Steve Dennie, Director of Communications

The 2013 US National Conference, during its business meeting on June 27, eliminated the “Watchcare” membership category. There’s a good chance you know nothing about Watchcare.

The Watchcare membership category is (was) for children ages 9 and under. But that’s not how it started. Historically, Watchcare was for persons of any age who were nonChristians, but were “seeking” to become Christians. They just hadn’t taken that step yet, for whatever reason.

Todd Fetters, as part of a Task Force on Membership that reported to the 2001 National Conference, researched the role of Watchcare membership in the UB church. He wrote the following:

In our contemporary culture, we have seen a rebirth of a classic term— seeker. The “seeker” is one who demonstrates a desire to know God through a process of careful discovery. The United Brethren Church has a deep historical connection with this term.

Watchcare membership was established early in the history of the United Brethren in Christ Church for the essential purpose of encouraging the “spiritually awakened” person in his or her pursuit to know God through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible and lived through the Church. The existence of such a category itself reveals that the class/society/church was committed to the work of the Gospel, while recognizing that it was also responsible to encourage the nonbeliever at whatever level of enlightenment he/she was….

For nearly 75 years, the term “watch-care” was used to refer only to those unbelieving adults who showed evidences of moving toward faith in Christ. Later, it included children who showed evidences of moving toward Christ. In both situations, members were required to continue pursuing knowledge of the Bible that would lead them to salvation and thus make them eligible for “full membership.”

This membership category seemed to serve the best interests of the church and the seeker. In the interest of the seeker, he/she could “belong” and receive the support and instruction of the church. By not allowing this member to vote, the interests of the church were served in that the true mind of Christ would be discerned by those persons who professed themselves to be “Christian”—according to their belief and surrender in Jesus Christ.

Apparently, using Watchcare as a place for unbelieving adults ran its course, so it was changed to focus exclusively on young children. But now, that, too, seems to have run its course. Very few churches still use it.

There was some discussion on the conference floor, mainly from persons wanting to retain the category. When it came to a voice vote, it seemed close enough to do a standing count. But the result was not close: 207 in favor of the proposal, 73 opposed. So Watchcare membership, as a denominational category of membership, is no more.

Steve Dennie (right), Director of Communications

During the recent US National Conference, the delegates approved a significant change to the local church Personnel Relations Team. The new statement says:

“Each church shall have a Personnel Relations Team. Its primary responsibility is to cooperate with the stationing committee in securing a new senior pastor when the need arises. The local board will determine the constituency of the Personnel Relations Team.

“Depending on its structure, a church may give the Personnel Relations Team responsibilities in related areas, such as the work and support of the senior pastor.”

So, what’s that all about? Let me explain.

Denominationally, we give churches the freedom to operate as they see fit, with as few restrictions as possible. During the past 20+ years, we have continually revised the Discipline (our manual of operations, sort of) to give churches additional flexibility in administering their own affairs. It’s become somewhat of a core value. And churches have appreciated it. We’re down to just three requirements for local churches:

  1. A local board (the highest governing body).
  2. Lay delegates (needed only every two years for National Conference).
  3. A Personnel Relations Team.

The Discipline previously stated a number of duties for the Personnel Relations Team, including:

  • Job descriptions for employed personnel.
  • The pastor’s salary and benefits.
  • Serve as a “conferring and counseling” committee to the pastor and other employed personnel.
  • Cooperate with the stationing committee in securing a new pastor.

Many churches prefer to divide some of those duties among different administrative entities—an elder board, finance committee, etc. Some larger churches employ a business manager or executive pastor who handles some of those issues. Is it really necessary to mandate this major administrative group, with these specific duties, for all churches?

No. From a denominational standpoint, we need a Personnel team for just one situation—finding a new senior pastor. A local church group must work through that process alongside the bishop and cluster leader. It doesn’t need to be a permanent group. A Personnel team could be formed when a pastoral transition occurs, and then disbanded.

