The IGRC did a fantastic job hosting the North Central Jurisdiction Conference in Peoria, where four bishops were elected.
A bevy of people led by Nancy Patton, Randy Robinson and Paul Black and numerous volunteers hosted a Jurisdictional Conference that left delegates, visitors and bishops raving with superlatives about our hospitality, service and care. Between the program, people and the weather, “I give God the glory.”
From hindsight, I can see the hand of God more fully in my surprising assignment here. Beverly and I have four glorious years in our memory bank. It did not begin this way. Expecting to end my episcopacy in Michigan and unexpected move of my predecessor from IGRC are vivid reminders of the implications of vows taken voluntarily at my Ordination and Consecration.
Life is full of surprises. The joy and happiness, successes and accomplishments offer constant reminders of vows voluntarily taken at my Ordination and Consecration. For those compelling vows, I thank God. None of my struggles, illnesses, disappointments and faith challenges leaves me with anger, regret or bitterness. Would I change the path of my ministerial journey? Nay! I would do it again the same way! To God be the Glory!
Two personal encounters at the Consecration Service for new bishops at Peoria First on Saturday, July 16, reminded me God’s blessings in ministry. Rev. Laura Speiran, an Ordained Deacon from the Detroit Annual Conference served alongside me and others in the worship service.
A couple of years ago, her Senior Pastor, Rev. Jim Tuttle of Saline, Mich., asked the bishop to acknowledge her contributions to the ministry of Saline UMC. I did with a note and a phone call. During one of our conversations, Laura informed that she had been elected chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry in Detroit Conference. If I am not mistaken, Laura is the first ordained deacon to chair the Board of Ordained Ministry in Detroit Conference.
As I greeting folks following the Consecration Service, Barbara Pufundt, my former secretary when I served as a D.S in Northern Illinois Conference, greeted me. I had not seen her is 20 years. Her attendance was a treasured gift. We took a selfie. Then she hit the road, returning to Naperville. Servants of God like Barbara and ordained deacons have contributed much to my ministry, “to God be the Glory!”
I give God thanks for my faith in Jesus Christ. What can be done in four years? How does one avoid thinking acting or functioning like a lame duck with only four years left to serve? Nearly every waking hour was spent doing ministry as best I could. Hardly a minute seemed available for true rest and relaxation. The work of ministry motivated me.
The warmth of relationships enlivened me. The prayers and support of my dear wife Beverly supported me. The outstanding servanthood of IGRC from top to bottom with respect to mission and ministry renewed me.
So much good happened in the life of The United Methodist Church's ongoing struggles that could have negatively affected our witness at every level. But it did not. Yes we still have a long way to go. But God is not through with us yet. I know God is not through with me. I still have faith in Jesus Christ. I still want us to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Finally, know that whatever IGRC may have accomplished under my leadership in my four years, one thing remains true forever, Soli Deo Gloria -- “to God alone the glory!”