By Jackie Campbell, Communications Director
With robust singing and straight talk, the Rev. Robert Zilhaver delivered a message for "A Time Such as This" during his formal installation service as Connellsville District Superintendent on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Christ UM Church in Scottdale.
Using the Old Testament book of Esther, which explores racial hatred, the threat of genocide and other evils, Zilhaver drew comparisons with the situation in the United Methodist Church and the United States today. We live in "a time when the very existence of our religious community is threatened," he said. He specifically pointed to divisions over issues related to human sexuality, as well as racial hatred and violence. "No one knows what is going to happen," he said, "but if we keep our eyes on Jesus and don't stop the work of God's kingdom...good things will happen."
Earlier in the service, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi talked about why she chose Zilhaver to be the first superintendent she has ever appointed.
"I have seen the spirit of God moving in Bob Zilhaver and while we don't agree on everything, Bob and I, I have no doubt that God uses him and will continue to use him and that I can trust him with my life," she said after outlining his leadership in the denomination, the Conference and the communities in which he has served as a pastor.
At the close of the service, the Bishop and Superintendent stood arm in arm in front of the altar. "This is a visual of the diversity and unity of the United Methodist Church," Bishop Moore-Koikoi said. "This is who God has called us to be! This is what Jesus prayed for when he prayed, "make them one.'
"This is a visual testimony to the fact that Bob and I believe that the mission of the church is greater than any human differences that we might have."
Before being appointed a superintendent, Bob served for 24 years on the Indiana District, the past 14 at Lakeside UMC in DuBois. He has a passion for youth ministry and has been a youth ministry leader at all levels of the denomination. Recently he helped the Northeastern Jurisdiction youth leadership group organize the 2016 Jurisdictional Convocation in Lancaster. He served on the planning team for the Global Youth Convocation in Berlin, Germany in 2010.
Bob and his wife Amy have been deans of a Mini-Camp at Wesley Woods for 22 years. He served eight years on the Wesley Woods board and was chair of the capital campaign to raise money for the new pool and locker rooms.
On the Conference level, he was the Administrative Chair of the Conference Board of Pensions and has served on the Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, the Board of Ordained Ministry.
Bob has been a delegate to the 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Currently he is part of the executive committee of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) and chairs its finance committee. A letter of congratulations from COSROW's Dawn Wiggins Hare was read at the installation and gave insight into the extent of his efforts in areas of concern for women in the church. Previously he served on the General Board of Discipleship and its Upper Room Division, as well the adult worker representative on the Division on Ministry with Young People. Bob is a member of the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee and has been the Vice-Chair of the Jurisdictional Rules Committee.
Outside of the formal structures of the Church, Bob has worked in advocacy, missions, and ministry development. He is the founder and president of Partners in Alliance: A Western Pennsylvania AIDS Ministry that has served those dealing with HIV/AIDS and their families since 2000. He co-chaired the Northwest Pennsylvania AIDs Coalition. As a member of Association in Advocacy, he has helped clergy and churches resolve disputes in over 75 cases in 16 annual conferences.
Bob has led numerous work camps, including Uth 4 Missions, raised funds to build a church in India, a wood shop and seminary in Paraguay, helped Lakeside UMC work with the Rice Foundation in Honduras. In ministry development, he secured initial gifts and wrote by-laws for the Youth Ministry Scholarship Fund, the Timothy Fund (to assist educational expenses), the Richard Burns Evangelist Endowment, and the Bernie Shuey Local Pastor’s Fund to help local pastors on the Indiana District.
A 1979 graduate of Becker High School, an experimental school at Clarion University, Bob attended Virginia Military Institute on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship and graduated with a degree in Physics and German in 1983. He earned an M. Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1997. At seminary he was awarded prizes for the highest standing in pastoral care, highest average in graduating class, highest achievement in all departments, and The Fred McFeely Rogers Prize in Biblical Studies.
Bob has been married to Amy (Andrus), a reading specialist, for more than 30 years. They are the parents of Laura, studying at Western Michigan University to be a band director; Sara, who works at Goodwill Industries in DuBois; Polly, who graduated in May from Kent State University in Hospitality Management and works at Disney World, and Robert, Jr., a junior at Clarion University studying to be a history teacher and playing defensive line for the Golden Eagle football team. Robert also serves as a youth director at Lakeside UMC.
Prior to entering the ministry in 1993, Bob served as an officer in the U.S Army (Ret. Major) in field artillery. He received the Bronze Star for his service during Desert Storm; the Meritorious Service Medal for Operations and Planning for Somalia; the Humanitarian Service Medal for the Hurricane Andrew Relief Effort; and numerous other Army achievement medals.