Following the approval of the restructuring plan at the 2017 Annual Conference, the first steps are being made to organize and create an Annual Conference Shepherding Team (ACST). Bishop Sally Dyck named lay representative Liz Gracie and clergy representative Rev. Myron McCoy as co-chairs. The rest of the 20-member team is expected to be in place by October 1.
Liz Gracie served as the chair of the Organizational Task Force and Rev. Myron McCoy is the Senior Pastor at First UMC at the Chicago Temple. Both are looking forward to getting started on the work of the Shepherding Team whose primary purpose is to coordinate and communicate the ministry of the NIC in order to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
“I’m delighted that both Liz and Rev. McCoy have agreed to chair the Annual Conference Shepherding Team,” said Bishop Dyck. “They bring organizational skills as well as a love for the church, wanting the annual conference to be strengthened in supporting local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Gracie, a tax lawyer who grew up in The United Methodist Church and is a member of First UMC in Oak Park, first served on the Landscape Task Force in 2015 and helped coordinate the listening sessions, draft legislation and prepare the Annual Conference presentation.
In 2016, Bishop Dyck asked Gracie to chair the Organizational Task Force. Gracie says while she had a better idea about what she was getting into, she didn’t fully appreciate the complexity of the Annual Conference or the magnitude of the task.
“This work was even more intense than the Landscape work had been,” said Gracie who credits the entire team for contributing and making it all come together. “In serving on both task forces, there were many unexpected and meaningful experiences that could only have been the work of the Holy Spirit. I was very grateful to have had these opportunities to serve with and get to know gifted and committed, lay and clergy members of the NIC.”
Like Gracie, McCoy says he agreed to join the process because the Bishop asked, but he says he’s ready to jump into “something new” and help the conference at this stage of development.
“I want to help the conference live into its way of conducting business, but I’m more interested in how we live and act together,” said McCoy. “I’m hoping we model what it means to have healthy conversations which lead to living out our shared values. If we respect, love and listen to people, we can make decisions in the best interest of the church.”
McCoy brings broad experiences from the local to the general church to the team. He was appointed to First UMC at the Chicago Temple three years ago after serving more than 10 years as President of the St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas. Prior to that, he served as Senior Pastor at St. Mark UMC in Chicago from 1992-2003 and as Chicago Southern District Superintendent from 1988-1992. McCoy has also served on both general and jurisdictional committees. He said he first wants to get to know the team, build relationships and learn what are the pressing issues. But he hopes their work includes focusing on youth ministries.
“One of the things I’m concerned about is that when we look at cutting money, what’s considered is camping, campus ministries, and other youth programs,” said McCoy. “We say we want younger people, but how do we as an annual conference seek to serve young people? If we’re not working with them, how to do we expect to see them in our churches?”
Gracie says her priorities include building trust at every level, to strengthen the connection and foster clergy morale and excellence. “I believe that the more we band together, challenge and support one another, the more effective we will be in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth and the more joy we will experience in the process,” said Gracie.
Gracie says “hands on” ministry remains the role of local churches and the ACST will be responsible for fostering a culture that nurtures and enhances the ministries of local churches.
“With intentional learning, prayer, and input from across the Annual Conference, the ACST will lead in clarifying and communicating the ministry priorities of the Conference,” said Gracie. “With those in mind, the team will be able to assist the Council on Finance and Administration in allocating conference resources. More broadly, I hope and pray that the ACST will earn the trust and respect of the Annual Conference so that we can all feel more secure, supported, connected and, ultimately, more effective in the ministries we feel called to serve.”
Both Gracie and McCoy expect to hit the ground running, setting goals as they work toward a 2019 evaluation of the team’s work. The restructuring legislation sets forth 12 responsibilities of the ACST. The most concrete will be to discern a 5-year vision plan.
“I believe that should be job one, said Gracie. “I imagine that working on the vision plan will generate other initiatives along the way. Having experienced the energy and creativity of members of our Annual Conference, I am excited to see where this leads us.”