District conference is part of The Wesleyan Church’s (TWC) annual rhythm; and it was so good to gather at various district conferences again this summer! I am always thankful for interactions with members and friends of TWC. It is a continuous source of joy and inspiration to see and hear about how the Holy Spirit is moving and to celebrate lives being transformed.
Five districts did not meet this summer: Atlantic, Penn York, Florida, Great Lakes and Kentucky-Tennessee. Northeast postponed its conference until September to ensure its ability to convene. For those districts who were able to gather, one could sense how people appreciated being able to share the same physical space. It was wonderful reconnecting, strategizing, corporately praising God and seeking God’s help for the business of the church.
Overall, TWC celebrated strong financial support. Thanks be to God and the people who faithfully give! Some additional highlights are the shared uncertainty about how to measure success due to COVID, and appreciation for TFI/Full Strength and all that Education & Clergy Development is doing to care for pastors.
Several district superintendent elections occurred this summer:
- Eric Hallett in Central Canada District
- Mike Hilson in Chesapeake District
- Mark Eckart in Indiana South District
- Nate Rovenstine in Kansas District
- Tom Harding in South Carolina District
- Devon Smith in Tri-State District
- Joey Jennings in Western New York District
Of note is the unanimous election of Tim Fox as superintendent of the South Coastal District. The vote was cast reflecting lots of anticipation of this “new beginning” for South Coastal.
A possible merger conversation was held at the Iowa-Minnesota and Northwest district conferences with both districts anticipating a vote in 2022.
Although the 2021 local church statistics are still in the initial stages of review, there are three statistics I want to highlight today. The first is that 33% (one-third) of our Wesleyan churches are multiethnic! Last year, the percentage was 25%. In 1994, the percentage was 7. The second is that the number of women serving as lead, co- and staff pastor has increased. The third is that more churches opened than closed. The number, while not high, confirms the reversal of a multi-year trend.
It was evident in reports, presentations and persons that we, The Wesleyan Church, are becoming a Kingdom Force Unleashed. The growing participation of our Hispanic leaders was especially encouraging, and I loved the expressions throughout TWC of how and where we are transforming lives, churches and communities.
I reflect on the faces I observed at district conferences and realize anew how grateful I am for you and for the privilege of serving with you.
Plans remain for us to gather next year in St. Louis on May 22-25 for General Conference. You are enthusiastically invited to gather with us, in person or online. It will be good to be together to see and hear in that context about how the Holy Spirit is moving throughout TWC and to celebrate lives being transformed.
Click to view the General Superintendent’s district conference message.
Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church.