The 147th session of the General Board, held at The Wesleyan Church (TWC) Headquarters on November 15 and 16, 2022, was significant due to the number of new members. The board, elected to serve until the 15th General Conference scheduled for 2026, is comprised of 21 new and 16 returning members.
Half of the presidents on the Wesleyan Educational Council are new members: Southern Wesleyan University President Dr. William D. Barker, Indiana Wesleyan University President Dr. Jon S. Kulaga and Wesley Seminary President Dr. Colleen Derr. Wesley Seminary became a member of the Wesleyan Educational Council and General Board upon the 14th General Conference’s adoption of Memorial 387: Including Wesley Seminary in “The Discipline.”
Half of the Executive Cabinet are also new members: Church Multiplication and Discipleship Executive Director Dr. Ed Love, Education and Clergy Development Executive Director Rev. Johanna Rugh and Information Technology Director Estherlita Griffiths, who serves as a content expert. The 14th General Conference’s adoption of Memorial 317: Executive Cabinet Composition expanded the Executive Cabinet to include content experts elected annually by the General Board.
Devotions were provided on Tuesday by board members Rev. Matt LeRoy, General Board vice chair, and Dr. Colleen Derr, president of Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.
General Superintendent Dr. Wayne Schmidt during his “State of the Church” report noted a remaining weariness across the denomination; expressed gratitude for the opportunity to clarify TWC’s statement on human sexuality and relationships from a biblical perspective at General Conference; shared his awareness of complications involving the implementation of Memorial 350 regarding the General Church Financial Plan; and, after celebrating Wesley Seminary being recognized as the official seminary of The Wesleyan Church, identified the need to define how TWC partners with Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary.
Referencing the 2022 statistics, the Chair noted decreases in churches, membership and attendance. He reported increases in multiethnic churches, discipleship, conversions, baptisms and credentialed women clergy, noting with regret that the growth in multiethnic churches and credentialed women was small. Later in the meeting, the Chair celebrated the election of three credentialed women as assistant district superintendents: Arlynn Ellis of Mountain Plains, Carla Working of Crossroads and Janet Guthrie of Shenandoah.
The Chair concluded his comments by referencing a conversation he had at General Conference. Prompted by the ongoing decline in TWC statistics, a pastor explained his desire to help reverse the trends but didn’t know where to start. This conversation triggered for Dr. Schmidt and the Executive Cabinet an assessment and alignment of resources available to help every church be an Acts 1:8 church. The General Board dedicated time to review and contribute to the assessment and resources alignment effort. Acts 1:8 will be presented at the 2023 district conferences.
Tuesday evening, General Superintendent Emeritus H.C. Wilson was honored for his exemplary service to The Wesleyan Church and the General Board in preparing for the 14th General Conference.
Business items included the approval of ministerial development forms, “General Board Policy” judicial process updates, and the formation of an Audit Committee, Homosexuality Position Paper Study Committee and General Board Standards of The Wesleyan Educational Institutions Task Force. A report was provided on the Memorial 857: Approval Process for Withdrawing from the Denomination Study Committee’s first meeting.
The Chair explained that passage of Memorial 52: Constitution: Amendment Regarding Gifts of the Spirit at General Conference put the North American General Conference (NAGC) of The Wesleyan Church in conflict with The Essentials (Charter of the International Conference of The Wesleyan Church (ICWC), “The Discipline” Appendix A 6520 and 6730). The Chair recommended that the General Board, on behalf of the NAGC and in accordance with Memorial 52’s intent, present an amendment to the ICWC to have paragraph 6725:3c removed from The Essentials to allow for contextualization by each General Conference. The General Board approved the amendment which will be communicated to ICWC by General Superintendent Schmidt and Global Partners Executive Director Dr. Dennis Jackson.
The General Board spent considerable time discussing implementation of the United Stewardship Fund (General Conference Memorial 350), specifically related to technical adjustments. A small committee will be appointed to review technical adjustments and provide a report at the May 2023 General Board meeting with final action to occur at the November 2023 General Board meeting.
Noting pathways for gradual participation in assessments have been a part of merger agreements with preceding denominations joining The Wesleyan Church (Standard Church and Evangelical Christian Church), the General Board adopted a five-year United Methodist Church disaffiliated church integration plan expiring on January 1, 2025.
The General Board also approved the joint exploration by TWC and Wesleyan Investment Foundation (WIF) leaders of TWC World Headquarters building ownership. TWC owns the building which houses WIF and TWC General Church offices. WIF’s growing staff needs and the lessening need for TWC staff offices motivates the exploration. A recommendation will be presented at the May 2023 General Board meeting.
Chief Financial Officer Kevin Batman and Wesleyan Investment Foundation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Dunn presented their annual reports, both of which were positive. CEO Dunn also introduced his successor, Norwood Davis, and explained their leadership plans ending with Dunn’s retirement on January 1, 2026.
General Secretary Janelle Vernon provided the timeline for publishing “The Discipline 2022.” A PDF is available for download at www.wesleyan.org/discipline. Additional e-book formats of “The Discipline 2022” will be a released in mid-December. A Wiki version will be available before 2023 at discipline.wesleyan.org. Print copies (hardback and paperback) are on track for a spring 2023 release at www.wes.life/shop-discipline.
The next General Board meeting is scheduled for May 2 and 3, 2023, at The Wesleyan Church Headquarters.
Janelle Vernon is the executive director of Communication and Administration for The Wesleyan Church.