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Delegate Reflections from the 2021 North Central Jursidictional Conference
  1. As you look ahead what’s your personal hope for the future of our church?


Katelin Hansen

My hope is that no matter the swirl around them, our churches will lean forward into building relationships with our neighbors so that together we can engage in impactful ministry. This sort of work is captivating and will naturally help grow our congregations, transform our communities, and draw each of us nearer to Christ.


Leo Cunningham

Personally, I view hope as what is needed for a plan to work yet hope is not a strategy nor is it a plan. I think the future of the church is addressing our collective amnesia; it seems we have forgotten whose we are and who we are. It is my “hope” that we not merely speak into echo chambers and theological silos, hold virtual special session, create covenants, and amend resolutions about creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Rather, we find new ways to be renewed people with a Holy Spirit fire, so we can continue to do the work of “The Great Commission.”


April Casperson

I hope that The United Methodist Church will continue to become known for meaningful mission, faith formation and prophetic witness against the evils of this world, like racism and white supremacy. I trust that our witness to future generations will come from today’s work in building anti-racist churches, healthy, new multi-ethnic faith communities, supporting clergy of all races as they lead across diversity, and empowering the laity to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they take.


George Howard

Leaders across the theological spectrum are ready to engage in mission and ministry. All need to be released to focus on that in their community and around the globe. Waiting for a legislative solution to our situation is no longer a viable option and leaders and churches will increasingly engage with their bishops and annual conferences to find their way forward. As followers of Jesus in the Wesleyan tradition we are called to practice both social holiness and personal piety. The world yearns for spiritual and practical responses for fresh water, anti-racism, environmental care, access to healthcare, affordable housing, food and more. Society needs those who remain UMs to engage in a multitude of areas in a way which honors the contributions of all.


Tom Rand

I have great hope for The United Methodist Church. My greatest hope is in the laity. I have seen lay leaders embrace amazing missional and relational opportunities they never thought possible because we always told them their job was to bring people to church. During the pandemic, we learned that we can’t wait for people to come to us. We have to go to the people where they are, to love them as they are, and to help them discover who God made them to be. Church “growth” isn’t about more people in the pews or offering in the plate. It is about more people engaged in Christ’s mission together. It is critical that churches empower laity to take up their call to live everyday life with Jesus everywhere they go.  Along the way, they are discovering new ways to create Christ-centered community in their neighborhoods and schools and workplaces, in all the places where people gather.  That inspires me.


Kat Straub

Unlike some, I hope for an amicable separation where we can all be blessed by God to do His work on earth.  Our denomination has been losing members for many decades.  The situation we are now in may be God’s way of saying that we need to separate so that He can bless us once again.


Tracy Chambers

I am hopeful the Church of the future will be truly hospitable, more proactive, and nimble as it strives to become anti-racist, fully inclusive, more considerate of and connected to all members, and ecumenical partners, even those fashioned through amicable separation.


Jason Wellman

I believe the best days of the UMC are ahead of us. We have an opportunity to reimagine what it means to be the church and to get back to the work we’ve been called to do—make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our structure in untenable. The pandemic has exposed this more clearly. So, now we have an opportunity—all of us, laity and clergy—to get back to focusing on introducing people to Jesus and working toward a transformed world. I am committed to serving out my call within this denomination as we dream and plan for a new future of the church.


Wade Giffin

My personal hope for the future of the church is to be attentive to the Great Commission by becoming the kind of inclusive church where diverse folks could be reached with the Gospel and respond. Additionally, once responding to Jesus, lead folks deeper in faith that they engage in the ministry service and justice in the world.


Chris Steiner

I truly wish we could all be united in the Truth of Jesus Christ, but regrettably I don't see that happening.  My personal hope for the future of the UMC is to complete the separation process as quickly and amicably as possible. 


  1. What did you learn or discern from the conversation on dismantling racism?


Katelin Hansen

One of the challenges in discussions about race (both at this gathering, and in general) is that some individuals are very new to such conversations, while others have spent lifetimes thinking and talking about race and racism. Painful words are often spoken out of ignorance from those that haven't done a lot of self-work on race. I am grateful for the grace of my siblings of color, but yearn for more white people to do ongoing, intentional learning and preparation that would improve these opportunities for conversation.


