In early December, I submitted the following intentions to the Board of Directors as my FOCUS FOR 2018:
1. Initiate, prepare for, and conduct a stewardship/funding plan throughout the Conference.
Many factors dictate the imperative of our doing so. The first being the steadily diminishing OCWM support which congregations forward through Associations to the Conference and from the Conference to the national setting of the UCC. Associations withhold increasing their financial contributions to the conference in order to support their staff and programs. The conference remains committed to honoring the current formula for transferring funds to the national setting of the denomination, but the dollar amounts continue to decrease as income falls. Conference leadership is at an all-time low, and drawdowns from reserved funds tend to increase.
This alone is an unsustainable model for financing ministry and mission. Added to these factors is the national perspective that OCWM as a funding mechanism has outlived its effectiveness. New funding methods based on direct donor-preferred gifting are being developed.
Cherished institutional partners in the UCC – some of them developed over more than a hundred years– represent the caring, serving and healing ministries of the UCC. Several of them (including the Pension Boards) are seeking capital improvement and endowment funding, by tapping the more generous of our members for support.
The conference has the opportunity to assist the Associations and the congregations with new concepts of funding the gospel work to which we are called. Some Association programs already address parts of this effort. I look forward to initiating a conference-wide consultation for the purpose of developing a comprehensive funding design for all of us.
2. Initiate a consultation, then take the first steps to develop a Faith Formation concept, craft a design, and form an all-Conference Faith Formation Team to put the design into play.
In February 2016, the Board of Directors officially recognized that “Faith Formation is a core value of the Conference.” This assertion grew out of discussions about managing our outdoor ministry and camp properties, with the realization that we had long made “camping” our emphasis. Outdoor Ministry continues to be an integral player in formation of faith and spiritual development, but it is only one possibility on a fascinating menu of possibilities. We’ll get to work this year to live up to the promise that Faith Formation is a core value of the Conference. The Revs. David and Marian Plant have already given considerable thought to how this might happen. We’ll begin with their professional guidance. David is the Vice Moderator of the Conference.
3. Develop a Communication Team and plan – including broad-based collaborations.
During her tenure in the Ohio Conference, Nicole Havelka brought the Conference to a new point in creative use of available media for “getting the word out” and inspiring holy moments among us. Although her contract with Ohio Conference has expired, we dare not lose momentum and skill in this area of ministry. It is work that can be shared among Associations and beyond Conference borders.
4. Support a national search for a Director of Outdoor Ministry.
The Business Plan for Outdoor Ministry approved at the Annual Gathering in September 2017, called for this effort. Moderator, Cathy Green, with assistance from Vice Moderator David Plant, have already given thought to development of a position description and plan for seeking and selecting this new full time director. Alongside this task lies the opportunity to review and reshape the concept of an Outdoor Ministry board in light of our contract with United Camps, Conferences, and Retreats, Inc. which reduces our need to concentrate on property issues and improves our ability to attend to program development.
5. Reawaken the work of racial/ethnic empowerment in the Ohio Conference.
There is some effort in this regard among our Associations, but I believe we need to discover a conference-wide resurgence of attention to matters of racial/ethnic equality and justice.
6. Continuing Responsibilities
There are a number of continuing responsibilities which include convening and supporting the work of the Conference Vision Team, supporting the ongoing rehabbing work at Templed Hills and its return to active duty, and general administrative activities including concentration on clarifying or redefining policies and procedures of the Conference as we “imagine a new conference” ahead of us.
Your prayerful support for these undertakings will be gratefully received!
John M Gantt
Interim Conference Minister
Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