The 51st session of the West Ohio Annual Conference was a virtual gathering of nearly 1,600 clergy and lay members. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer presided over the conference under the theme, “Be Not Afraid, God Is With Us.”
Using the 21st chapter of Revelation, Bishop Palmer preached about the uncertain times facing our nation, world and global church.
“In spite of the chaos; in spite of the wars; in spite of the rumors of war; in spite of the repression and suppression; in spite of tribalism; in spite of animus; in spite of our enmity; in spite of our alienation, God says, ‘I’m going to make a home among you.’ What a God! God does not abandon us. God is with us,” Palmer said.
Mitchell Harper and Shannon Spencer were affirmed as conference lay leaders for the 2021-24 quadrennium. Their work will focus on building relationships and sharing Christ’s love throughout the conference. Tracy Chambers will continue at Director of Lay Servant Ministries for another four-year term. A complete list of committees and leadership teams may be found at westohioumc.org.
Bishop Palmer commissioned two West Ohio laywomen, Katelin Hansen and Kristyl Shoaf, as deaconesses. The order of the deaconess is for laity called by God to a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice and service.
Bishop Palmer commissioned one associate member, two provisional deacons and six provisional elders. He ordained four deacons and eight elders.
Other business included:
The three recommendations before the annual conference passed with overwhelming support.
Recommendation #1 – 2021 Budget
- In 2020, we declare clergy benefits fully funded. For the first time, perhaps since the 1969 merger, we will not be apportioning for clergy benefits.
- The United Methodist Foundation of West Ohio, created earlier in 2020, replaces the Council on Development. The Foundation is already on its way to self-sufficiency.
- Because of the above and other efficiencies, West Ohio will apportion $ 15,660,000, which includes General Church Connectional Support. This represents a 6% reduction.
Recommendation #2 – Pension and Health Benefits
- Clergy serving at least half time will be eligible for the Clergy Retirement Security Plan (CRSP).
- The Past Service Rate (PSR) for pre-1982 plan participants remains unchanged at $ 611.
Recommendation #3 – Commission on Equitable Compensation
- Minimum salaries for clergy will increase at a rate of 2%. The committee is aware the cost of housing and clergy benefits is increasing but understands the need to make sure clergy and their families are cared for.
The conference recognized the missional contributions of the Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey and the Rev. Stan Ling. Nilson Kibbey will move into a new ministry setting at the end of the year. Ling will retire after serving the conference Council on Development and newly formed Foundation.
Membership stands at 140,309 and worship attendance at 84,629 with an additional 10,561 online worshipers and 2,440 professions of faith.
The 52nd session of the West Ohio Annual Conference is scheduled for June 6-10, 2021.