January 1, 2021
To the saints in the Dakotas,
Grace and peace in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that this Advent and Christmas season was a meaningful time for you, even in the midst of COVID 19, the anti-racism movement, widespread economic hardship, and a presidential election. I am deeply grateful for the vital, transforming ministries of the Dakotas during this tumultuous time.
As we begin a new year, another transition is taking place in the Dakotas Annual Conference. Your Bishop Bruce Ough retired on December 31, 2020, and I have become the interim episcopal leader for the Dakotas for the year 2021. I am also continuing as the bishop of Iowa.
When a friend found about my new assignment, he did some research and wrote to me, “The combined area of Iowa and the Dakotas is more than twice the size of the entire United Kingdom, counting Ireland, though I think they may have more folks over there!”
The vision of the Dakotas Annual Conference is for every congregation to live out God’s call to “grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world;" and “to passionately and respectfully offer Christ in a Wesleyan way that speaks to our cultural context.” This resonates in many ways with the vision statement for the Iowa Annual Conference, “God’s hope for the world, made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people.”
During 2021, I will be sharing my time between Iowa and the Dakotas and will attempt to respond in a timely manner to emails and requests. Fortunately, having previously served as pastor of a two-point charge, I have experienced what it means to balance the needs of more than one congregation. Both conferences have excellent cabinets and outstanding staff. Indeed, as people of faith called United Methodist, we are called to “watch over one another in love.” Most of my ministry with the Dakotas Conference will currently be done virtually, as it is in Iowa.
I have already been a part of many meetings over the past four months and plan to communicate regularly with the Conference. I will also continue writing Leading from the Heart every week, sharing my blog with both conferences. Most of all, I will continue to discern ways to encourage United Methodist congregations in both Iowa and the Dakotas to live out their vision and mission for vital ministry. It is a joy to be your episcopal leader, and I pray God’s blessing upon you as we enter this new year.