Leo Cunningham

What I discerned from the conversation on dismantling racism is many people are at different points in the process of dismantling racism. Some people are in the beginning phases of learning and unlearning, in some cases, decades of implicit and explicit biases, stereotypes and prejudices. While other people are advocating for and working towards tangible transformation in their personal lives, professional arenas, and faith communities. It was educational to learn of the contextual differences and similarities between the annual conferences. I found it encouraging to hear about the ways other delegates from across the North Central Jurisdiction are working on dismantling racism.


April Casperson

Racism is America’s original sin, and it is very hard for us as a predominately white church to grapple with this reality. Katy Borhauer was featured in a video where she explained that “being called a racist is the worst insult for a white person” and she also explained that she was taught – like many of us – that if we are just nice and don’t talk about race (including whiteness) then we don’t have to worry about racism.

We had outside facilitators who were not delegates and they were holding a balance in leading conversations with people from many different mindsets. Some delegates have been committed to dismantling racism for years. Others viewed the conversation as unhelpful or divisive – and many delegates know we need to take action beyond making statements and pronouncements.

The conversations were a reminder that dismantling racism takes time, focus and resourcing.


George Howard

I learned that the people in my small group were willing to be honest and transparent when it came to their experiences. For some the family was the place where parents ensured that they were conscious of differences and their responsibility whereas others grew up unaware of the differences race played in people’s opportunities. The surprise for me was that no one mentioned the churches helping them see and understand their personal responsibilities regarding anti-racism.


Tom Rand

The roots of racism are deep, not only in our country, but also in our church. As important as conversations are to understanding the issues confronting us, intentional work is required to change the way we work together and dismantle the legacy of racism


Kat Straub

That many people see many innocent encounters as racist when it is just ignorance or the accuser is not looking at the total picture, such as the video where at the end of the video it was inclusive.

 


Tracy Chambers

I learned dismantling racism is truly important to the North Central Jurisdiction.


Jason Wellman

I was so grateful that the NCJ leadership invited us into heartful, honest, and vulnerable small groups to discuss racism. Listening to how racism has impacted the lives of people in our jurisdiction was heartbreaking. Yet, I found myself hopeful as we begin to actively work within our jurisdiction to not only provide lip-service around issues of racial inequity, but to actively work within our annual conferences, churches, and local communities to create a more equitable future for all people.

In the summer of 2020, our nation came to a moment of reckoning around racial justice. Some of the momentum that we witnessed has wavered in parts of the country. I learned that the passion for racial justice has not waved in our jurisdiction. It has only amplified. I am excited to learn, grow, be challenged, and to collectively work for a more just and equitable future in the NCJ.


Wade Giffin

My small discussion group during the Conference was a mix of folks with different perspectives regarding race. I listened closely to their personal stories. I was struck, again, at how differently our life experience and cultural settings impact our own experience and reaction to race/racism. I sensed in the group a refreshing willingness to hear each other's stories and with great compassion. With kindness and candor, we processed together our shared stories. I heard stories of pain from the perspective of having been harmed because of one's race. And stories from those who articulated how their own places of origin wove into them deep-seated racism with which we struggle to this day. At the end of the conversation all of us grew. We were reminded that the scourge of racism continues to be a struggle for society and the church. I discerned that moving toward a better vision of the Kingdom of God requires honest conversations that lead to action and justice for all of God's children.


Chris Steiner

Racism is very real in our society and in the UMC, although I don't believe it is as wide-spread or as intentional as some of our brothers and sisters would have us to think.  We need to find more ways to put the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts, for where the Spirit of Jesus resides, racism does not.


  1. How would you answer the question posed by Bishop Tracy Smith Malone at the end of the dismantling racism conversation: As you think about your context and your discipleship journey and life in Christ, how might God be calling you to make a difference, to step out more boldly and prophetically…to put your weight on the arc of history, bending toward justice?


Katelin Hansen

I am grateful and humbled to work for UM Community Development for All People, whose ministries promote justice and equity every single day across schools, employment, and healthcare, on both individual and systemic levels. Moreover, my family and I live in the same neighborhood, which allows us to continue that work in our personal lives as well, and when appropriate offer public witness to right the injustices we witness and work against. I pray that we remain diligent and vigilant in these efforts, never missing an opportunity to further challenge ourselves to live more fully into this call.


