Episcopal Address 185th Annual Conference 2018

The-185th-Session.Cover_Page_1

Bishop
Government Officials
Lay Leader
Special guests
Mother Richlain K. Quire and my family
Officers and members
Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We have gathered again for another session of the Liberia Annual Conference/United Methodist Church (LAC/UMC). This 185th Session of the Liberia Annual Conference really begins the activities for my Episcopal journey.

Today, I will review the activities of the LAC/UMC during the past year, and discuss the ongoing plans, as set forth in my inaugural Episcopal Address during the 184th Session of the LAC/UMC in Ganta, Nimba County.

It is a blessing and an honor to stand before you once again, as the presiding Bishop prepared to move our annual conference into the Future.

Today, we extend warm appreciations and gratitude to our retired Bishops, conference leaders, clergy women and men, the laity, and our partners and friends who are helping lead the Churchin being true to its calling and mission.

We are forever grateful to the retired Bishops upon whose demanding work we are building upon to leap frog the LAC/UMC into the 21st century.

My friends, my Episcopal journey to lead our great Church forward into this 21st century, the future that God has stored for us will be realized in our time.

Together, we continue the march forward, marching and preaching, and making disciples.
During my First Episcopal Address, I mentioned that the nature of my Episcopacy will be pastoral. From the inception of my ministry, I was called to be primarily a pastor who listens and one who seeks spiritual dialogue and discussion.
God has called me to be a builder in His Kingdom. He has called me to bring peace, love, and unity among His people.

185th Liberia Annual Conference-Episcopal Message Bishop Samuel J. Quire, Jr. 2
Jesus wants the entire Church to reflect on the prayer He offered in John 17:21 that included the desire for unity: “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

For over 185 years, the United Methodist Church has been in mission to the people of Liberia. We want to continue that mission with the support of every member of this Conference.

If the plans that I have set out will be realized for the benefits of the Annual Conference, it is incumbent upon all of us to unify and implement our respective tasks with duty and commitment.

I told the gathering of United Methodists during the 184th Session that, the below listed areas were to be prioritized for the future growth of the Church.
Prominent among them were: Evangelism and Missions, Education, Technical Vocation Education (TVET), Life Skills Training, Healthcare, Church Properties, Economic Development, Agriculture, Other Programs and Initiatives, and Strengthening of our  Institutions.

We know that functioning Churches and Organizations are guided by Strategic Vision Plans. If progress is to be made in the Liberia Annual Conference, we too must be guided by a Strategic Vision Plan that clearly delineates our goals and objectives, and how we plan on meeting them, through measurable outcomes, and monitoring and evaluation.
Hence, prior to the ensuing 184th Session of the LAC, I formed a Strategic Vision Planning Committee headed by the Conference Lay Leader, Brother Tolbert G. Nyenswah to begin crafting a Conference Strategic Vision Plan that would guide the work of the Liberia Annual Conference.

This Committee engaged in several conversations during the 184th Session with both the clergy and laity to seek their inputs for the development of the Strategic Vision Plan, as well as, traveled across the Liberia Annual Conference to meet and solicit the views of United Methodists.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my pleasing duty to report to you that the Liberia Annual Conference has made several improvements despite the challenges we are facing as a Church and Nation.

At this 185th Session, you will hear the reports from all the Conference functionaries about the progress made since we last gathered at the 184thSession of the Liberia Annual Conference.

Today, I will highlight several notable achievements.

Strategic Plan
I am pleased to report that the LAC/UMC has developed a Strategic Vision Plan for the next ten Years to guide our work as a Conference.
The Strategic Vision Plan outlines the following pillars as priority areas for the forward march of the Church. They are: Evangelism Spiritual Formation/Growth and Mission; Financial Management Accountability and Stewardship; Agriculture, etc. etc. (See Strategic Plan for details)

It is my expectation, that all relevant functionaries of the LAC/UMC will read and understand, and follow the Strategic Vision Plan, and develop their own Strategic Vision Plan to guide their work.

All Conference Leaders, District Superintendents, Clergy, and Laity, among others, will be evaluated by their performance and implementation of the Conference Strategic Vision Plan.

Evangelism and Missions
The Evangelism and Missions Department engaged in several Wesleyan style revivals in various Districts to revive the spiritual growth of Districts and Churches (See detailed report in the pre-conference journal).

District Superintendents and Pastors are expected to continue with the spiritual growth of their Districts and Churches working with the Department of Evangelism and Missions.
The Ministry of Spiritual Counseling for pastors and their families is vital for the Church. We must be able to meet the spiritual needs of our members or they would go somewhere else.
As I indicated last year, a church without spiritual renewal of the soul is a dead church. Our members’ spiritual growth and consciousness must be enhanced throughout the Conference, Districts, and Churches.

The United Methodist Church is where Wesleyan revivals should be taking place. We are the bedrock of spiritualism that has left our Churches and now Pentecostals and Charismatic Preachers have taken over.

