Newsmaker Profile: Rev. William B. Meekins, Jr.

published 1/8/2014
By Jackie Campbell After eight years as superintendent of the Greensburg District and five years as dean of the Cabinet, the Rev. William B. Meekins Jr. said his role will be a lot different when he becomes the assistant to Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton on July 1. “The assistant to the Bishop is not supposed to to have opinions,” he joked. “The assistant is supposed to represent the Bishop.” While he will represent the Bishop on many occasions, in reality, Bishop Bickerton said one reason he ...

Bishop Names New Assistant, Two Superintendents

published 1/6/2014
By Jackie Campbell Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton has named two new district superintendents and an assistant to the bishop for the 2014-15 Conference year that begins July 1. The Rev. Patricia Nelson, associate pastor at Butler First UMC, will serve as superintendent of the Greensburg District, replacing the Rev. William B. Meekins, Jr., who will become assistant to the Bishop after serving the maximum eight years as a superintendent. The Rev. Paul Taylor, pastor of Bethel UMC in Lower Burrell, ...

UM Foundation Grant Helps Ramp Ministry Grow

published 1/2/2014
By Debbie Hills* Three years ago a new mission outreach program called Ramps of Hope had built a handful of ramps at the homes of people who otherwise could not afford one. These ramps allowed people affected by physical disabilities a safe way to come and go from their homes. As the program became better known in the community, more and more requests were received, and the limited resources of our churches were being stretched way beyond their breaking points. As the director of this new ...

Bishop Bickerton Reflects on the Life of Nelson Mandela

published 12/6/2013
Today I have been reflecting on the life and work of Nelson Mandela. My family and I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting and hearing Mandela speak when he made a surprise visit to the Council of Bishops' meeting in Mozambique in 2006. His wife, Graca Machel, really stole the show that night when she shared with us that the reason she and her husband came to the Council meeting was to say thank you. You see, she was born in a United Methodist hospital, taught in a United Methodist school, ...

Western PA Group Among 429 Exploring Ministry

published 11/20/2013
Speaker after speaker told the 429 young adults gathered to explore ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church that God is calling them to go change the world and the church.  “This is not your momma and daddy’s church. We have to be about making disciples, not members,” Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey told those attending Exploration 2013 in Denver, Colo.  Among the participants were 15 young adults from Western PA accompanied by the Revs. Keith Dunn and Alyce Weaver Dunn and Janet Lord.  ...

Bishops Take Action After Same-Sex Ceremony

published 11/15/2013
Press Release: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C. The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of...

Bishop Shares Good News on Imagine No Malaria

published 11/14/2013
 LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told the Council of Bishops today that the Imagine No Malaria campaign has raised nearly $60 million toward its goal to eradicate the disease in Africa. “It is all good news,” said Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. The United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million for the effort by 2015. “We have the end of this campaign in our sights and we believe we have the roadmap to get us there,” ...

Delegate Count for GC2016 Gives WPAUMC 12

published 11/14/2013
The new delegate count for General Conference 2016 will give the Western PA Conference 12 delegates—6 clergy and 6 laity—to the denomination’s policy-making body.  The total number of delegates was reduced from nearly 1,000 in 2012 to about 850 for 2016 by a vote of the Commission on the General Conference at its October 2013 meeting. General Conference Secretary L. Fitzgerald Reist released a list of numbers of delegates by annual conferences at the Council of Bishops meeting in Lake Junaluska....

Former Pittsburgh Pastor to Lead Bishops

published 11/14/2013
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., who leads the California-Nevada Conference, will be the next president of the Council of Bishops. Bishop Brown was ordained an elder in the Western PA Conference and served two Pittsburgh churches--Church of Our Savior from 1973-75 and Warren UMC from 1975-79--before transferring to California-Nevada.  Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, now the council president, said Brown “really sees church unity as very challenging, but also very ...

UMC Agency Names Scholarship Winners

published 10/30/2013
The Office of Loans and Scholarships of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) has awarded a total of $5 million in award money to more than 2,500 students for the 2013-14 academic year.  Sixteen Western PA students received scholarships. Many others received loans. Offerings received on United Methodist Student Day (Nov. 24, 2013), World Communion Sunday and Native American Sunday help fund a portion of the loans and scholarships. The remaining funds for these ...

Anti-Poverty Efforts Increase in Connellsville Area

published 10/4/2013
A lot has been happening the past few months at Connellsville Area Community Ministries, which serves those struggling to make ends meet in an area where the poverty rate is the second highest in Pennsylvania. Chip Rowan, the new executive director, is re-establishing connections in the community where he grew up.  With the help of numerous volunteers, renovations are moving along well in the downtown storefront building that serves as a center for operations. And they’ve launched a Fall ...

Lord Named to Ministerial Services Post

published 10/2/2013
The Rev. Janet F. Lord, an ordained deacon, has been hired as the first Coordinator of Ministerial Services for the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM). The half-time staff position was authorized by members of the 2013 Annual Conference in response to needs expressed by the board, which submitted the resolution. In the post, Lord will coordinate the work of BOOM and assume all duties of the registrar, a position she has served in as a volunteer since 2008.  She will work in the Bishop’...

Gottschalk Named Volunteers in Mission Coordinator

published 10/1/2013
The Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk, pastor of Emanuel UMC in Pittsburgh’s West End and associate director of United Methodist Church Union, has been selected to serve as the Conference Volunteers in Mission coordinator. She’ll succeed Diane Miller, who officially retired last month after seven years in the post. “Stephanie brings a depth of experience to the position and is going to build upon the great work that began with Diane Miller,” said the Rev. Greg Cox, director of connectional ministries. “...

Miller Retires as Volunteers in Mission Coordinator

published 9/13/2013
In seven years as Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the Western PA Conference, what has fed Diane Miller’s spirit the most are the many people who call to tell her about something extraordinary that happened on their mission trips. “I have not only my own stories of God-moments, but other people’s,” she said. “Many are about how much the experience changed them and helped somebody else.” Miller officially retired on August 31 from the full-time job that was created, in a sense, by popular ...

New Superintendent Lauster Has Gift of Faith

published 9/5/2013
When he hears God call, the Rev. Brad Lauster doesn’t hesitate. He jumps right in. “I have the gift of faith. I am not someone who has to be persuaded,” he said.  “I’m like a dog when the car door opens. Wherever you are doing, I know you love me.  I don’t want you to leave me behind. I am in!” Lauster demonstrated that when Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton him to leave Indiana Grace United Methodist Church, where he had just started his 13th year as senior pastor, to serve as superintendent of the ...

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