to say we really met the Lord,” he urged, because “God is looking for a people and God is looking for a church that would dare to be unleashed in new life.” He encouraged listeners to take the Message past the alter railing and step out to reach the lives of others, refusing to be bound within the church.
On Tuesday, Martha Grace Reese supported the strengthening of evangelism in the congregation. She pointed out that many churches need to make a focus outside church walls a priority, as well as expressing a close and personal love for Jesus, and talking simply about their faith and lives with others. “The really fascinating thing,” Reese said of successful churches she had researched, was that they “have this immense motivation. They care. They have a sense of how powerful, and majestic, and real, and glorious God is,” which drives them to take steps to impact their communities for Jesus Christ.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost,” Terry Teykl, Wednesday morning’s speaker quoted from Luke 19. Teykl spoke of the need and passion for reaching the lost and unbelieving. Teykl challenged everyone to create a list of ten people who have no relationship with Christ and pray fervently for God to move them to make a decision to believe. He asked to “pray for evangelism to be the passion of the Church again, that we’ll win this generation to Him.”
Joyce Fry, Assistant to the Bishop, also gave her own “God story,” showing that through any experience, God can bring forth a blessing to others. Fry holds a commanding passion for reaching others through her life. “I have given my life to this ministry,” she concluded, “because I believe that the way God has shown us through Jesus Christ is the very best way in the world to live life and that God wants everyone—everyone—to have abundant life through Jesus Christ.”
The Celebration of Life and Ministry began as deacon and elder candidates formed a processional joined by their families behind the vivid, brilliant banners. As the final step in being commissioned and ordained, the candidates are brought forth to acknowledge and affirm God’s call to them and their response to that call. Bishop Ough laid hands on each candidate, offering a blessing to their lives and ministries. The Bishop incited them to hold the heart of the Father with a sense of urgency, extravagant love and relentless searching for the lost.
Memorial candles were lit while a solemn bell rang from center stage in honor of each clergy member from the West Ohio Conference who has passed away within the last year, their names joining the Roll of the Victorious. The bell rang once for the children of clergy as well as those laity who have also passed away.
Retirees were also honored and, as Bishop Ough stated, their witness and work, sacrifice and service, have set a standard for all. The celebration ended as the symbols of ministry were transferred to new hands, trusting God’s grace upon them for service.
Thursday, the final day of Annual Conference, began with an introduction of pastors from West Ohio receiving new appointments beginning this year. Bishop Ough fixed the appointments and admonished all according to Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples to make disciples of all peoples, to go and make new places “where new life, converted life, and transformed life is celebrated on earth as it is in heaven.”
Donations to the Love First Miracle Offering were also collected throughout the week. The gifts of the people will be “helping to create the settings for unleashing new life,” starting new congregations in each of the West Ohio Conference’s four global mission partners, as well as three churches within West Ohio. The contributions from members of the Annual Conference to the Love First Miracle Offering totaled more than $150,000 by the end of the week. That number will continue to grow as additional offerings are received.
All elected delegates were invited to the stage and the entire congregation lifted hands and prayed for God’s wisdom and guidance in their newly chosen roles. Lay delegates elected to General Conference are Bruce Boyd, Sherri Rogers, George Howard, Chris Steiner, Phillip Connolly, Kathy Rohrs, David Edgar, Benis Lutz and Caleb Harper. Clergy Delegates to General Conference are Michael Slaughter, Gregory Stover, Jeff Greenway, Dee Stickley-Miner, Joon-Sik Park, Calvin Alston Jr., Alice Wolfe, Joseph Bishman and Gloria Brooks. Lay delegates chosen for Jurisdictional Conference include Mary Kercherval Short, Philip Moots, Sue Stutz, Kenneth Schoon, Robert Imboden, Karen Brantley, Joe Fox, Rebecca Hug and Anthony Carmichael. Clergy delegates to Jurisdictional Conference are Chris Heckaman, Roger Grace, Jocelyn Roper, Dennis Mohler, John Edgar, Rachel Miller, Thomas Tumblin, Darryl Fairchild and David Meredith.
Recommendations adopted at Annual Conference were numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 11. With amendments, recommendation numbers 9 and 10 also passed. Recommendation numbers 6 and 8 were defeated. (A detailed list of the recommendations may be found here.)
With the closing of business at Annual Conference, attendees were dismissed and the words of their litany directed them in their way, reminding that “God it is who leads us on the way and makes of us companions in the work. Where God goes, we go too.” Vaya con dios.