--By Jackie Campbell--
After nine months of discussion and collaboration in large and small group meetings, Conference leaders and staff have developed a plan with specific goals and action steps designed to strengthen United Methodist ministry in Western PA.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton described it as “a short-term strategic plan to get us into a healthier posture. It includes goal-driven desired outcomes that staff and cabinet will begin to work on.”
The Bishop launched the effort, which he called “Finding Our Voice,” in the fall of 2014. Initial discussions among the cabinet and staff members, most of whom are relatively new to their positions, focused on the book Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences by Bishop Robert Schnase. It explores the operation of United Methodist Conferences, looking at what works, what doesn’t and why, and highlighting focal points for change.
“Before my time in Western PA comes to a close, I want to be sure we are addressing our areas of focus that need to be strengthened and getting us into a healthier posture,” said Bishop Bickerton, who will be reassigned to serve a new area in the Northeastern Jurisdiction in September of 2016.
Director of Connectional Ministries Greg Cox said the plan “will get us to a stronger place as an annual conference.”
It identifies and sets goals with key performance indicators in 10 areas, focusing particularly on areas where metrics indicate action could move Western Pennsylvania forward dramatically in making new disciples and developing principled Christian leaders for the transformation of the world.
The goals include clergy excellence, increased mission engagement, more opportunities for small group ministry and spiritual growth, and increasing racial and ethnic diversity.
“The key performance indicators set forth in the plan are goal-oriented and are the basis on which the cabinet and staff members will be held accountable in the next 18 months,” Bishop Bickerton explained.
“Two of our areas of focus really need an extra push –excellence in ministry and racial and ethnic diversity,” Bishop Bickerton said. Therefore, two clergy members will be appointed to work on the key goals.
Susan Moudry, an elder who is completing coursework for a PhD in American Church History at Baylor University, will join the staff to “develop a consistent approach to continuing education and peer learning and bring intentionality to the whole piece of clergy excellence.” Moudry previously served as pastor of Creekside UMC and assistant pastor for youth ministry at Trinity UMC in Indiana, PA.
Dianne D. Glave, currently serving as associate pastor at Ingomar UMC, will work with the Rev. William B. Meekins, Jr., assistant to the Bishop, on issues related to racial diversity and multicultural and ethnic local church concerns. The work will include identifying and cultivating congregations with a potential for cross-racial appointments, developing support groups, and working with churches and clergy in cross-racial or ethnic appointments.
Glave is the author of Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. She has a Ph.D. in United States social history, taught at historically black, all-male Morehouse College while completing her M.Div. at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and previously served as a chaplain and as pastor of Crafton UMC.
“The experience and capability that Susan Moudry and Dianne Glave bring to our Conference substantially broadens the resources in place to further one of the key tenets of our mission: to provide resources to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The financial resources to support their ministry are in place within our overall Conference budgets, and therefore will not requiring additional shared ministry support from our local churches,” said Conference Treasurer Larry Bridge.
Cox noted that part of the discussion and planning focused on the need for increasing the number of strong leaders among both laity and clergy.
“The idea of strengthening our clergy with peer learning and more intentional continuing education will go a long way toward also strengthening our laity. Stronger clergy leaders will develop strong, spirit-filled lay leaders.”