COLUMBIA, Mo. – Bishop Robert Farr announced Jan. 26 his intent to appoint the Rev. Dr. Roger Ross as Director for the Center of Congregational Excellence. Ross is currently serving as senior pastor of First UMC in Springfield, Illinois in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. The cross-conference appointment comes with the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Beard.
The position has been vacant since Farr was elected to the episcopacy in July at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Wichita, Kansas. Ross rose to the top of the field after a national search. He expects to start in the new role on July 1.
"Although I was not seeking this position, after much prayer and countless conversations, I have accepted a new ministry role," Ross said in a letter mailed to the Springfield First congregation this week. "As some of you know, I have long felt a special calling to start new churches. I also love helping pastors and churches find new life. Like you, I want to invest my one and only life in a way that has the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God. When prayerfully considering who God made me to be, I came to believe this position would uniquely tap my passion and gifts and could be my highest point of contribution to a world that needs the love and leadership of Jesus Christ."
As with any pastoral vacancy, the District Superintendent is meeting with the church's pastor-parish committee and the process of discerning a new pastor for Springfield First UMC is underway.
“The Center for Congregational Excellence is one of our priority areas for the Missouri Annual Conference,” said Bishop Farr. “Roger has a great track record in planting and transforming congregations. We think he will be a great fit to our team and help us discern the next season of connecting the Gospel with new people in new places.”
Originally from Cambridge, Ill., Ross has served local churches from Texas to the British Channel Island of Guernsey to his home state of Illinois, where he has been involved in starting two new churches. Since 2007, he has served as senior pastor of First UMC in Springfield. He is the author of Meet the Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith and has contributed to several publications and journals. Married to Leanne Klein Ross, they have two children, Zach, who attends the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Jane, who is a freshman at Olivet Nazarene University.
“The Missouri Annual Conference is a well-known leader in our connection at effectively starting new churches and transforming existing churches,” Ross said. “I can’t wait to join the team, roll up my sleeves with church planters, pastors, and laypersons, and find fresh ways to multiply the life-changing love of Jesus Christ.”
The Missouri Conference is comprised of almost 800 local churches, approximately 1,000 retired and active clergy and 80,000 weekly worshippers. In the past 10 years, the Center for Congregational Excellence has guided 35 church starts into life and has overseen over 150 Healthy Church consultations in the Missouri Conference.