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2021 West Ohio Annual Conference Summary

The 52nd Session of the West Ohio Annual Conference was a virtual gathering of nearly 1,800 clergy and lay members. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer presided over the conference under the theme, Perseverance, rooted in the scripture, Hebrews 12:1-2.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”

During the Episcopal Address, Bishop Palmer spoke to the weariness facing church leaders and congregations. “There is no shame in naming weariness,” he said. He reminded conference members of the stories throughout the bible of people who persevered.

“Their stories remind us that we are not the first to walk this journey, to toil and to struggle to be who God called us to be,” he said. “Jesus’ way does call for us to inconvenience our preferences and our egos for the larger vision of beloved community, of just relationships; it calls for us to release some of what we have so others may just have something. It causes us to be our very best selves and we must persist. We have been called to be those who persevere even in the midst of obstacle and inconvenience,” he said.

In keeping with the theme of perseverance, Bishop shifted his context to Hebrews 12: 3-4-and invited the membership to ask themselves these three missional questions: “Who do you see around you on this journey? What are we willing to get rid in order to really be the Church and, to what lengths are you willing to go for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world?”

Legislation

Recommendation #1 - 2022 Budget PASSED (as is with editorial correction:  Book of Reports page 41, lines 22 and 24—change 2020 to 2021) 

  • The 2022 budget was adopted as presented. Conference is well positioned financially to continue training leaders and equipping local churches to transform people and communities. Financial resources continue to be in place to fulfill our promises to retirees. The Board of Pensions requested no apportionment support for 2022. The amount apportioned in 2022 reflects a 3.3% reduction over 2021 apportionments. Since 2018, it is lower by 21%. The 2022 budget will replace eight separate district apportioned funds with a single aggregate district fund.  
     

Recommendation #2 - Commission on Equitable Compensation PASSED 

  • The 2022 Equitable Compensation recommendation was adopted as presented. Minimum salaries increase 2% for each credential. The committee sought to balance the needs of appointed clergy and the financial challenges of the local church. 
     

Recommendation #3 - Board of Pensions PASSED 

  • Eligibility for retiree and health care plans did not change. The recommendation reported the board’s plan to implement a Health Reimbursement Account approach for retiree healthcare, replacing the employer sponsored group plan. This is in partnership with VIA Benefits and Wespath. Pre-1982 pension plan years of service will increase to $623 per month, an increase from $611 over 2021. 
     

Recommendation #4 – Christmas Covenant – REFERRED to West Ohio Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations

  • The West Ohio Conference referred the recommendation back to the delegation for further study and review alongside the Protocol. The Christmas Covenant legislation would establish regions across the denomination, including the United States. It was authored and advanced by delegates in Central Conferences. The West Ohio general and jurisdictional delegations supported the legislation. The resolution asked the West Ohio Conference to fully support the Christmas Covenant, the leadership of Central Conference delegates and encouraged West Ohio General Conference delegates to support the Christmas Covenant and send a letter to the General Conference Secretary in support of the legislation.   
     

Recommendation #5 - Loved as the Image of God - PASSED 

  • West Ohio Annual Conference desires to be aligned with a United Methodist Church witness that is inclusive of all people and is theologically diverse. 
     

Recommendation #6 – Call to West Ohio Annual Conference to recognize and validate persons’ calls to ordination without prejudice toward sexual orientation or gender Identity - TABLED

  • The recommendation asked that the Board of Ordained Ministry consider requests for ordination and conference membership without prejudice toward a candidate’s sexual ordination or gender identity.
     

Other business

  • Commissioned two provisional deacons and seven provisional elders
  • Ordained one deacon and nine elders
  • Honored retirees including 30 elders, two deacons, one associate member and seven local pastors
  • Commissioned three Deaconesses
  • Authorized the Annual Conference Planning Committee to determine the location of the 2023 annual conference session based on current and emerging realities
  • Bishop Palmer advised the body of his short-term assignment to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) as to provide episcopal oversight for the IGRC July 1-December 31, while Bishop Beard is on medical leave. He encouraged the conference to widen the circle of prayer for Bishop Frank and Mrs. Melissa Beard and the people of the IGRC.
     

The 2022 West Ohio Annual Conference will be held June 2 – 5 at Lakeside Chautauqua.

By Kay Panovec and Amy Graham