Division of Ministry shifts focus, gets new name

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Division of Ministry shifts focus, gets new name

Feb. 24, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0449}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — With changes in staff responsibilities at the Florida Conference Center, the conference's Division of Ministry is setting a new course, one that includes developing a healthy clergy culture within the conference.

LAKELAND — The Rev. David Dodge, second from left, assists Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker in recognizing clergy retiring at the "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #06-318.

Nearly a year ago the Rev. David Dodge, executive director of the Division of Ministry, began talking with conference staff who serve as members of the extended Florida Conference Cabinet and the Rev. Jeff Stiggins, the East Central District's superintendent, about a new focus for the ministry. The group examined the vision and mission of the conference and decided Dodge's office was an excellent place to begin developing a strong clergy culture.

The Division of Ministry has always devoted it energies to clergy-related areas — coordinating the candidacy and credentialing process for pastors, working with district committees on ordained ministry and the Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, assisting pastors with family leaves of absences, sabbaticals and plans to retire. Dodge has also been heavily involved in the conference's pension and health benefits program.

"One of the things that was clearly in the minds of Bishop (Cornelius L.) Henderson and the cabinet when I came to this position nine years ago was that my focus would be on the Board of Ordained Ministry and its related responsibilities," Dodge said. "They just had no idea how much time the benefits portion of the job would take ... and it has only increased."

Nearly a year ago conversations about the conference hiring a benefits director who would also serve as the conference human resources director, freeing up Dodge's office to focus on other responsibilities, began to take shape. Wendy McCoy assumed that role Jan. 3.

"Now, we're at the point where the transition is occurring," Dodge said. "I'm really pleased she's here because of who she is and the experience she's bringing to the job. She's going to be very good for us."

With the benefits duties off his plate, Dodge has begun to refocus his work, including adopting a new name for the ministry, something he and Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and the extended cabinet have discussed while talking about the ministry's emerging role.

"I've never liked the term 'division of ministry,' " Dodge said. "It just seems the word division has one meaning, and it isn't the meaning we'd like to express in ministry. There should be more unity than division in ministry. I know that's not the reason the term was chosen years ago, but it lingers in my mind."

Whitaker suggested a term that's being used in the Texas Conference - the Center for Clergy Excellence. Dodge said the name appeals to him because it has connotations of a more holistic approach and less an administrative feel.

"The idea of clergy excellence puts it right out front that this is what we're about. It sets the expectation," he said.

Now called the Center for Clergy Excellence, Dodge's office will continue to focus on responsibilities related to the Board of Ordained Ministry, including assessment of clergy throughout their ministerial career and on-going clergy evaluation. The office is also assuming responsibility of the Committee for Elder Effectiveness, which helps elders who have experienced a significant drop in their level of effectiveness and have been referred to the committee by the cabinet resume their clergy standards.

Dodge's office continues to spotlight ministerial recruitment, working to identify people who exhibit the gifts and graces needed for licensed or ordained ministry and discerning if they indeed have a call in their lives they should be exploring.

The conference has held two "Is God Calling You" weekends to help high school students and young adults consider whether God is calling them to ministry and will be host of the national event in Jacksonville this November. Dodge is a member of the event's design team.

"We want to do a good job of promoting the event and encourage a lot of our high school seniors and young adults who have had their curiosity piqued to attend," he said.

While the event focuses on people potentially entering the ministry, Dodge's office will highlight the concept of professional development for those already in the ministry, including the goal of clergy earning at least two units of continuing education each year.

Dodge said he would also like to see significant events focusing on theological thought, church development and ways to "reach out to the next generation so our clergy are continuing to be on the current edge of new trends" brought to the conference.

"A whole section moved off my plate and filled right back up," he said. "Now, I can begin to think about what all this will mean, how that might happen and the dimensions around it."

Dodge is using the clergy covenant group to which he belongs to flesh out specifics regarding his office and is open to suggestions from people who think they may have some interest in assisting him as things progress. He can be reached at 800-282-8011, extension 133, or ddodge@flumc.org

"I am excited about this new phase. In my former life in the local church my primary responsibility was in program development and providing places where people could grow in their discipleship," he said. "Now, I am able to move back into more of those programmatic aspects."


This article relates to Florida Conference Division of Ministry.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011