Conference teams formed for post-General Conference response

May 14, 2019
Submitted by the Rev. Marv Vose
Superintendent, Utah/Western Colorado District
Mountain Sky Conference

God was doing a new thing in the creation of the Mountain Sky Conference! Building on more than 20 years of conversation, planning, and discernment, the legacy Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain conferences voted more than 85 percent to affirm this vision at our uniting conference in June 2018. In that creation, we had the opportunity to clarify who we are in God’s great creation, as a witness for Christ in our 460,000 square mile region, and what we value most.
At that uniting conference, we claimed a new mission: To live in God’s grace and abundance as we lead a re-energized peaceful and compassionate movement to claim the life-changing love of Jesus Christ for ALL people. We also claimed three core foci for our energy and resources:
  • Renewing and establishing vital congregations
  • Developing leaders who are gifted at empowering local churches and laity in the Church’s mission
  • Establishing new faith communities to meet the needs of our unique mission field
We are still living into that new creation. We are listening, learning, praying, planning, experimenting, and serving with the shared values of accountability, inclusivity, collaboration, outwardly-focused, simplicity with transparency, breaking barriers and building bridges, and honoring diverse voices and ideas. Laity and clergy are essential partners in this work. We are building a new culture and discovering God at work in new places with new people.

Even in the aftermath of General Conference 2019, it is clear that God is still doing something a new in our midst!  And while we may not perceive it clearly yet, it is becoming more and more obvious. With the change comes concern and anxiety. We would love to know all of God’s details today! And yet waiting is a profound spiritual discipline requiring our trust in God’s provision for us all.
In order to continue our work with the Spirit, Bishop Karen appointed eight teams following the General Conference in February to help us discern our way forward with God. These teams include: Core Team, Legal Team, Triage Team, Safe Harbor Team, New Places for New People, Communications, Fundraising and Grassroots. There will be a series of articles about each team to be posted online and shared in the Mountain Sky Conference News.
Commitments that drive the work of these teams include continuing our ministries of grace and inclusion of all. We want to continue what is best in the Wesleyan movement and the United Methodist Church. We value our connection and our shared ministries. There is so much that is good and vital! But how do we let go of that which hinders ministry and impedes the work of the Spirit? As we go forward together as a Conference, that is our challenge. 

Core Team

The Core Team has been tasked with “formulating strategies for living fully into our values as a conference, as we live with the realities of General Conference decisions.” Most can agree that we do not want a repeat of General Conference 2019 at General Conference 2020. Not only was GC19 conflicted, but the outcomes mandate changes in our theology, our mission and ministry that are unacceptable to most of the Mountain Sky Conference.

Right now there are multiple conversations going on around the country concerning GC20 and the future of The United Methodist Church. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, is working with centrists and progressives who wish to be in conversation about the church’s future. Keith Boyette, of the Wesley Covenant Association, is working with a group of national leaders across the theological spectrum. There are others in conversation and discernment as well.

But the time is short. And the political realities are that 2020 may well continue what happened in 2019. How then do we maintain our focus on grace and inclusion? How do we live into this new thing God is doing? How do we maintain the best of The United Methodist Church and the best of the Wesleyan movement? How do we protect the vital ministries of our area? If GC2020 fails us again, then we must be prepared! That is the work of the Core Team.

The Core Team includes: Marv Vose (chair, clergy), Jasper Peters (clergy), Melanie Rosa (clergy), Calvin Hill (clergy), Doug Palmer (laity), Mark Feldmeir (clergy), Barry Welliver (laity), Chris Frasier (laity), Melissa Martin (laity), Pat Calbeck Harper (laity) and Wendy Ochs (clergy).

Compassionate Responders (Triage Team)

The post-GC2019 team of Compassionate Responders (Triage Team) continues to develop resources and discover methods to connect with those in the conference who feel rejection, distress and/or grief related to the current crisis of the United Methodist denomination and need to interact with someone. Members have helped to provide compassionate listeners for district events, created tools for clergy and laity, and facilitated Zoom meetings for Q&A as well as spiritual development to meet current concerns. Members of this group are open to hearing from clergy or laity across the conference with concerns about congregations or from individuals for their own needs.

The group currently consists of Gayla Jo Slauson (chair, laity and conference co-lay leader), Dawn Skerrit (clergy), Gary Haddock (clergy), Laurie Day (laity, conference staff), Tevita Ofahengaue (clergy), Stacey King (laity and UMW), Tom Hazelwood (clergy), Bethany Hader (laity and spiritual director), Maggie Roe (retired chaplain), and Tiffany Keith (clergy).

