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The 48th Session of the
West Ohio Annual Conference

The 48th session of the West Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church was held in Lakeside, OH from June 4-7, 2017. Pastor John Whitaker and Virginia McMillan served as the Clergy and Lay Delegates, respectively, from Church of the Cross. Other COTC members (present or past) in attendance included John and Carla Stengel, Jane Benner, and Bethany Spieth. Bethany served as the Lay Delegate for the church she now attends, Ada First United Methodist. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer and his wife Cynthia were welcomed back for their second quadrennium with West Ohio. And worship services and teaching sessions built around the conference theme “Be Not Afraid, Facing the Future!” kept attendees focused on our mission, despite contentious business sessions. 

In his Episcopal Address and in his two sermons, Bishop Palmer reminded the conference that God’s words to us are, “Be not afraid.” He spoke about gun violence and opiate addiction and encouraged the church to talk about these issues, to educate ourselves and our neighbors. He reminded us that these problems won’t go away just because we don’t talk about them. He exhorted us to “walk in the light” and to “start piercing the darkness.” 

In her teaching sessions, the Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath, Dean of the Duke Divinity School and author of God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church, invited attendees to put anxiety aside and to open their hearts and minds to new ways of listening to and reaching people, and bringing them to Christ. This is in keeping with “Light the Way”, the Conference missional campaign for this quadrennium to plant new churches and nurture congregational vitality.

One highlight of the conference was a report by Gaston Ntambo, the pilot of Wings of the Morning. Many of you will remember a campaign about five years ago to raise money for a Cessna Grand Caravan to be used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to transport people in need of medical attention. Gaston recounted stories of his nearly daily flights to get people from remote areas of the DRC to a medical clinic, or from a remote clinic to a hospital in one of the cities when surgery at the clinic does not go well. Without the aid of the airplane, such trips might take days. Because of Gaston and Wings of the Morning, many Congolese lives are being saved, and the West Ohio Conference is largely responsible for the success of this ministry. Continuing with mission successes, the WOC once again received the top two awards from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. In 2016, our Conference provided the highest total amount given to the United Methodist Committee on Relief and also the highest total amount given to the Advance Special. Once again, WOC paid 100% of its Connectional Giving apportionments to the General Church, and COTC is grateful to be one of the WOC churches to have paid 100% of our apportionments. 

Five Amendments to the United Methodist Constitution that were adopted at General Conference last year were voted on for ratification, but the results will not be made known until after all Conferences vote. A resolution was passed that affirms the human rights of all migrants, immigrants, refugees, foreign students, and others on extended visas to the US, and pledges the WOC to support such persons in their efforts to attain legal status, if desired. Meanwhile, the issue of human sexuality and its relationship to ordination in the United Methodist Church still rages. In his Episcopal Address, Bishop Palmer stressed the need to shorten the list of deal breakers, in all our relationships, and focus on what holds us together. It appears that the Commission on a Way Forward has their work cut out for them.

–Virginia McMillan