Ron Ramsey, Bishop
The Michindoh Camp and Conference Center (Hillsdale, Mich.) is now a ministry of Lenawee Christian Ministries, an organization founded by Orville and Ruth Merillat, who basically donated the camp to us in the first place. In April, I signed various papers on behalf of the denomination to transfer title of all camp assets to Lenawee for one dollar. I believe it was the right decision.

After the 2005 US National Conference, Michindoh Conference took action to dissolve (like other conferences), but entrusted the conference council with determining the fate of the camp.

Various possibilities were considered. In the spring of 2007, Gull Lake Ministries, a highly-respected camping ministry in Michigan, agreed to assume ownership of Michindoh. But they backed out, sending the conference council back to square one.

We expected that all annual conferences would have dissolved by the 2007 US National Conference. However, Michindoh Conference couldn’t dissolve until they settled the fate of the camp. With no resolution in sight, the following happened:

  • The Executive Leadership Team asked Michindoh Conference to deed the camp to the denomination.
  • The ELT became, in effect, the camp board in October 2007.
  • A  temporary management agreement was signed with Lenawee Ministries to provide immediate oversight of the camp.
  • This spring, the ELT, confident of the camp’s future in the hands of Lenawee Ministries, decided to deed the camp to them.

Camp Michindoh was not an asset that the denomination could maintain long-term. We’re not in the camping business, and don’t have the deep pockets to finance some of the needs currently confronting the camp. So I’m happy that we could turn everything over to Lenawee. Jim McClellen, from Lenawee, is serving as the camp CEO.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
What does it mean to be a United Brethren today?

In rereading Christian Newcomer’s journal, it seemed clear: we were passionate about reaching lost people. They took seriously the Great Commission. Being a United Brethren wasn’t simply a matter of taking a membership class in a local church.

In many of our churches:

  • The Great Commission is merely a slogan we hang on the wall or print in a worship folder.
  • The Great Commission is not an eternal truth that compels us to become strategic in reaching people for Christ.
  • There is little passion or conviction to reach lost people with the Gospel.
  • There is little talk, if any, about the passion that drove Christian Newcomer and others of our early history.

If we are to have a lasting future, we must take seriously the Great Commission.

No denomination has an inherent right to exist. Any church or denomination that loses its passion to make disciples for Jesus stands in risk of having its candlestick removed from the candelabra.

For our early church fathers, being United Brethren required a conviction that people apart from God’s saving grace are lost in their sins. They leaders would do anything, go anywhere at any cost, at any time, in order to:

  • See people come to Christ.
  • See them gain an assurance of salvation.
  • See that faith begin to grow in their lives.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
In early October I attended the 140th anniversary of the Liberty UB church in Stockport, Ohio. Bishop Milton Wright, father of the Wright Brothers, preached when the Liberty church was dedicated. I love being in the hills of southern Ohio. That’s my roots. And being at Liberty turned out to be among the highlights of my three years as bishop.

The pastor is Charles Simmons, a converted oil derrick worker. He told me, “I’ve done every sin imaginable.” A few years ago he found Christ in a Nazarene church, and through a series of circumstances, he became the preacher at Liberty when the former preacher left. He doesn’t have a ministerial license or any formal training.

They have a girl with Down’s Syndrome who reads well. She selects the music for every service and tells the pianist, who tells the chorister. She doesn’t know what the pastor is preaching about. But it was absolutely amazing how her song selections fit what he preached about that day. It gave me goosebumps. I spoke in the afternoon, and she had no information about my sermon. But again, she chose appropriate songs.

At Liberty, the preacher preaches. He preached loud, walking down the center aisle and across the back and around the sides and back to the front. The church was full, with about 75 people. They had a sound system, but you didn’t need it for him, or for me.

Liberty is so different from Mainstreet, the church I pastored on the outskirts of Toledo. But I sat there thinking: those people are happy, they lead a Christian lifestyle, and you sense God’s Spirit in that place. I enjoyed being there. They didn’t have printed bulletins, no projector or video. But they knew how to connect with God, and it was very evident.

What works at Liberty wouldn’t be appropriate for every congregation. But one thing belongs in every church, regardless of style: to make a connection with God in worship.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
On Monday we sent an email to the denominational list telling about the upcoming regional meetings regarding National Conference. The first is next Monday here in Huntington at the Good Shepherd UB church, followed by a meeting three days later in Bryan, Ohio. Then, in November, we’ll hold meetings in:

  • Cochranton, Pa. (Nov 6)
  • Chambersburg, Pa. (Nov 10)
  • Lancaster, Ohio (Nov. 12)
  • Ashley, Mich. (Nov.18)

These meetings are for both ministers and laypersons. Pat Jones and I want to talk to you about various things in preparation for next summer’s US National Conference.

  • How your church should process the two referenda items, which your members must vote on next February.
  • Make sure your church selects lay delegates for the conference.
  • Get your input as we look toward a leadership transition next summer, when we elect a new bishop.
  • Inform you about a variety of Discipline revisions being proposed.

