Ron Ramsey at Hit the Bullseye

Ron Ramsey speaking to cluster leaders on Tuesday night, April 29.

Most of the cluster leaders, plus several Healthy Ministry Resources staff, are attending the Hit the Bullseye Conference in Lima, Ohio. It started yesterday and ends today. We registered 35 people through our office, mostly cluster leaders, and some other UBs came on their own. So the UB church has a good representation here.

Altogether, there are probably 350-400 people attending the conference.

This conference is led by Dr. Paul Borden, from whom we have learned the consultation process. Pat Jones has conducted six consultations thus far, with several other UB ministers–sometimes cluster leaders–helping him as part of each consultation team.

On Tuesday night, after the evening workshops, Pat, Steve Dennie, and I met with the cluster leaders for about 90 minutes. Pat and I went over several issues relating to the work of cluster leaders, particularly the process for stationing ministers, and Steve gave a brief presentation about the Healthy Ministry Resources branding.

It’s all about the local church. It’s not about the denominational headquarters.

I work out of the national office in Huntington, along with ten other people. Our only reason to exist is to support our churches as they carry out the Great Commission.

Healthy Ministry Resources is the new name of the United Brethren national office. That’s how we will answer the phone when you call. That’s what this website is about. The name reflects our focus on serving and resourcing our churches.

The church is the only institution established by Jesus. That’s the sharp end of the spear, the place where ministry occurs. The place where we continue carrying out the mission of Jesus.

Denominations are organized hierarchically, with the man-made part at the top and the Jesus-made part–the local church–at the bottom. We are switching that around, focusing everything we do on the Jesus-made part.

We can’t avoid all of the ecclesiastical functions of the national office or the role of the bishop. As a group of churches, we’ve agreed to submit to accountability and various standards, and to give the bishop authority.

But mostly, Healthy Ministry Resources is here for this mission: “To effectively resource pastors and congregations of the US National Conference to fulfill the Great Commission.”

I’m glad you made it to the new BishopBlog on the new HealthyMinistryResources.com
site. The BishopBlog will be the centerpiece of United Brethren communications.

We’ll talk about a wide range of issues here. This is also the place to learn what’s happening in other parts of the UB internet world. 

When I took office, I intended to create a “brand” for the national office in Huntington. It would do the following:

  • Provide an official name and logo for the office. In the past, we’ve always used generic names, like UB Headquarters, United Brethren Offices, or for the more sarcastic among us, “Mecca.”
  • Focus our purpose squarely on serving and resourcing our churches.
  • Emphasize that our only reason to exist is to help our churches thrive. Our churches don’t exist for the sake of the national office.
  • Change the perception of this building as a bureaucratic, top-down, hierarchical entity.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • We’re not changing (or de-emphasizing) the denomination’s name or logo. 
  • The Healthy Ministry Resources name and logo apply only to the national office. 
  • The UB.org is still the official website of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA.

Healthy Ministry Resources is focused on serving local churches. It’s why we exist. I pray that our heart for churches, and for fulfilling the Great Commission, comes through strong and clear.

Three members of the United Brethren missions family will receive honorary doctorates from Huntington University during the May 17 Commencement exercises.

Rev. Russ and Nellie Birdsall will be recognized for their service in missions, education, and other ministries. Russ will receive a Doctor of Divinity and Nellie a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Rev. Owen Gordon, president of Jamaica Bible College, will also receive a Doctor of Divinity.

birdsalls.jpgRuss and Nellie Birdsall (right) graduated from Huntington College in 1953, both with Bachelor of Science degrees in education. Nellie taught school for three years in Huntington while Russ completed seminary. Then, in 1957, they headed to Sierra Leone as missionaries. Russ served as education secretary and business manager, while Nellie became the mission house hostess and was involved in women’s and children’s ministries.

The Birdsalls concluded their missionary service in 1968, when Russ became Dean of Students at Huntington College and, later, Director of Church Services and Alumni. Meanwhile, Nellie resumed teaching elementary students in the Huntington public school system. She also taught GED courses at the Huntington County Jail.

