Bishop Leeland and extended cabinet meet to begin their ministry together

September 22, 2016

[caption id="attachment_7275" align="alignright" width="300"]Claire Bowen, facilitator of On Boarding event Claire Bowen, facilitator of the On-Boarding event[/caption] “Believe me, these next couple of days will be worth about six to eight months for Bishop Leeland and his transition in the Western North Carolina Conference,” stated Claire Bowen at the beginning of the session on Monday, September 19, at the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina. Bowen, a lay person in the North Georgia Conference, who specializes in on-boarding sessions for corporate and large business clients, and works regularly with churches and conferences during transitions for senior pastors and bishops. She is a member of Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta, GA., and has served as the chair of their Staff Parish Relations Committee. The two-day session began on Monday afternoon with Bowen leading the extended cabinet that included all eight district superintendents, the assistant to the bishop, the director of vital discipleship, the conference treasurer, the director of missional engagement and connectional relationships, director of ministerial services, the team leader of the Church Legacy Initiative, the conference lay leader, and the communications and web manager. For three intense hours, these conference leaders met without Bishop Leeland, as they reflected and engaged one another regarding the nature of the Western North Carolina Conference; where we celebrate the Presence of God; identifying our passions for ministry; lifting our priorities; and sharing our hopes for ministry.  The openness and hopefulness of this time offered a broad range of information about the conference, its staff and churches, while giving the leadership an opportunity to ask very specific questions of the bishop. [caption id="attachment_7276" align="alignright" width="300"]Bishop Leeland leading ON-Boarding event Bishop Leeland leading On-Boarding event[/caption] Tuesday morning was led by Bishop Leeland, who received the questions and impressions from the day before.  Over the course of the day, our leadership heard directly from the bishop as he answered a myriad of questions, while taking time to ask questions of the extended cabinet. Bishop Leeland affirmed throughout the day, whether talking about appointment making or dealing with major issues confronting the conference or the general church, “The mission of the church is my first priority, and I will always make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the church.” Dr. Nancy Rankin, superintendent of the Northern Piedmont District, said this about the experience, “It was a great process for sharing a wealth of information with each other in a short amount of time.  I was very moved to hear about our Bishop's daily practice of spiritual disciplines that keep him grounded in the scriptures and prayer.” Rev. Beth Crissman, Blue Ridge District superintendent, summed up her experience of the two days “Our time with the on-boarding exercise was extremely helpful in getting to know Bishop Leeland and his passion, hopes, and leadership for the conference and in his understanding of who we are and what we offer in partnership with him.“ [caption id="attachment_7277" align="alignright" width="300"]gifts-ob-boarding Gifts for Bishop Leeland from the districts were on the devotional center during the two days[/caption] “Bishop Leeland is, in his words, ‘pouring himself’ into the Western North Carolina Conference,” said Randy Harry, superintendent of the Smoky Mountain District.  “His passionate commitment to serving Christ and leading the clergy and churches of our conference was clear and inspiring to those of us meeting with the Bishop this week.  And,” Harry added, “Bishop Leeland calls on all of us, likewise, to pour ourselves into this conference with the aim of reaching every soul for Jesus Christ.” Crissman may have summed up the experience for the entire group,  “After these two days, I am more excited than ever about how God is weaving together our ministries throughout the conference to accomplish our shared mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Western North Carolina. What a gift to us as an extended Cabinet - and what a gift in ministry to our conference!”