The meetings:

  • Are open to all UB people, both ministers and laypersons.
  • Will last two hours.
  • Are free (but we’d like you to register).
  • Won’t include a meal, like the Hang with the Bishop meetings held earlier this year.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
Several weeks ago I came into possession of some old books about the history of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. One was the translated journal of Christian Newcomer. He:

  • was born 1749
  • answered the call to preach in 1777
  • became a bishop in 1813
  • died in 1830.

Between 1810 and 1828, Newcomer made 24 round trips across the Allegheny Mountains on horseback, starting churches wherever he went. Newcomer tried making one trip in a horse and buggy, but it didn’t work, so he reverted to horseback. He left his family for months at a time. One time, he got lost in a forest in Ohio. He stopped, knelt down, prayed, and he and the horse quickly found the path.

Our church spread into western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana because Newcomer’s soul burned with a fire to reach the lost. In reading Newcomer’s journal, I was moved by his passion and determination to plant churches wherever he went.

As he moved into the west, he began organizing some annual conferences–Scioto, Muskingum, a few others. It wasn’t organization for organization’s sake, but organization to support the mission. In some ways, it seems like those early leaders purposely tried not to organize themselves. Yet the providence off God led them to develop their organization and structures.

Newcomer’s passion to reach lost people drove him. I don’t want to go back to our history to stay there, but I would like to drag some of that passion forward.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop

I had a great day yesterday in Findlay, Ohio, at The ROCK, formerly known as Faith Community Church. Faith began in 1995 under the leadership of Dan Young, who now pastors Crestview UB church in Lafayette, Ind.

brad_jamie_kittle200.jpgA couple years ago, I appointed a young man as pastor of Faith Community Church. He had attended seminary with Brad Kittle (right, with wife Jamie), who was then pasturing a church in Findlay with the Evangelical Congregational denomination. They began talking about merging the two congregations. At the 2005 US National Conference, I met with Brad and a delegation from his church, and they attended part of the conference.

Early this year, they decided to begin holding services as one congregation. A few months later, they invited me and the Evangelical Congregational bishop to meet with them on a Sunday morning. Neither of us had any idea which way they would go, EC or UB. In this case, they voted to become United Brethren.

This past Sunday, October 5, was the grand finale. The EC congregation, plus a number of Faith people who had never joined the church, became members of the United Brethren church en masse. I was privileged to lead about 45 people in taking their UB membership vows.

They also baptized two women. One had been a Christian for a while, but had never been baptized. The other, however, was a brand new convert who was excited to be a Christian. We require people to be baptized before joining the church. These women joined the church the same day they were baptized, which was kind of neat.

I would guess they had 120 people there. They have a lot of kids for that size of church! They also ordained three men as a board of elders, and anointed them with oil. They held a hog roast after the service.

The church recently adopted the name The ROCK (Reaching Others for Christ’s Kingdom). Pastor Brad Kittle took the UB church history course this summer. He’s a fine young man doing a good job for us.

I read a lot of business-related books that have implications for the church. A book I read recently is “Transition: Making the Most of Change,” by William Bridges.

I’m intrigued by the idea of transitions. I believe that becoming a fully-devoted follower of Jesus is all about transitions. You have a conversion experience, but go through other transitions toward becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. As a preacher, I want to see changes in people’s lives.

I don’t subscribe to a lot of magazines. I only subscribe to one, Golf Digest, which I read cover to cover, though not all at one sitting. It takes me a month before the next one comes, but by then I’ll have worked my way through it. It’s not that I want to become an expert in golf, but it’s a way my mind can escape into almost a vacation type mode when I think about golf, the land, the greens, and walking the fairways. Golf takes the stress away. To some people, it would add stress. But I don’t play it that well.

When I traveled with Scripture Press, I always took books with me, since I sold books. I tried to read all of the Victor Books, which Scripture Press published.

But I also took a Louis L’Mour book with me wherever I went. A good Louis L’Mour book averaged 250 pages, and I could finish it on a flight from Chicago to L.A. A one-flight book. Some people can do work on a plane, but I can’t.

I don’t read much fiction now. I like Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Lillian Jackson Braun, who writes the “Cat Who” books about her Siamese cats.

What do you like to read? Any particular authors?

You always need to organize yourself beyond what you are. If you’re a church of 200 and want to be a church of 500, you need to organize like a church of 500. Otherwise, you won’t get there. 

When I became pastor of Mainstreet Church in Walbridge, Ohio, we started at about 220, grew, and began adding staff. I took the staff to larger churches on little field trips. How does it look and feel? How do they structure themselves? We began to tinker. God blessed us and the church grew. 

Over half of our growth was new converts. You get people who don’t know anything, and it’s fun. You get a chance to infect them with the real disease. 

I covet that for you. Not that you get big; that doesn’t make any difference to me. What makes a difference is that you become effective in what God has called you to do.