The General Board of The Wesleyan Church convened its 142nd session on May 4, 2021, at the denominational headquarters in Fishers, Indiana. The General Board has not met in person since November of 2019 due to COVID-19 gathering and travel restrictions.
Rhea Bell, lay representative on the board for the northeastern area, offered a devotion speaking from Luke 9:1-3, 6 (NLT) and focusing on verse 3, “Take nothing for your journey … ” but the Word of God. Bell is the worship director at LifePoint Wesleyan Church in Waldorf, Maryland.
Zach Szmara, director of Immigrant Connection, Inc. (IC), a subsidiary of The Wesleyan Church, provided updates sharing ways he has seen God’s blessing on the ministry. Szmara stated that the ministry, in its seven years of operation, has directly served over 10,000 individuals and families from over 125 countries of origin and successfully filed over 4,500 immigration cases with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He emphasized that these numbers represent individuals, then shared stories of generational change, individuals being saved through the ministry and immigrants who are now serving within the ministry.
General Board members followed Szmara’s presentation by sharing testimonies of how they, too, have seen God’s blessing in The Wesleyan Church. Comments spanned ministry within a global community, a cowboy church successfully launched during COVID-19 and church ministry expansion through new community service initiatives.
A General Officers panel presented ministry and missional highlights drawn from their annual spring reports. Panelists were:
- Education and Clergy Development Executive Director Russ Gunsalus
- Global Partners Executive Director Dennis Jackson
- Church Multiplication and Administration Executive Director Anita Eastlack
- Communication and Administration Executive Director Janelle Vernon and
- Chief Financial Officer Kevin Batman, who presents his annual report in the fall.
A Statement of the General Board of the North American General Conference of The Wesleyan Church was unanimously approved by the General Superintendent, the General Board and the presidents and board chairs of each Wesleyan educational institution.
A Statement of the General Board of the North American General Conference of The Wesleyan Church
We affirm our deep commitment to our core mission of evangelizing the lost, discipling believers, equipping the Church, and ministering to society. This mission is foundational as we seek to be agents of the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ.
Unprecedented times is a term often used to accurately describe our current reality. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many things we have taken for granted for decades. Coupled with the ever-shifting sands of our culture on the social and political issues of our time, uneasiness, and a sense of angst hover in the air.
Changes thrust on us have raised questions and perhaps even fears and apprehension as we attempt to navigate the shifting landscape. More than once we have asked, “What next?”
Our General Superintendent, General Board, and the presidents and board chairs of our college and universities, have prayed, discussed, and reasoned together on these matters and unanimously approved the following statement of affirmation:
“We hereby declare that we remain deeply committed to proclaim, defend, and hold each other accountable for the historic and orthodox doctrinal positions of The Wesleyan Church as presented in our Articles of Religion, and
We hereby affirm our full and ongoing support for the official Position Papers on the social issues of our time including our commitments:
1) To affirm that persons of all races are created equal in the image of God and are entitled to equal justice under the law.
2) To affirm the sanctity of life and that all life is sacred from conception to death.
3) To affirm that God’s only design for marriage is between one man and one woman.
4) To affirm that religious freedom is a liberty essential for our pluralistic democracy.”
Loyalty has not changed. Love still thrives. Commitment remains strong. The core is solid.
While commitment to our understanding of Biblical truth is unwavering, we do understand that there are other points of view on a range of social issues. There is room for courteous dialog on these issues within the boundaries of Biblical truth.
As our leaders, we commit ourselves to pray earnestly for the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to rest on the ministry of The Wesleyan Church. Our deep passion is to be agents of both grace and truth in this time and place in history.
The meeting concluded with a recognition of Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College, and Todd Voss, president of Southern Wesleyan University, who were honored for their combined 25 years of collegiate leadership. Russ Gunsalus, executive director of Education and Clergy Development, paid tribute to their transformative leadership within their academic institutions, their surrounding communities and The Wesleyan Church. Mullen retires on May 31. Voss retires on June 30.
The fall General Board meeting is scheduled for November 16-18, 2021.
Janelle Vernon is the executive director of Communication and Administration for The Wesleyan Church.