Our theology from John Wesley emphasizes that we as pastors, must and should be able to help solve and assist our members with their spiritual growth and development.
It is time for the Wesleyan renewals and Camp meetings to take over our United Methodist Districts and Churches.

All District Superintendents must cultivate the ability to think creatively and adapt evidence-based practices to evangelize and increase the number of United Methodists. This can and should happen through robust trainings to empower and equip the various ministries such as the Diaconal (Deaconesses), the Children, the Aging (Elderly), the United Methodist Men, the United Methodist Women, the United Methodist Youth, and the United Methodist Young Adult Fellowship.

Education
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, education remains a challenge within our school system. There are several schools languishing in deplorable, dilapidated infrastructures, under performance, unqualified teaching staff, lack of inadequate educational resources, lack of science laboratories, computers, libraries, reading rooms, low salaries, among several others.

It is not enough to have a few schools relishing in accolades of academic excellence while others struggle to meet basic academic standards. We must all join hands to elevate the standards of all our schools.

The General Board of Education and Ministry has been guiding the work of the Department of Education to address some of these challenges with the need for high schools to come up with the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) Plan for schools participating in West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) Examinations, among others.
It is my prayer that as we look at Education in United Methodist Schools, we would join in helping our schools become better.

Hence, the General Board of Education and Ministry has recommended to me to consider the appointment and placement of Pastors who do not have any higher education degree training to head our schools.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, research has shown that successful and effective schools are tied to quality education leadership by school leaders, primarily principals. School principals should be able to understand the teaching and learning standards and curriculum, provide appropriate educational materials and support, and evaluate teachers’ performances.

This also applies to our local school boards. We need local school boards who are responsive to the needs of our schools, understand the teaching and learning goals, and can adequately supervise the operations of our schools.

I will work with the Board of General Education and Ministry to train existing pastors who are school principals that do not have any education training through a special partnership arrangement with the College of Education at the United Methodist University.
In the meantime, I have been advised by the Board of General Education and Ministry to put a freeze on additional appointments of pastors without educational background and training to head our schools.

Technical Vocation Education (TVET)
During the period under review, the General Board of Education and Ministry and I met and agreed upon the Gbarnga United Methodist Mission to serve as our TVET site. Operation Classroom who is currently working in Sierra Leone will help us with our TVET programs.
Priority will be put on new quality technical vocation education programs in specialized areas of electricity, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, among others, to support the socio-economic development goals of Liberia.

Meanwhile, existing secondary schools are encouraged to build collaborative partnerships with business and industry to develop magnet programs in agriculture, science and technology, among others, to support their students prior to high school graduation.

Life Skills Training
185th Liberia Annual Conference-Episcopal Message Bishop Samuel J. Quire, Jr. 6
Mother Richlain K. Quire has begun her initial work with some rural Pastors’ Wives.
To date, Mother Quire and her team were able to provide Life Skills Trainings to three (3) rural pilot districts (Kokoyah, Lofa River, and Tappita) working with pastors’ wives and other community dwellers.

The Life Skills Training Program offered training in soap making and pastries to several women of these districts.

The program will be extended to other districts and we thank you for your support of the Life Skills Training Program for rural pastors’ wives and others.
Mother Quire’s report is available and will be provided to the Conference Secretary. Thank you Mother Quire for a good start!

The United Methodist University
The United Methodist University (UMU) since the ground breaking of their Future Campus in Doemah Town, Margibi County in 2013, has begun to make some progress on the land.
To date, the Access Road is nearing completion, and funding arrangements are underway to begin the construction of the Multi-Purpose Classroom and Office Complex Building on the Land. The Multi-Purpose Classroom and Office Complex Building will have 80 classrooms, exclusive of science laboratories, computer labs, cafeteria, library, auditorium, student center, among others.

The University has an Advance Number (3022302) with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) for the support of the Liberia Project for the construction of the new campus.

Additionally, the University now has a registered 501(c)(3) entity in the United States called the United Methodist University of Liberia Education Foundation (UMULEF).

The University will have the opportunity to make a presentation to the Annual Conference about the work currently under way, and how we can be of support to the University.

Health Care
We are extremely grateful for the partnership support to the Department of Health. Although the challenges are enormous given the demands on our services, we remain hopeful.
The Church will continue to partner and assist the Government in providing affordable and quality healthcare delivery services to our people.

We are optimistic that we will reach out to all Districts in the establishment of clinics and/or health care delivery system before the end of my tenure.

To date, we have a partnership Clinic at the College of Agriculture, United Methodist University in Gbazon Town, Sinoe County serving both the College and residents of the town.

I am directing the Coordinator of Health to come up with a plan on the decentralization of healthcare services in the various Districts.

Church Properties
The Board of Trustees has begun to locate and catalog all our properties. The process is tedious and contentious given the multiple infringements on our land and other properties.
In furtherance of my directive about leasehold agreements, the Board of Trustees and the Office of the Chancellor, have now reviewed several agreements to ensure that the Conference interests are fully served.
Please reference Board of Trustees’ Report.

