This year, anyone holding a national conference license was a voting delegate at the US National Conference. Not so in 2011. A new provision cuts out unassigned and retired ministers. The new Paragraph 503.1, “Clergy Representation,” says:

Voting members. Ministers are eligible to serve as voting members if they meet both of these conditions:
1. They hold a specialized Ministry license, a national conference license, or are ordained elders in the United Brethren church.
2, At the time of the National Conference, they meet one of these criteria:
a. Are employed by a United Brethren church in the US National Conference.
b. Serve the national conference in an appointed or elected position.
c. Hold a leadership position in a non-United Brethren ministry recognized by the Executive Leadership Team. Persons desiring this recognition must send a letter to the bishop requesting such recognition.

This subject sparked the only major debate on the conference floor. There were two main issues:

  1. There was strong sentiment for allowing all national conference ministers to be voting delegates, whether they were actively serving or not.
  2. What about United Brethren ministers who serve in the broader Kingdom in other organizations, and who value their UB connections? The two main examples given were missionaries Dave Datema and Roger Skinner, both of whom are ordained but serve fulltime in mission organizations.

It would be impossible to write a Discipline statement covering every possible organization. Point C addressed that by letting the Executive Leadership Team be the filter. If Dave Datema and Roger Skinner (and others) want to be voting members in 2011, they merely need to send a letter to the bishop with that request. He’ll take the request to the ELT, which can grant or deny the request.

After considerable discussion, this entire debate was deferred until after lunch, so that a small group of people could formulate a statement, rather than try to write one on the conference floor. What they came up with is what passed by a considerable margin. There was much, much further discussion, and unsuccessful attempts at several amendments, but the statement above ultimately passed as presented.

The US National Conference delegates elected eight members of the Executive Leadership Team–one minister and one layperson from each of the four districts. The total ballot included 22 persons, broken down according to district and lay/clergy status. The persons elected are:

East District

  • John Beukema (senior pastor, King Street Church, Chambersburg, Pa.).
  • Annette Sites (pastor’s wife, Jerusalem Chapel, Churchville, Va.).

Central District

  • Marty Pennington (senior pastor, Mainstreet Church, Walbridge, Ohio).
  • Debbie Voight (pastor’s wife, Lancaster UB, Lancaster, Ohio).

North District

  • Lester Smith (senior pastor, Hillsdale UB, Hillsdale, Mich.).
  • Dan Paternoster (layperson, Fowlerville UB, Fowlerville, Mich.).

West District

  • Dennis Miller (senior pastor, Emmanuel Community Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  • Molly Kesler (pastor’s wife, Good Shepherd Church, Huntington, Ind.).

The new ELT will now appoint four additional persons, one from each district–2 laypersons, and 2 ministers. The bishop is also a member (and chairman) of the ELT.

The US National Conference delegates acted on 22 proposals for changing the Discipline. Some were minor, some more substantial. Here are several which weren’t addressed in other posts.

  • The Discipline has required that the pastor be a member of the church board of administration. A proposal saying the senior pastor “may” (instead of “shall”) be a member of the board was defeated. So the pastor remains a voting member of the local church board.
  • Paragraph 423.1, on Lay Delegates, was rewritten. Now, the only responsibilites of lay delegates are to represent the church at the national conference. They no longer need to be chosen every year (and the church can select them in any way it sees fit–no need to elect them).
  • Added this line: “It is recommended that money from the sale of closed churches be given to the US National Conference to start new churches.” This used to be a policy statement, but was removed somewhere along the line.
  • All of the national directors are now voting members or the National Conference. The directors who are ordained ministers have been voting members because of their clergy status, but not the laypersons. So in 2011, if they are still around, Steve Dennie, Marci Hammel, Donna Hollopeter, and G. Blair Dowden will have a vote.
  • Added responsibilities to the Bishop and to the Executive Leadership Team. All were basically administrative in nature, intended to conform better to the overall structure.
  • Added a line to the paragraph about clusters which says, “The cluster to which the local church is accountable shall be the cluster in which the senior pastor is a member.” This covers situations where the senior pastor and associate staff may belong to different clusters (there are clusters, for instance, designed just for youth workers).

The 2009 US National Conference added a new paragraph to Chapter 10, “Joining the Church.” UB missionaries must hold membership in a United Brethren church. The new provision says, “dual membership is permitted should missionaries find church membership in their place of ministry to be either necessary or advantageous.”

We have staff serving in places in the United States where there is no UB church (examples: the Datemas, Skinners, and Brinnemans). We also have staff involved in overseas churches, but unable to become members of those churches (such as our staff in Macau). Endorsed staff involved in church planting can’t become members of the churches they are planting.

So this new provision makes a lot of sense. The provision for dual membership applies only to Global Ministries staff (not to Florida snowbirds).

