The 54th Session of the West Ohio Annual Conference convened June 1 – 3 at the Dayton (Ohio) Convention Center. With nearly 1,600 clergy and lay members, this was the first in-person annual conference since 2019. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer presided over the conference under the theme “Committed, Connected, Community,” rooted in Hebrews 10:23-25.
During his Episcopal Address, Palmer spoke of recent and historic challenges of the church. “Our calling is to serve this present age,” he said, “even if there's a storm … in the midst of passing over.”
“One of our storms,” Palmer continued, “is disaffiliation. That's not a blame thing; it's just the way it is. It's in the book. We've given a lot of attention to it. Let me be clear. It is not our mission. We gave attention to it. We'll finish up what there is to be finished up. But it is not Jesus' mission. It's not the mission of The United Methodist Church. It's not Greg Palmer's mission, and it's not your mission. We’ve got one mission: Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. “
“We exist for the people that have yet to come,” Palmer said, as the audience rose to their feet.
- Mary Katherine Collins, Henry Antonio Folgoso Jarmillo, Jennifer L. Miller, Sungyoon Park, Carrie Schwab, Shin Sung and Daniel Wells were commissioned as Provisional Elders and Seonyoung K. Chang, Lucy Kelly and Ashley Wynn as Provisional Deacons.
- Angela Schroder and Hannah VanMeter were ordained Deacons, and Mary Beth Cheeseman, Joseph Graves, Caleb Henry, James Jennings, Gregory Miller and Dominic Mejia were ordained Elders.
- Bobbi Ruddock was commissioned as a Deaconess.
- Fifty-eight clergy retired.
- The Harry Denman Award for exceptional ministry of evangelism was presented to Chris Parsons, a layperson from the Miami Valley District (Mosaic Church in Dayton).
- The One Matters Award, which celebrated an increase in the number of professions of faith and baptisms from zero through a renewed focus on discipleship was awarded to Bremen United Methodist Church, Foothills District, Linda Ward, pastor.
Recommendation #1 – Changes to Structure, Procedure and Rules – Annual Conference Rules and Policies – PASSED
Recommendation to amend the conference rules impacting our structure, procedures and to be more concise. This recommendation added the official list of Annual Conference officers to the General Rules. Throughout the rules, document references to United Methodist Women were changed to United Women in Faith and references to the Director of Lay Speaking Ministries were changed to Director of Lay Servant Ministries
Recommendation #2 – Board of Pension and Health Benefits – PASSED
This recommendation outlines Clergy Pension and Disability plans and the Health Care Benefit plans for Active and Retired Clergy, as well as the eligibility requirements for those plans, and also includes resolutions related to Rental/Housing Allowances for retired and disabled Clergy of the West Ohio Conference. The base annuity rate for 2024 on Pre-82 pensions will increase to $650 as outlined under the Clergy Pension and Disability Plans section of the recommendation.
Recommendation # 3 – Commission on Equitable Compensation – PASSED
The 2024 Equitable Compensation recommendation presented a minimum salary increase of 2% over last year. The committee sought to balance the needs of appointed clergy and the financial challenges of the local church.
Recommendation #4 – Disposition of West Ohio Camps and Retreat Ministry Property – WITHDRAWN by Makers (Board of Trustees). The recommendation was withdrawn to allow more time to study the potential options for the disposition of the camp and retreat properties.
Recommendation #5 – Responding to a Request from Palestinian Christians – PASSED
The resolution authorizes the creation of a West Ohio Annual Conference committee to educate clergy, laity and delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences on the current situation in the Holy Land and to consider whether the West Ohio Conference will fully embrace the request made by Palestinian Christians represented by Kairos Palestine. The committee members are to be chosen by the Bishop and to report their findings to the 2024 session of the West Ohio Annual Conference.
Recommendation #6 – In Support of Creating a U.S. Regional Conference – PASSED
The West Ohio Conference supports the intents of the Christmas Covenant and Connectional Table legislation, including the creation of Regional Conferences in Africa, Europe, the Philippines and the United States. The recommendation also supports urging the Council of Bishops to expedite the process of voting on the constitutional amendments necessary to enact the regional conferences legislation including calling special sessions of annual conferences where necessary. Through the recommendation, the West Ohio Annual Conference also requests that the Council of Bishops appoint an Interim Committee on organization for a U.S. Regional Conference.
Recommendation #7 – Supporting the Removal of Discriminatory Policies – PASSED AS AMENDED
The West Ohio Conference supports the removal of discriminatory policies and harmful language related to sexual orientation that are present in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The recommendation notes nine petitions that identify the policies and language for removal that are already submitted and will be before the voting body of the next General Conference.
Recommendation #8 – Affirmation for All People in The United Methodist Church – PASSED
The recommendation affirms that the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church will aspire to become a United Methodist Church in which LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed and empowered by supporting and amplifying the call to justice and empowerment for the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the Annual Conference; affirms the spirit of abeyance or moratorium as proposed to the General Conference by the authors of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation; and asks the West Ohio Annual Conference either to not pursue, hold in abeyance or resolve in timely fashion through the process of Just Resolution complaints against clergy regarding their sexual orientation or the officiating of wedding of LGBTQIA+ persons.
Recommendation #9 – Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions – PASSED
The Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions recommendation asks the West Ohio Conference to join our denominational boards and commissions in committing to a just and equitable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. The recommendation calls on the bishop to establish a working group to study this action and develop an implementation plan. The working group will report back on their plan to the 2024 session of the Annual Conference.
OTHER ANNUAL CONFERENCE BUSINESS
- 172 churches requested disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. This was supported by conference members.
- North Star churches are prepared to welcome United Methodists whose home churches have disaffiliated. One new church has been launched with members seeking to depart their disaffiliating church.
“My focus, our focus will continue to be on a vibrant future for the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church and its more than 700 churches and the communities in which they serve,” Bishop Gregory V. Palmer concluded. “We’ve got work to do. With God’s help, may it be so.”
Written by Kay Panovec, Chris Clough and Amy Graham contributed to this story.