Economic Development
In furtherance of the economic development goals, we developed the “Bishop Priority Areas Brochure” and shared with our overseas partners.

The Conference must and should be proactive in finding ways to become financially vibrant. As such, we are planning on the hosting of the ever first Partnership Meeting in April 2018 in Monrovia to present our plans to our partners who will be present.
This initial first step is laudable; however, we as a Conference must oversee steering the future of the Church.

Therefore, all Districts and Churches must engage in economic development activities that would lessen the financial burden on members and create a more wholesome functioning Church.

Thinking outside of the box and planning is essential for all, not some. It is not how much resources you have to get started? Now is the time to begin. Now, we must begin for the future economic viability of the Church.

Agriculture
During the 184th Session, I reminded United Methodists that “Pastors Should Not Beg for Bread.” This remains largely the case.

However, the Office of the United Methodist Rural and Agricultural Development Program (UMRADP) has been in the forefront reassessing the LAC/UMC Agriculture Initiatives; and developing proposals for the commencement of our agriculture cash crops initiatives.
UMRADP is currently working on the revitalization of all local Churches and Districts Agricultural Sub-Committees.

It is my expectation that Churches and Districts, would take advantage of the technical advice and support, and begin to engage in intentional agriculture development for financial sustainability.

Additionally, UMRADP will extend its services to educational institutions for the development of school based agricultural programs.

Other Programs and Initiatives
It is my expectation that the Liberia United Methodist Endowment Foundation (LUMEF) will be more proactive in their support of the districts and local churches economic development initiatives.

This is critical for LUMEF’s participation and involvement, as UMRADP begins to work with Churches, Districts, and Schools, to launch and support various agricultural programs and initiatives.

Additionally, the Conference will explore other investment opportunities to bring needed resources to the Church.

Strengthening of our Institutions
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I cannot tell you about the enormity of the challenges facing every agency in our Conference.

The Conference is still struggling financially. However, we give the Almighty God all the glory for God’s continuous financial provisions.

The report of the Conference Committee on Finance & Administration (CCFA) through the Interim Treasurer, Bro. David Guinkpa will provide a clearer picture of our financial situation.
However, in our attempts to help mitigate many of our challenges, we proffer in the “Bishop Priority Areas Brochure,” that we need assistance at the administrative conference level to build and strengthen our financial and operating systems, modernize our practices using technology throughout the conference, among others.

Again, during the Partners’ Meeting in April 2018, we will have the opportunity to present our plans to the partners for their help.

Meanwhile, I hold the belief that the Conference should have a merit system based on Christian character (spirit-filled life), education, competence, and experience. This will ensure the standardization of salary and benefits of all personnel, most especially, our pastors, based on education, longevity, and tenure.

I am calling on all United Methodist Churches and Districts to help in this direction by engaging in intentional agriculture and business development activities to help the Conference.

Episcopal Visitation
In keeping with my Episcopal responsibilities, I participated in the Council of Bishops’ meetings where I ably represented the Liberia Area. Additionally, I visited the following districts during the period under review. They are: St. Paul, Monrovia, Kakata/Farmington, St. John, Grand Bassa, Weala, Kokoyah, Jorquelleh, Gbarnga, Gompa, and Tappita.
I also dedicated several projects, including the Trinity United Methodist Church, the Winifred Harley College of Health Sciences, among others.

Commendations
During the Conference year, several agencies of the United Methodist Church and partners supported the Liberia Annual Conference. The Liberia Annual Conference is extremely grateful and appreciative of help we received that impacted our work.
However, the General Board of Global Ministry made substantial contributions of USD $1,054,192.00 to the Department of Health for the below listed projects:
o Imagine No Malaria ———————-$282,058.00
o HSS——————————————- 98,999.00
o 2017 Office Support———————- 39,437.00
o Nursing school renovation (UMU)—- 119,853.00
o Ganta Hospital renovation————– 451,190.20
o MCH approved in 2017 for 2018—— 68,201.00
Total GBGM grant support——————-$1,054,192.00

The LAC/UMC is also grateful to the World Diabetes Foundation for the support of USD $150,000.00 to the Department of Health.

Conclusion
My distinguished United Methodists, I am excited for the opportunity to be in your presence. I am even more excited to hear the great news coming from every Conference Department, Agencies, Districts, Churches, and from the laity about the progress made since we last gathered during the 184th Session of the Liberia Annual Conference.

My friends, truly, the love of God has brought us a mighty long way. My ministry has been stable and consistent, faithful to Christ and exercising all humility, shown profound respect for all.

Working toward the Future with Hope, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to motivate all of us to remain faithful to Christ as we strive to fulfill His mission.

As we look beyond the distance to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, let us allow the conversations about the 185thSession be about love, cordiality, and respect for one another.

Let me assure and remind you that the Future with Hope, requires all United Methodists being a full and active participant. Marching forward, united in one accord, with one purpose, for the building of God’s Kingdom.

May God bless us and prosper the works of our hands during the convening of our 185th Annual Conference.