Leo Cunningham

With 20 years of cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments, I understand that the calling to be a part of the work to make an impactful difference and authentic transformation has not changed but the strategy and tactics have. What it means for me, “…to step out more boldly and prophetically…to put your weight on the arc of history, bending towards justice” at this point in my discipleship journey and life is very different now than what it meant 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago and 1 year ago. Applying weight and bending an arc is contextual and relational. Much like the metal working shows I watch, you must know the material you are working with for the project. How much heat to give the metal? How hard to strike the metal? Where to strike it the metal? How fast or how slow to bend it? Where does it need to be bent? How to transform it into the shape one envisioned? I have to know how to apply enough weight on the arc of history and bend it towards justice in one's lifetime. Do I move it a little or do I move it alot? Either way, it must and will move.


April Casperson

I am overjoyed about the commitment to anti-racism made by the NCJ delegates. This was a commitment made across theological and political lines. I am excited that West Ohio has been committed to this work in previous years, and the mandate coming from NCJ will help us continue to expand this mission focus.


George Howard

I immediately reached out to the pastor of a UM African American congregation to build a relationship and engage in ministry together in our community. I am also engaging in planning with the PCUSA to train their leadership in Next Church to become certified coaches. The group will be leading their denomination around engaging in antiracism practices.


Tom Rand

Our congregation is participating in the Fear+Less Congregations Initiative. As part of our work, we have discerned how much our fears (fears of the unknown, of strangers, of appearing ignorant, of plopping, and of oppressive systems) inhibit us from real change. We have set an intention to diminish fear throughout the congregation through creative worship, small group conversation, and community engagement. Our hope is that, as we fear less, we will collaborate with our neighbors more to create a more just and beloved community.


Kat Straub

I have spent all my life using the gift of teaching.  Over 40 years of teaching in alternative high schools, inner city high schools and impoverished high schools and now tutoring at the library has helped those who want to improve their life regardless of race or religion.  I have even tutored a young lady who caused me permanent nerve damage in my hand because she needed my help to graduate.  It was a very hard decision for me but this is where I must obey God’s commands and Wesley’s teachings – Do no harm.  Do good.  Attend to the ordinances of God.


Tracy Chambers

God is calling me, encouraging me to keep at the work of justice, in the ways He’s uniquely called me, and in the places He’s positioned me. He is calling me to keep courageous and kind, pressing gently yet firmly, and steadily through all the discomfort toward the change that will be an anti-racist Methodist Church. Specifically, I will continue to learn, listen, engage courageously in hard conversations, to inform/educate/coach as I am able, and as I am given opportunity. I am also committed to making connections so that the interested are able to get the assistance they want/need, even if not directly from me. Newly, I will carry away from this conference, Bryan Stephenson’s Rules for Achieving Peace and Justice, giving intention, time, and space to four. Protecting Hope. Lastly, I will strive to be even more expectant of and gracious regarding missteps and shortfalls.


Jason Wellman

My congregation, Scioto Ridge UMC, is on a journey to becoming an increasingly multi-ethnic congregation. Our staff and Leadership Board have participated in cultural competency training to help us understand our own conscious and unconscious biases. We are working to diversify our staff and leadership. And in 2022, we are launching a congregational team to more intentionally discern and plan how to become a more inclusive congregation, so that no matter who you are, you are welcome to meet and grow with Jesus at our church.


Wade Giffin

The story of faith and the Bible continually reaffirm the worth and value of all of God's children. We must work toward God's vision of the Kingdom of God in the world. A significant part of that is to take seriously our baptismal vow "Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?"  As difficult, frightening, and uncomfortable as it is, we must address it and use our weight toward justice. That journey often begins with an intentional, personal search. It requires honesty, confession, and commitment to doing so. I will continue to do that personally and lead in the church to bring others along with me.


Chris Steiner

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Jesus himself directed that we need to "Deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily and follow him."  Luke 9:23  If I and others followed this one command of  Jesus, I doubt that we would have much to discuss about racism.  My personal goal is to attempt to follow this command of Jesus everyday.


