Extended Cabinet May 2020 Virtual Meeting Recap

May 26, 2020

On May 19, the Extended Cabinet of Western North Carolina met virtually to connect and collaborate on shared ministry. As a Church, a conference and as cabinet leadership, our primary focus is on our mission and values as we move through this pandemic. We celebrate the strength of our Connection as United Methodists, caring for each other in good times and in times of crisis.
Bishop Leeland led a devotion on gratitude, refocusing us on what’s important and coming out of this time stronger and more faithful. We celebrated the first extended cabinet meeting of Dr. Otto Harris, representing the Comprehensive Plan of Equity. Otto celebrated hopeful conversations around the nine focus areas of the Comprehensive Plan of Equity and work to establish diverse leadership for each focus area. He looks forward to new and creative ways to tell the story of diversity, equity and inclusion in our conference.
This also marked the last extended cabinet meeting of Jane Wood, as her tenure as Conference Lay Leader draws to a close at the end of June. We celebrate and appreciate Jane’s faithful ministry. She introduced John Crane as the nominee for our new Conference Lay Leader effective July 1 and exhorted the Cabinet to continue its focus on the deployment of the laity as an integral part of their faith journey.
Rev. Kim Ingram shared the work of the Board of Ordained Ministry around Fruitful Clergy Leadership. The team identified and described 11 categories of a fruitful clergy leader to guide evaluation of clergy effectiveness. The Leadership Development team has organized a variety of virtual Colleague Conversations to support clergy in this time of social distancing and new challenges in ministry. She also discussed the transitions of many of existing programs and meetings online while the pandemic continues to limit our gathering.
Dr. Mark King celebrated the work of the WNC Connexion fund to assist our churches in supporting our clergy and their families as the pandemic adds to financial uncertainty for many. Since its inception in April, $337,000 has been given in salary support to local churches. He also celebrated the new online donation portal on the conference website allowing church members to donate tithes and offerings to their local churches. We celebrate 230 donations made to local churches amounting to $60,000.
Rev. David Snipes, of the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina, shared an update on the annual distribution of ministry grants. This year, the Foundation distributed $371K in Reynolds Ministry Grants that make disciples of Jesus Christ; $100K to support Transformation Journey and Campus Ministries; $105K for COVID-19 related ministries that help improve communication and/or financially undergird existing ministries. In addition, another $667K was distributed through the Foundation’s permanently restricted endowments.  The total awarded to date is $1.2 million.
Rev. Dan Pezet celebrated Church Development’s work to help churches get online through Zoom accounts. To date, Church development has supported 238 Zoom accounts, with 45,000 total meeting participants. He also shared an update on how our Conference Fresh Expressions are responding to restrictions on gathering. Fresh Expressions are very connectional in nature and about half have transformed to new methods of take-out dinners and online community.
Caroline Wood celebrated opportunities for collaboration in mission engagement and resourcing churches to meet these new challenges. Mission engagement has been focused on gathering and facilitating distribution of protective gear and providing guidance for ministries seeking to continue ministry safely in their communities. Also, Havaleh Havelka and the Resource Center continue to provide churches with resources for Safe Sanctuary during social distancing as the way we do ministry evolves, including guidelines for possible house church models. In collaboration with Kim Ingram, Caroline also shared plans for virtual onboarding for new conference committees for the new quadrennium. The meeting will feature a training on cultural humility from the WNC Justice and Reconciliation team.
Melissa McGill celebrated the many ways collaborative storytelling has become a core value for our conference. Since launching in October 2019, the Means of Grace podcast has become an effective tool for equipping church leaders through the expertise and examples of our own churches in Western North Carolina. Especially in this time of social distance, the podcast offers a safe way to highlight important conversations like the recent episodes on the Innovation Initiative and a conversation on the role of the rural church during the pandemic, which was picked up by United Methodist News. She also shared plans for an upcoming magazine celebrating the ministries of our conference and the unique ways they are continuing to grow in faith and in service to their communities in the midst of a pandemic.
The Bishop and the Cabinet continue to meet virtually and to evaluate the changing landscape for our churches, providing new updates, guidelines and resources regularly to facilitate local church ministry and support pastors and church leaders.