All of those other responsibilities we heap on the Personnel team—that’s the church’s business. If the church wants to assign other responsibilities to a permanent Personnel team, they can. But it’s not necessary. Their choice.

So, the new statement adopted by the National Conference follows our philosophy of giving churches freedom and flexibility. Technically, a local church doesn’t need to have a Personnel Team except when a pastoral change occurs. We don’t even state who, or how many people, should be on the Personnel team. Let the church decide.

The National Conference approved the change without discussion. Passed right through.

Nearly 500 photos from the 2013 US National Conference have been posted on Facebook. They are on the United Brethren Facebook page. You don’t need a Facebook account to view them–they are available for public viewing.

They are divided into separate albums chronologically.

Tuesday, June 25 – Setup day. 39 photos.

Wednesday morning and afternoon, June 26 – Setup continues. 74 photos.

Wednesday evening, June 26 – Opening service, Global Ministries reception. 69 photos.

Thursday morning and afternoon, June 27 – Breakfast, business session, women’s track. 86 photos.

Thursday evening, June 27 – Evening service, Networking Reception. 33 photos.

Friday morning, June 28 – Workshops. 40 photos.

Friday afternoon and evening, June 28 – Touring Huntington University, Todd Agnew concert. 45 photos.

Saturday morning, June 29 – Closing service, ordination service. 80 photos.

The eight persons elected to the 2013-2015 ELT. L-r: Gary Dilley, Robert Eberly, Molly Kesler, Tim Krugh, Dan Paternoster, Dennis Sites, Lester Smith, Greg Voight.

The eight persons elected to the 2013-2015 ELT. L-r: Gary Dilley, Robert Eberly, Molly Kesler, Tim Krugh, Dan Paternoster, Dennis Sites, Lester Smith, Greg Voight.

Every two years, the US National Conference elects eight members of the Executive Leadership Team–1 layperson and 1 ordained minister from each of the four districts. The new ELT will later appoint four additional members, 1 from each district.

Half of the persons elected are new: Dennis Sites, Bob Eberly, Greg Voight, and Gary Dilley. That means a turnover in three of the four clergy positions. In 2011, only one new person was elected to the ELT–Tim Hallman. Of the continuing members, Dan Paternoster has served by far the longest, now beginning his 13th year on the ELT. Lester Smith has served since 2005, Tim Krugh since 2007, and Molly Kesler since 2009.

Interestingly, two pastors’ wives who have been members of the ELT since 2005 chose not to run again. However, their husbands–Dennis Sites and Greg Voight–were elected to the ELT.

Here are the results of the 2013-2015 ELT ballot. The persons selected are indicated with italics type. The location of their church is also given.

East District, Clergy
Daryl Elliott (Keyser, W. Va.) 84
Dennis Sites (Churchville, Va.) 193
Marshall Woods (Reedsville, W. Va.) 32
East District, Laity
Steve Bakner (Waynesboro, Pa.) 82
Sherwood Cook (Chambersburg, Pa.) 95
Bob Eberly (Greencastle, Pa.) 127
Central District, Clergy
Mike Brown (New Albany, Ohio) 97
Darwin Dunten (Findlay, Ohio) 102
Greg Voight (Lancaster, Ohio) 109
Central District, Laity
Tim Krugh (Walbridge, Ohio) 303
North District, Clergy
Darrel Bosworth (Woodland, Mich.) 58
Randy Carpenter (Sunfield, Mich.) 111
Lester Smith (Hillsdale, Mich.) 151
North District, Laity
Dan Paternoster (Fowlerville, Mich.) 98
Mary Redman (Mason, Mich.) 75
Ken Savage (Byron Center, Mich.) 43
Bob Tobey (Caro, Mich.) 92
West District, Clergy
Gary Dilley (Huntington, Ind.) 148
Tim Hallman (Fort Wayne, Ind.) 97
Kent Koteskey (Fort Wayne, Ind.) 76
West District, Laity
Cary Bishop (Auburn, Ind.) 117
Molly Kesler (Huntington, Ind.) 208

Bishop C. Ray Miller (foreground) praying for Bishop Whipple as he begins a second term.

