On July 16, 2015, the members of the 2015 US National Conference chose Todd Fetters as the next bishop–actually, “interim bishop,” since he would be completing the unexpired term of Bishop Phil Whipple. He would assume office on August 7, 2015.
After the vote was taken, Todd Fetters made the following remarks (with slight editing) to the conference.
I’m not an alliterator when I do messages. I’m just not big on it. It’s a lot of work to come up with points that all have the same letter. And yet, I’m going to do it right here, right now.
Let me just say, the events that you in executive session have heard and that we walked through—they are heart-breaking. I want to speak on behalf of the national office. It’s been a heart-rending, heart-challenging season for us. And yet, I think as you’ve looked at the national staff just in the last 24 hours, you’ve seen that they came to work, and they came to help, and they came to serve the church. I’m grateful for their ability to process challenging, difficult, heart-rending decisions and still come to do this, knowing that our calling is to Jesus Christ and to His Church, and to help all of us point in that direction of our Lord and Savior. So would you just thank our national office staff.
We have had the opportunity to say it to Bishop Phil and to Sandy, that we love them and enjoyed working with them, and we have enjoyed working for our bishop. We will be continuing to pray for them, and we will continue to serve in the vein that he has led us to this point.So the first H is heart-breaking.
Let me follow that up by saying I am humbled by this body’s confidence in me. I walk into the office every day and go down a long hallway on purpose. The hallway into the office from the back door is a whole long line of bishops’ pictures. Usually I’m troubled by the fact that most of them are cockeyed, and I sort of tilt them back into place. Whether that’s a message from the Lord or not, I don’t know.
But as a kid growing up in the United Brethren church, and not far from headquarters, those are the people I knew as bishop. Those have always been individuals that I was taught to respect, and whom I learned to respect. I’m humbled to follow in that line for these two years.
When I think in terms of our church, I think in terms of the modern era. One of the key parts of our modern era is when we went to one bishop, and that was Bishop Ray Seilhamer in 1993. He served us with a vision for two things—healthy churches, and church planting. A big part of that was endowing for church planting. So he got us in mind for healthy churches and planting churches. His illustration was a two-winged plane—which, by the way, is the only kind of plane I would want to fly.
And then following Bishop Seilhamer was Bishop Paul Hirschy, who has given us leadership in transition to who we are. Between 2001 and 2005, we processed whether or not we wanted to be United Brethren, and we cinched it down. We are United Brethren. That’s who we are going to be. That’s what we want to be. So we said in 2005, this is who we are.
At that national conference, we had a sea change in our structure, our organization. Ron Ramsey was handed the baton to make sense out of something we just sort of threw up in the air to some degree and said, “Make this work.” And we’ve been making this work.
The other thing that Bishop Ramsey brought to the table was a renewed commitment to the Great Commission as our commission. Growing healthy churches was a big part of where we were going. And so, again, when you make a big decision to say this is who we are and this is what we are going to be about as the United Brethren Church, we had the right leader at that moment to say, “Simplistically, it’s about the Gospel—about getting people to hear the Gospel and to yield their lives to him.”
And so in the succession in this modern era, we got to that point where we said, “We are United Brethren, and we are committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Great Commission. That’s what we are called to do.”
Then the baton was handed off to Bishop Phil Whipple. For the last six years, in a volatile culture when it comes to Christianity, he helped us cinch down what we are all about in upholding that one name once more—that we are All for Christ. That’s what we are about. Unashamedly, All for Christ. I look forward to keeping that theme, and the themes that got us to that point, as we move forward.
So I’m heart-broken in the circumstances we are in. I’m humbled by your trust. And I’m hopeful that we will work together in collaboration for the great and glorious Gospel that is ours, given to us by Jesus Christ.
Thank you, folks. It’s been my privilege to serve with our staff and with our bishop and with you. I look forward to what the Lord wants to do in the United Brethren church during the next two years.