Bishop Hagiya Announces Changes to Conference Leadership
In a recent announcement, Bishop Grant Hagiya announced two changes to conference staffing. In the first, he shared his intention to appoint the Rev. Lowell Greathouse to a new position of Conference Coordinator for Mission and Ministry. Greathouse currently serves as the Superintendent of the Columbia District.
In the second announcement, Hagiya shared that Rev. Stephan Ross will take on the Superintending role for the churches of the Gorge area of the Columbia District.
Greathouse to lead Program MinistryWhen Lowell Greathouse takes on the new position of Conference Coordinator for Mission (CCMM) and Ministry July 1, 2015, the first job will be to define what the position is. Since 2011 the Oregon-Idaho Conference has not had dedicated program staff. At that time, the Director of Connectional Ministries position was left unfilled in response to a lack of conference funds. During that time, cabinet members and other conference staff have been able to maintain support for some areas, while other conference programs have been left unfunded and with limited or no leadership.
When asked what the position will entail, Greathouse shared, “In keeping with our annual conference focus of resourcing the work of healthy, vital congregations, the CCMM position will work with local congregations, District Superintendents, and relevant district/conference ministry teams to enhance local church and regional strategies for ministry, expand community partnerships in mission, and serve as a catalyst, strategist, and resource person to assist in ministry/discipleship development throughout the annual conference. “ One step he sees for that process is to begin with spending time in “engaged conversation” with conference clergy and laity about positive things that are happening now, where effective support systems need to be created, and to strategize about how to, “expand our presence in the community as a natural outgrowth of our Christian discipleship.”
While this new role will include some tasks formerly done by the Director of Connectional Ministries, it does not recreate that position or reinstate the conference programs that existed in the past. As Greathouse put it, “The focus of the CCMM position will be on grassroots work, local congregations, and appropriate mission/ministry teams, NOT on annual conference committees and structures (although clearly some of this work will need to be done as well).”
He sees the emphasis of the position being, “… to connect the ‘edges’ of our work, which take place in local church settings and at a grassroots level, with ‘the center’ (i.e. our connectional system) that should serve as a resource, strategy point, and catalyst for enhancing and expanding what is working among our component parts.”
In Bishop Grant Hagiya’s appointment announcement he refers to ongoing financial challenges for conference ministry and support staff saying, “We do face some challenges in this new position, as we do not have the funding for a support staff person, and there are limited program resources.”
As Greathouse prepares for the new position, he shares a hope, “I hope that we can create more of a ‘movement mentality’ within the United Methodist Church in our annual conference that reinforces and enhances a sense of ‘apprenticeship with Christ,’ ‘faith sharing,’ and community-based mission/ministry within our various settings.
Ross to assist with Columbia District leadershipWhen a new District Superintendent is named for the Columbia District, there will be some help for covering the vast geography of the District. Bishop Grant Hagiya has appointed Rev. Stephan Ross to be the Superintendent of some of the district’s churches.
Ross currently serves as the Director of the Vital Church Project, and he will continue that position along with supervising a group of local churches. According to Ross he will essentially be working as the representative of the Columbia District Superintendent, with all committees, colloquies, and functions staying the same. A key benefit for the new connections will be, “A closer relationship with the leaders will allow the superintending function to be better informed.”
According to Ross, many conferences in the United States are looking at new ways of providing supervision. “These superintending assignments are intended to better serve congregations with special circumstances, missional demands, or identities,” he shared.
Specific congregations have not yet been assigned to Ross, but he expects those in the Columbia River gorge and points east to be in his area. They were part of the Central District in the previous conference structure, which he served as Central District Superintendent for for two years.