December 12, 2016
On December 9, the Ohio Conference Board of Directors gathered for our regular meeting. We had quite a good discussion with some guests who came to discuss outdoor ministry and our two camps. We know that the Spirit was working with us through this ministry and meeting.
Two specific assignments were made by the Ohio Conference Board to be completed in advance of votes which will be taken at the next Board meeting in February. Six guests and the Board of Directors reviewed significant camping and financial information which led to those assignments.
The Board expressed appreciation to Affirm Camp for donating a report created by Kaleidoscope to the Conference. Nate Taylor, representing Affirm Camp, and Jody Oates, Kaleidoscope principal consultant, were present to summarize key findings.
The consultant’s presentation, a straightforward report from the Conference Treasurer, and suggestions from five small group discussions provided the backdrop for these conclusions:
• Loss of OCWM support of more than $88,000 in the past two years, with no indication that decline of OCWM support will change, leads the Board to make immediate decisions about the future of outdoor ministry and camp sites, as well as staffing of the Conference.
• The development of a comprehensive Faith Formation concept and plan is considered a “sacred obligation” of the Conference.
• The Board commits itself to embrace a plan for effective Faith Formation which includes some form of outdoor ministry.
• Given the 30+ year pattern of rejecting all previous proposals for re-formation of how the Conference and Associations relate to each other, the Board felt it could no longer delay decision-making about outdoor ministries, camp site ownership, and Faith Formation considerations while awaiting conclusions of current visioning efforts.
• A Faith Formation Task Force was appointed to prepare an outline for a faith formation agenda that is sustainable, and to report to the February Board meeting. A first discussion by this Task Force has already occurred.
>> A key realization is that camps are not our central problem. The question is, do we have and can we achieve the leadership, skills, funding and will to provide a sustainable faith formation ministry for Ohio Conference in whatever form it takes?
• The Board re-affirmed an earlier proposal that the Conference maintain only one camp site. This proposal had been withdrawn when cost savings and new uses of the camp sites were achieved through the management contract with United Camps, Conferences and Retreats (UCCR). The Board recognizes that even with the expertise of UCCR, the Conference cannot afford more than one site.
• A second Task Force was assigned to review both Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills sites and to recommend to the Board in February which site is the more feasible location for the Conference to maintain.
>> Existing lists of property issues at each camp will be reviewed during personal on site visits by the Task Force.
>> The Kaleidescope presentation lifted up two major capital concerns present at Pilgrim Hills. Preliminary cost estimates indicate a required expenditure of nearly $700,000 to remedy the problems. The Task Force will carefully examine these matters.
The Conference will continue to offer a summer camp season at Pilgrim Hills in 2017. Planning is already well along, and registration is expected to open in early January.
Two overarching themes were expressed throughout the Board meeting.
One, that we need to achieve a more deliberate balance between decisions based on emotion, and decision-making based on careful stewardship and fiduciary responsibility.
Two, that a core value of the Conference must be to pursue a sustainable Faith Formation ministry.
Board members and guests at this meeting are commended for their careful and respectful deliberations around issues which for many years have created tension and dispute. Throughout the meeting, it was clear the Board is ready to make hard but responsible decisions in 2017.
As always, the prayerful support of the United Church of Christ community in Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and West Virginia is cherished.
The Rev. Mindy Quellhorst, Moderator
The Rev. John Gantt, Interim Conference Minister