Bishop C. Ray Miller (foreground) praying for Bishop Whipple as he begins a second term.

L-r: Ron Ramsey, Phil Whipple, Ray Seilhamer, and C. Ray Miller. Standing behind Bishop Whipple, mostly hidden, is Paul Hirschy. Bishop Emeritus Ray Seilhamer is praying for Bishop Whipple.

L-r: Ron Ramsey, Phil Whipple, Ray Seilhamer, and C. Ray Miller. Standing behind Bishop Whipple, mostly hidden, is Paul Hirschy. Bishop Emeritus Ray Seilhamer is praying for Bishop Whipple.

Phillip Whipple was re-elected a bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA. He was first elected in 2009, and will now serve another four-year term as bishop. The election came Thursday morning, June 27, during the business session of the US National Conference.

Todd Fetters, assistant chairman, introduced the ballot for bishop, and gave some background, noting that they would follow much the same procedure employed in 2009, when there was also just one name on the ballot. Then Kevin Cherry, chairman of the Nominating Committee, gave some remarks about how they were led to present a ballot with just one name.

The “Rules and Procedures” states that ballot must contain twice the number of persons to be elected. So first, they had to suspect that rule (this has been done many times in the past—just once for bishop, but various times when we elected national directors).

Todd Fetters then invited additional nominations from the floor.

Molly Kesler, a member of the Executive Leadership Team, came to a microphone. She said she had approached two persons about letting their names run for bishop, and that both had said yes. One, she said, was Chuck Malson, pastor of Brown Corners UB church in Clare, Mich. However, she said, Malson subsequently declined, saying he was still committed to serving his local church.

The other person, however, and said “yes”–Lester Smith, pastor of the UB church in Hillsdale, Mich. She placed his name in nomination.

Lester Smith came to the microphone. He said he was “wired for personal evangelism,” and didn’t think the bishop’s position—“in the unlikely event I was elected to it”—would provide the right opportunities to fit his gifting. He thanked Molly for the nomination, but then declined to let his name run.

The vote then proceeded. When the written ballots were counted, they showed the following:

321 votes cast for Phil Whippe
1 “no” vote
6 abstentions
5 blank ballots
1 vote each for Chuck Malson, Dennis Miller, and Tim Hallman.

“This body has elected Phil Whipple as its bishop,” declared Todd Fetters.

Applause.

Fetters continued, “Thank you for celebrating that decision. It’s also important to consecrate that decision.”

He invited the bishops emeriti—C. Ray Miller, Ray Seilhamer, Paul Hirschy, and Ron Ramsey–to come gather around the bishop on the platform. All four bishops laid hands on Bishop Phil Whipple, and bishops Miller and Seilhamer offered prayer.

This is what's showing on monitors throughout the Grand Wayne convention center.

This is what’s showing on monitors throughout the Grand Wayne convention center.

The main ballroom, where services will be held. About 1150 chairs are set up.

The main ballroom, where services will be held. About 1150 chairs are set up.

Cathy Reich (foreground) getting all the workers on the same page.

Cathy Reich (foreground) getting all the workers on the same page.

Bishop Phil Whipple (right) and Frank Y unload the Huntington University trailer.

Bishop Phil Whipple (right) and Frank Y unload the Huntington University trailer.

Todd Fetters and Jane Seely on the goody bad assembly line.

Todd Fetters and Jane Seely on the goody bag assembly line.

Tuesday was set-up day for the 2013 US National Conference. A crew from Emmanuel Community Church spent much of the day getting the main ballroom ready for the evening worship services, which begin at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, June 26.

Meanwhile, most of the national office staff, along with a few spouses and other volunteers, worked on filling goody bags and registration packets, and various other things . The workers ate an evening meal together, and then had a short pow-wow during which Cathy Reich, administrative assistant to Bishop Phil Whipple and the true brains behind the conference, talked through a number of issues to get everybody on the same page.