Legal Team

The post-GC2019 Legal Team serves as a resource providing legal clarity and strategy to navigate the changes before us. To that end, our efforts to date include interpreting the Book of Discipline and Judicial Council decisions, assisting with developing critical timelines, developing and/or reviewing Annual Conference and General Conference petitions, and seeking creative approaches for our future while protecting people and property. We are listening for needs across a diverse spectrum of voices, raising and responding to questions, and collaborating with other teams to address immediate needs and exploring options for moving forward while honoring our Wesleyan heritage.

The Legal Team currently consists of Nanci Bockelie (laity), HD Casner Jr. (laity, Mountain Sky Conference Board of Trustees), Noreen Keleshian (laity, Mountain Sky Conference Treasurer), Brad Laurvick (clergy), Richard Marsh (laity, Mountain Sky Conference Chancellor), Elizabeth McVicker (clergy), and Lynn Miller Jackson (chair, clergy).

Communications Team

The Communications Response Team is focusing our energy on making all people's voices in our Mountain Sky Conference heard. To do this, we will be launching a video campaign and a podcast interview series where we will hear from people all across our conference, lay and clergy. We want to hear your hopes and dreams for our conference and our denomination. We want to elevate your voice, experience, and perspective. Please be on the lookout for the launch of the video campaign and podcast interview series on the Mountain Sky Conference Facebook page and email newsletter and how YOU can be involved and have your voice heard!

Members of our team: Angie Kotzmoyer (chair, clergy), Zach Bechtold (clergy), Pat Lewis (clergy), Brian Martin (laity), Tyler Amundson (clergy), Matthew Utley (laity), Charmaine Robledo (laity, conference staff).

Safe Harbor Team

The Board of Ordained Ministry adopted a Safe Harbor Transfer policy at its March 2019 meeting. This policy will assist clergy who request transfer into the Mountain Sky Conference based on no longer being welcomed in their home conference due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or support of the LGBTQIA community. The MSC BOM is working with the cabinets and BOMs of the Western Jurisdiction to coordinate support of clergy while we strive to be a welcoming and affirming jurisdiction. Members of the team include Jessica Rooks (chair, clergy), Tom Barlow (clergy) and the Mountain Sky Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Fundraising Team

The Fundraising Team is actively engaged in building the conceptual infrastructure necessary to raise money both quickly and over the long term. In seeking to devise strategies that can be responsive and effective in any of the possible futures of the Mountain Sky Conference, this committee has begun to lay the foundation for fundraising that can be accomplished quickly over social media; at intermediate speed with donor events and in-person fundraising events; and at a sustainable pace with leveraging the resources of foundations. An integral part of the fundraising plan is to engage the talents of local ministers and lay leaders, helping forge independent but complementary bases of financial support.

Members of our team: Jan Witman (clergy, conference staff), Jerry Herships (clergy), Kelly Addy (clergy), Kristi Kinnison (laity, Mountain Sky United Methodist Foundation), Noreen Keleshian (laity, conference staff), Paul Kottke (clergy, conference staff), Ruth Ann Russell (laity), Shannon Mayfield (chair, clergy), Teresa Rivera (laity) and Ben Lewis (laity).

New Places for New People

In her book Wearing God, Lauren Winner presents different images of God from the Bible that one does not hear about often in church. One such image of God is God as the laboring woman found in Isaiah 42. Winner writes that God as the laboring woman presents us a model of strength that’s not about denying pain, being in charge, or being independent. Rather, it is a strength that involves being vulnerable, enduring, receiving help, and being open to risk and pain.

The work of the New Places for New People is to invite and encourage laity and clergy to channel this strength so that all disciples can live out God’s call in their lives. We are inviting clergy and laity to share ministries and communities that God has been incubating in their imaginations. New Places for New People is working to develop the ways and identifying the means by which we can all be midwives to join God in birthing new ways for people to experience God’s love.

The members of the New Places for New People team are Brian Lee (chair, laity), Patti Agnew (clergy), Eric Strader (clergy), Michael Smith (clergy), Cathie Kelsey (clergy), Chris Carr (clergy) and Nathan Adams (clergy).


The Grassroots Team will work to share information throughout the annual conference in informal and widespread paths. The goal is to inform as many people as possible about new developments. The team is mostly composed of people who attended UMC Next and is led by pastors Jason Cox and Elizabeth McVicker. Other team members are: Jasper Peters (clergy), Megan Armstrong (clergy), Jeff Rainwater (clergy), Mark Feldmeir (clergy), Doug Palmer (laity),  Kunle Taiwo (laity), Gayla Jo Slauson (laity), Wendy Lothert Ochs (clergy), Calvin Hill (clergy), Nancy Flint (laity), Zach Nell (laity), Ashley Hawkins (laity), Margaret Gillikin (clergy), Eric Strader (clergy),  Margaret Mathers Novak (laity), Don McCammon (laity), Stacey King (laity). 

If you would like to communicate with any of the team chairs, please use this contact form.