Report of East Ohio Annual Conference 2024

by Barbara Sindyla, Lay delegate

…..but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 30:31 (NIV)

“Faith, Hope, Love” are powerful words on which the 55th session of the East Ohio Annual Conference focused. Daily worship services, multiple business sessions and times of fellowship all had elements of those “big three”. In addition, we were reminded frequently of another “big three”—John Wesley’s words to live by—“Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God”.

Our Bishop Tracy Malone opened the Conference with a service of Commemoration and Holy Communion. Names were read of members and spouses who had passed away during the year. During Friday’s worship service, Rev. Allison La Brun’s sermon reminded us that God’s unending love will help us “stay on course.” Rev. Philip N Wilden’s message on Saturday morning, titled “Keep on Keeping On”, referenced the strong faith in our foundation. The closing service of Commissioning, Ordination and Retirement recognized 18 retirees, 2 persons being ordained, and 1 being commissioned. Bishop Lanette Plambeck, of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area was the featured speaker. Rev. Dr. Ronald Bell, the director of Healing and Resilience for Discipleship Ministries, spoke of the “intersection of faith and mental health”, dealing with transition resilience and change.

One of the first orders of business was an Episcopacy report from our pastor, Rev. Heidi Welch as chair of the Episcopacy committee. She announced that Bishop Malone has been elected President of the Council of Bishops. In that same early session, among other reports, was the report form General Conference that was held in April in Charlotte, North Carolina. Notably at the General Conference, the “reversal of longstanding LGBTQ+ policies” has begun. “Putting the past behind, and going forward with great hope” was an outgoing theme during our Conference days.

Throughout the business sessions there were breaks for “Wellness and Well-Being Moments”. Pastors were featured in videos sharing their testimonies of the value of taking time away, spending time on themselves, and “re-calibrating.”

A highlight of Thursday afternoon’s business was a report from the executive director of Connectional Ministries, Ed Fashbaugh, presenting the proposal for a new Conference governance structure. Since it is relatively new to Brecksville UMC, our Pastor Heidi gave the details of the “Simplified Accountable Structure” to which other churches, and districts are moving. In summary—“The empowerment, accountability and
transparency of the proposed new SAS will best position the ministries of the East Ohio Conference to live into our shared vision for how we will accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Of the several reports on Friday, the one that is difficult to hear is that of church closures—4 this year. They were all given accolades for their ministries through the years. Others are being redesigned into “co-operative parishes”, sharing a pastor. “The Church (must be) open to change to meet the needs of ministry”.

A huge part of the Conference’s business on Saturday were the reports from the Council on Finance and Administration and Board of Benefits. It is “mind-boggling” to a non-financial person (me) to hear the facts and figures, listen to the discussion, follow the
questions and responses that directly affect those in attendance. This Conference is in good hands!

There were 7 resolutions brought to the floor for consideration by the Conference for discussion and voting. Those who submitted them had put serious thought and research into the presentation. Generally speaking, they had to do with social action and subjects that were specific to specific groups. I would recommend checking on the Conference website for details. I have always been impressed by the way discussion,
questions, amendments, challenges and so forth take place so respectfully by this body.

The Conference website has much more information, bios of the speakers, photos of the proceedings…..definitely recommended for a more complete picture of the three day 2024 East Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.