Set-up will continue on Wednesday morning. Then registration starts at noon, with people will be arriving all afternoon. It’ll be a grand day!

Photo galleries will be posted on the United Brethren Facebook page. Here’s the first one–38 photos from Tuesday.

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Here are some further notes for persons attending the US National Conference this week in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Arriving at the Grand Wayne
The Grand Wayne Center is located in the heart of Fort Wayne, Ind., at 120 W Jefferson Blvd. Two one-way streets go through the center of town–Jefferson (going east) and Washington (going west). The Grand Wayne Center borders both of those streets. There is a parking garage off of W. Jefferson, next to the Hilton Hotel (where many attendees are staying). Calhoun Street runs between the parking garage and the Hilton, and a Skybridge connects the two. The entrance to the parking garage is on Jefferson. Once inside, you’ll see signs pointing you to the registration area.

Many others are staying at the Courtyard by Marriott, which is across the street from the Grand Wayne Center. It has its own parking garage.

Morning Prayer
Across the street from the Grand Wayne Center is Parkview Field, considered one of the best minor-league ballfields in the country. There’s a great walking track all the way around the field, and it’s open to the public every day. So if you’re a walker, this is the place to get some exercise.

In right field is the Huntington University Picnic Pavilion. We’ll have a morning prayer time there each morning at 7am, with various people in charge. It’s a great way to start the day right.

Prayer Labyrinth
One room has been designed as the Prayer Labyrinth. The Youth Ministry Team is providing this creative prayer exercise. The room will be open throughout the conference so you can go in and spend time with God in some unique, directed ways. It is totally self-guided. The Prayer Labyrinth can be found in the Foster Room in the Hilton (the same level as the Nursery and Children’s Ministry rooms). We encourage you to take advantage of it.

Hospitality Room
Snacks, drinks, and other goodies will be available in the Hospitality Room. It’ll be a great place to kick back and relax. It’s on the 9th floor of the Hilton. Take the elevator and follow the sign. Check at the registration desk for hospitality hours.

Photos of Pastors and Spouses
We’re once again taking photos of pastors and spouses. A room for this purpose will be set up outside the main ballrooms. The hours will be limited, so when you see somebody there taking photos, take advantage of the opportunity.

People in Orange Shirts
When you arrive, you’ll see a lot of people wearing bright orange T-shirts with the conference logo. If you have questions about anything, ask these people. They are there to help.

The Nominating Committee has submitted the ballot for bishop. It has one name on it: Phillip Whipple (right).

In 2009, the US National Conference elected Phil Whipple as bishop. He has now served in that position for four years.

Phil Whipple was born on June 23, 1957, and named Walter Phillip Whipple. However, he has gone by his middle name since birth. When Phil was very young, his father died. His mother remarried, and they moved to Illinois, where he spent his school days.

Phil grew up in a strong Christian family where he learned the importance of prayer and obedience. He sensed God’s call into ministry at the age of 17, and began an educational journey through two Bible colleges before graduating from Liberty University. He attended Huntington University for graduate school.

Phil took his first pastorate in 1984. In 1990, he joined the United Brethren Church as an as- sociate at Richfield Road UB church in Flint, Mich. In 1991, he was stationed as pastor of Pleasant Valley UB in Lake Odessa, Mich., and remained there for seven years.

Phil became pastor of Colwood UB church (Caro, Mich.) in 1998 and stayed there 11 years. During that time, the church’s morning attendance grew from 200 to over 500, and they baptized over 130 people.

Phil and his wife, Sandy, have been married for almost 30 years. They have two sons, Josh and Mike, both of whom serve on staff at Colwood UB church (Caro, Mich.).

The election of the bishop will occur on Thursday morning, June 27, during the business session of the 2013 UB National Conference. As always, nominations will be allowed from the floor.