  1. How do you feel about the idea of moving from nine bishops in the NCJ to eight, per the future of episcopal leadership conversation? What’s important to you when thinking about the role of bishop?


Katelin Hansen

A member of my NCJ discussion group expressed gratitude for Bishop Palmer's example in his service to the Illinois Great River Area. She has felt better connected to West Ohio and has benefited from West Ohio trainings that have been offered to her as a result of his serving both areas. This is an example of an opportunity that can be made out of a potential challenge. As for the role of bishop: Particularly in the midst of uncertainty, they have the opportunity to cast a strong vision for the Church that will inspire local congregations to be about impactful ministry in their communities, no matter the shifting tides.


Leo Cunningham

I feel the idea of moving from 9 bishops to 8 bishop is a realty and reflection of the evangelism, discipleship, missions, and ministries the last few decades in the NCJ. The number of bishops is based on membership levels in the jurisdiction. We have not made more than enough disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world to offset those we lost because of death, disaffiliations, and disinterest.

When I think about the roles of the bishops, in a time such as this, being a creative thinker, pragmatic leader and pro-active strategist. The bishops need to be more than “visionary and prophetic.” In this historic era of the church, they need to speak about the promise land and figuring out how to get the people to the promise land. They need to be even more relational and relatable.


April Casperson

When I think about the role of the bishop I believe that we need these skills: Prophetic leadership, Adaptive leadership, A healthy tension between supporting the church of the moment and the church that we cannot yet see.


George Howard

It is time to elect another bishop bringing us to 8 in the jurisdiction. We are wearing out our current bishops. The reduction from 9 to 8 makes sense as we are unclear as to what the future holds for us post separation, yet we do know the number of churches, pastors and members has diminished. We can always elect another in the future should the need be evident, and the resources are available.


Tom Rand

The most important role of bishops is always spiritual leadership.  Without that, nothing else matters. Right behind that I would place transformational leadership. Our structures are antiquated and unable to respond to the current missional context effectively. Episcopal leadership that can help the United Methodist Church pivot toward a more local and embodied experience of the connection will be more empowering for local churches as they engage their mission together. Conference structures are going to have to shift anyway as some churches and clergy change their affiliation. This is a time for real creativity in how we organize and align our structure better to serve our mission.


Kat Straub

I think we are putting the cart before the horse.  Since our Bishops are elected for life, we may have too many when the Protocol passes. 


Tracy Chambers

Bishop’s being well and being well able to carry out their responsibilities matters. Part of that is ensuring no one Bishop has more placed on her/him than s/he can well care for and manage. In light of the concern for the Episcopacy Fund’s sustainability, and considering many elders are appointed to charges with multiple points, I think it likely, with thoughtful planning and careful election, amongst eight bishops, the nine states of the North Central Jurisdiction can be led with vision, managed, and spiritually cared for well.


Jason Wellman

I think we all realize that the denomination has some bumpy roads ahead of us. While a denominational split seems inevitable, it doesn’t mean that splitting will solve all of our problems. Strong, transformative, and vision-casting leadership is vitally important as we discern who the United Methodist Church needs to be for such a time as this. Bishops help set the tone and focus of the Annual Conference, which in turn impacts the local church. While we live into a new future, everything is on the table, including the role and function of bishops. Now is the time to rethink how we organize ourselves for effective and fruitful ministry. While having one less bishop may seem like a setback, I see it as a means to adapt to the changes happening all around us.


Wade Giffin

Moving to eight from nine bishops has been inevitable for a long time in the North Central Jurisdiction with the decline in our membership. The challenge for us is to better define the role of the bishop so their presidential place in the Annual Conference is weighted much more toward teaching, spiritual leadership, casting a vision for the church, and exercising their prophetic voice leading toward God's vision of what the world can be. Finding ways to alleviate them from the time-consuming administrative elements could free them for this important work.


Chris Steiner

Regrettably, I don't beleive we have much choice but to move from nine bishops to eight (or less) bishops within the NCJ.  There are many important considerations when thinking about the role of bishop in the UMC, but foremost should be spiritual leadership.  Our current system puts too many administrative duties on our bishops.  We need to find ways to remove some of the administrative duties and give our bishops time and energy to be the spiritual leaders we should expect them to be.