The East Ohio Conference is represented at General Conference 2016 by six clergy and six lay delegates. Those delegates, along with six reserve clergy and six reserve lay delegates, were elected at Annual Conference 2015. Each of the 12 delegates has been assigned to serve on legislative committees that review, sort and refine legislative proposals.
Rev. Armando Arellano is pastor of East Shore UMC (North Coast District) in Euclid. He is currently the chairperson of the Commission on Religion and Race, and previously served one quadrennium on the Board of Ordained Ministry.
“The key issue our denomination is facing at the present time is how to reverse the decline of our membership,” Arellano said. “My other vision is that our church becomes the choice for all people seeking a place in the Kingdom of God.”
Arellano was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2012 and was elected as an alternate delegate to the 2008 General Conference.
Legislation Committee: Global Ministries Legislation
Rev. Dr. Gary George is in his 10th year as assistant to the bishop. He previously served as superintendent of two districts and as a local church pastor.
“In my opinion, the most critical issue confronting the Church is becoming more passionately focused and committed in carrying out its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” George said. “Our collective attention, resources and efforts need to be increasingly aligned as we faithfully and lovingly respond to God’s calling to serve the present age.”
George was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Legislative Committee: General Administration
Rev. Dan Bryant is superintendent of the Mahoning Valley district. He is a director with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and previously served as chairperson of the Church and Society Committee, and as a member of Transitional Church Ministries and the Racial Harassment Task Force.
‘The key issue facing our denomination is ‘relevance’ in a world becoming disillusioned, divisive, fractured, adversarial and fear-filled,” Bryant said. “Jesus Christ’s love is relevant and he exemplifies what we need in our local church and beyond our walls. We are challenged to be ‘vital congregations’ and ‘faithful followers of Jesus.’”
Bryant was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2012.
Legislative Committee: Faith and Order
Rev. Delaine McGhee retired in 2015. She currently serves on the District Board of Ministry, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Commission on Religion and Race, the North Central Jurisdiction on Religion and Race, and the General Commission on Religion and Race.
“The key issue facing our denomination is how to love one another, in spite of ethnicity, race, culture, economic status, gender etc., as intended through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross,” McGhee said.
Her vision for the Church is that it “be released from bondage to be THE Church of Jesus Christ that we proclaim but cannot seem to attain.”
Legislative Committee: Discipleship
Rev. Scott Walsh is the senior pastor of New Leaf UMC (Western Reserve District) in Conneaut. A graduate of The Beeson Institute and The New Church Start Academy, he currently serves on the Annual Conference Worship Task Group.
His mantra is “Life is good, Eternity is better – get ready for both!” Toward that end, he pursues his passion to reach as many people as possible with The Good News of Jesus Christ.
Walsh attended Malone University, the University of Mount Union, and graduated from Ashland Theological Seminary.
Legislative Committee: Church and Society
Rev. Gary Henderson is chief relations officer (focusing on the Central conferences) for United Methodist Communications. In addition to 29 years of pastoral experience, he has served as executive director of Global Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church, secretary of Annual Conference, chairperson of both the Pastors Association and the Jurisdictional Elections Committee, and a member of Conference Board of Ministry and Annual Conference Restructure committees.
“I am a monastic at heart,” Henderson said. “The achievement of unity in the midst of diversity is a key issue close to my heart and the plight of the poor.”
Henderson was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2000 and 2004.
Legislative Committee: Ministry and Higher Education/Superintendency
Jessica Vargo is a life-long United Methodist who is committed and passionate to grow the church. Active in the church at all levels, she was called 13 years ago to serve in her current position as Conference Treasurer. She is also vice president of the General Council of Finance and Administration.
Vargo is the chairperson of this year’s General Conference delegation, a role she also filled in 2008. She served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference in 2012, as well. During that conference Vargo became the first woman to chair the Finance & Administration Legislation Committee.
Legislative Committee: Finance and Administration
Holly Grant attends Poland UMC (Mahoning Valley District), where she works with the children’s programs, leads a Bible study, helps in Grief Share ministry, and attends Disciple and United Methodist Women (UMW).
“The Lord has given me many opportunities to share His love, for this I am thankful,” she said.
Grant is an attorney. With hundreds of resolutions to be addressed at General Conference, she knows her legal experience in interpreting laws and regulations will be an asset.
Legislative Committee: Judicial Administration
Kay Panovec is chief relations officer (focusing on United States conferences) for United Methodist Communications. She is an active member of the Church, having worked in five local churches with youth, children and adult ministries. She served for 13 years as East Ohio Conference communicator, and has worked with annual conferences throughout the US and with local congregations worldwide.
“My life has been transformed by the power and love of Jesus Christ lived out though the people of the UMC,” she said.
Legislative Committee: Independent Commissions
Allen Laferty is chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee at Crestline First UMC (Mid-Ohio District). He is a former lay leader of the church, where he also served as past chairperson of the finance committee, and as a Sunday school and Bible study teacher.
He has been active across the district, conference and national levels of The United Methodist Church, and has participated on international teams to Haiti and Russia.
Laferty was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2008 and 2012.
Legislative Committee: Conference
Brian Sheetz is executive director of the East Ohio United Methodist Foundation. He is a member of Strongsville UMC (North Coast District), where he is active on the finance, stewardship, missions, and building committees.
He is chairperson of the district Finance Committee and is actively involved in strengthening the Church through young clergy and leadership development.
“I’m committed to the future of the denomination and we need to make decisions to ensure that future,” he said.
Legislative Committee: Local Church
Dr. Martha E. Banks is a research neuropsychologist, a retired clinical psychologist, and a former professor at The College of Wooster and at Kent State University.
She is a Certified Lay Servant, and the chairperson of the Social Action Committee for the Canal District United Methodist Women (UMW). Banks also is a member of the East Ohio Conference Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21), Commission on Religion and Race (CORR), and Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR).
Legislative Committee: Church and Society
Clergy: Revs. Karen Oehl, Michael Grant, Andy Call, Benita Rollins, Katherine Dickriede and Chester Harris.
Laity: Kathy Palmer, Tammy Kuntz, Don Burdsall, Linda Crowell, Lynn Carper and Betty L. Wilson