The UB Discipline, with the changes made this past week during the US National Conference, has been updated online. The print version, which you’ll be able to download as a PDF file, will (hopefully) be available later next week. But for now, you can at least view the updated chapters on your screen.

We will not produce a printed version which you can purchase. We haven’t done that since the 2001-2005 edition. The only printed copy available will be the PDF version.

Over 500 photos from the US National Conference have been posted on Flickr. They are divided into sets according to day. Use them to build your own PowerPoint presentation to show to your church. Or, use some of the photos in others ways, like in a church newsletter.


Bishop Ron Ramsey (right) leads in prayer during the installation service for Phil and Sandy Whipple.

The US National Conference held its concluding service on Sunday morning, June 7. 

  • A drama group from Union Chapel (Fort Wayne, Ind.) opened the service with a powerful skit.
  • A worship team from Hillsdale UB (Hillsdale, Mich.) led the congregational singing.
  • Pat Jones led a communion service.
  • Bishop Ron Ramsey spoke, switching form the car-racing metaphor to a running-the-race metaphor.
  • Bishop Ramsey led the installation service for Bishop-Elect Phil Whipple.

Phil Whipple will take office August 15. But the Executive Leadership Team took action last fall to allow for a two-week overlap with Bishop Ramsey, prior to August 15. In the past, the changeover happened rather abruptly–one bishop one day, a different bishop the next.

Pray for Phil and Sandy Whipple as they busy themselves with all the arrangements for moving from one state to another. They don’t have a home to sell in Michigan, so that’s a plus. But they will need to find a place to live in the Huntington/Fort Wayne area, and soon.

Additional updates from the US National Conference business session.

  • 9:45. Dr. G. Blair Dowden announced a partnership with radio station Star 88.3. It’s being announced publicly today by the college.
  • HU had 163 UB students during the 2008-2009 school year.
  • HU is launchnig the Institute for TESOL Studies (Teacher of English Speaking Other Language). A partnership between HU and Global Ministries. 
  • The college endowment dropped from $22 million to $16 million, a result of the economic downturn.
  • Bishop Ron Ramsey asked the HU trustees present–himself, Pat Jones, Dalton Jenkins, Mike Caley–to gather around Dr. Dowden for a time of prayer. He asked Dalton Jenkins, pastor of the UB church in  Yonkers, NY, to pray.
Bishop Ramsey declared a recess at 9:55.

The US National Conference business session started at 8:00. Here is what has happened so far:

  • Tom Blaylock and Gordon Kettel gave a devotional and presentation on church planting.
  • The conference rules and procedures were adopted.
  • The delegates voted to elect 8 members to the Executive Leadership Team. The results should be announced before lunch.
  • Mike Caley, chairman of the Nominating committee, explained the procedure they went through in developing the ballot for bishop.
  • Bishop Ron Ramsey made it very clear that, in putting just one name on the ballot for bishop, this is not a “railroad job,” and if he hears anyone say that that’s what happened, “You and I will have a come to Jesus moment.”
  • The delegates voted on bishop, with one name on the ballot: Phil Whipple, pastor of Colwood UB in Caro, Mich.
  • G. Blair Dowden is giving his report as President of Huntington University.


Clockwise from top left: Steve Dennie, Paul Hammel, Steve and Phil Whipple.

In 2007, we needed lots of easels for the many signs posted around Saw Mill Creek. Unfortunately, we only had a few. So this time, I decided to be prepared. A basic easel costs 30-50 bucks, but I found a place in California that was offering a dozen easels for $120. I decided that, no matter how cheaply made, they would be a good investment for many national conferences to come.

They arrived in a big box, which I didn’t open until yesterday. Inside the big box were 12 smaller boxes. I envisioned opening a box, pulling out the easel, and simply unfolding it and letting it expand to its final glory.

Not so easy. Instead, I found myself sitting on the floor of the Saw Mill Creek lobby amidst eight sticks, a few bolts, a chain, and absolutely no directions. Now, I had to figure out how to assemble these random sticks. We’re talking ME, the guy who is baffled by Tinker Toys. Who can’t grasp the concept behind Leggos. I’m sure somebody in China, while stuffing these sticks into the boxes, was laughing thinking, “Those Americans will never figure it out.”

But never underestimate the ingenuity of the American farmer. Along came Paul Hammel, father of Finance Director Marci Hammel (who’s also an accountant, though I can’t imagine that part being any help). He played around with the pieces, and figured it out. Or close, There was some screwing and unscrewing of bolts, but we got it eventually. Or he did, while I mostly watched. We assembled the first easel together, then tackled the others on our own. Yes, even I could do it. We also pulled in Phil Whipple, who gets credit for four of the twelve.