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Pennfield UB church of Battle Creek, Mich., has been closed. The building has been sold and the funds will be forwarded for use in church planting.

Marvin Schwartz has been assigned as the new senior pastor of New Horizons UB (Rockford, Ohio) effective May 25. Wes Kuntzman will continue to fill the pulpit until May 18. Marvin is currently working towards his Masters degree at Huntington University. He was ordained in 2005 in the Church of the Brethren.

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Anchor Community Church is working with nearby Grace Presbyterian church and several other Presbyterian churches in a Habitat for Humanity project. They have been raising funds for about a year, and are almost ready to start on the home.

todd_200.jpgThe most recent project involved collecting aluminum cans. The goal was to bury Todd German of Grace (right) in pop cans. The catch: Todd is 6’7″ tall. Everyone brought their pop cans to Grace on Sunday, April 13, to see if they could do it.

Members of Grace used pvc pipe and plasting netting to construct a seven-foot-tall pen. Todd put on his hunting boots, a rain poncho, and a football helmet, and in he went. Louise McCracken of Grace (and Todd’s mother-in-law), who is heading up the Habitat project, wrote:

“By the time he was covered up to his chest, we were out of cans…I thought. In came the channel 15 photographer, and my heart sank. Behind him, however, came many people from Anchor Community Church with many bags of cans. Plus, our pastor had held back her six or seven big bags. The cans were overflowing the top of the container, and Todd was completely out of sight! It was lovely!”

Todd, submerged in cans, used a piece of garden hose to breathe.
In the end, 28 huge bags of cans were hauled to Omni Source for recycling.

The following update came from Jana Hoobler on April 15. 

  • A leadership team has been elected at Living Stone Church. This is a significant step in moving leadership away from missionaries toward local believers. Pray for this group as they make decisions concerning the church’s future. Thank God for their willingness to make this commitment.
  • I just got back from a vacation to KunMing, China, with a friend of mine. I enjoyed seeing a part of China I hadn’t seen before. Since we joined a China tour group, it was a sort of multi-cultural adventure for me! My Mandarin skills (which are very few and far between at this point) definitely got a workout. Several of the older couples in the group spent a lot of time just smiling and nodding at me, and I spent a lot of time just smiling and nodding back. I’m thankful for “times away” that God provides.
  • The Global Ministries Leadership Team will be meeting this week in the States. They’ll be discussing the proposals that came out of our vision-casting meetings held in January. Pray for God’s clear direction for them as they consider future ministry opportunities in the Pearl River Delta (the Macau, Hong Kong, and Zhuhai area of China).
  • Continue praying pray for people from Living Stone Church to take leadership of children’s ministry after I leave on furlough. The church leadership team will be discussing this issue during the next month.
  • Several women I’ve been discipling over the past year are struggling with spiritual issues. Pray for wisdom as I talk with them. Pray that I’ll know how to show them God’s grace and speak His Truth into their lives. Pray that God will have victory as Satan attempts to draw them away.

Ruby Parent, who served a total of 11 years as a missionary in Sierra Leone, passed away on Sunday, April 13, at the Evergreen Nursing Home in Pioneer, Ohio. Here are the funeral details:

  • Visitation: Thursday, April 17, 2-8 p.m. at the Thompson Funeral Home in Pioneer, Ohio.
  • Memorial service: Friday, April 18, 11 a.m. at Lake View UB church in Camden, Mich. Rev. Stephen Smith will officiate.

Rubert Parent was born in Sherwood, Ohio, and graduated from Huntington University. She first went to Sierra Leone in 1958, where she served successively as teacher, principal, and matron at the Bonthe Girls’ School and Home in Bonthe. After six years in the States, she returned to Sierra Leone in 1971 for her final term of service.

Dr. George Fleming, in his history of the UB work in Sierra Leone, writes, “Being manager of a school of 400 girls staggers the imagination….Surely scores of the girls and young women under Ruby’s training will ‘rise up and call her blessed.’ When I ponder over the tremendous responsibility which rests upon the shoulders of this one young lady, and our many missionaries, how faithful we in the homeland should be in our backing of these ambassadors of the Lord through our prayers and by our gifts.”