New support for conference ministers
A team of seven ‘denominational ministers’ will be led by Gilberto Flores.by June Galle Krehbiel
Tending the souls of conference ministers and tending the system of denominational ministry is the way Gilberto Flores sees his new role in Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership.
Mennonite Church USA denominational ministers, back row (left to right): Linford King, Jorge Vallejos, Iris de León-Hartshorn, Lee Lever; front row (left to right): Phil Bergey, Gilberto Flores, Keith Harder
Now director of Denominational Ministry and Missional Church for Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership, Flores moved into this permanent appointment last December.
Formerly a denominational minister for Congregational and Ministerial Leadership, Flores heads the same office, but its name has changed to Denominational Ministry.
With the new name comes a new structure that includes seven denominational ministers, rather than four, who oversee relationships with the 21 area conferences of Mennonite Church USA. In addition to giving overall leadership for Denominational Ministry, Flores will also minister to the needs of five area conferences and their conference ministers.
“Gilberto brings pastoral instincts and missional theology and practice to his new role,” says Jim Schrag, executive director for Mennonite Church USA. “He has earned respect as a leader and as a spokesperson for new initiatives of learning and witness.”
The transition resulted from conversations with and prompting from conference ministers in 2007.
“At the denominational level,” Flores says, “we faced the need to recreate ourselves, including a name that suggests we are moving toward a better understanding of who we are. If we are called denominational ministers, then that is what we are. Our intention is to function as the ears of the denomination, to be more care in our leadership and to reflect a missional intention in our name.”
The new name, Denominational Ministry, offers a more biblical vocabulary as well as a relational approach. The denominational ministers will expand the work that the Congregational and Ministerial Leadership office was doing in equipping congregational leaders for ministry and supporting conference ministers in their roles.
Denominational ministers will be better able to engage with area conferences through closer, more frequent relationships and discern, for example, when conference leaders need pastoral care.
“If we do what we call ‘healthy relationship in healthy systems,’ ” Flores says, “we will have healthy congregations, healthy conferences and a healthy denomination.”
Three new denominational ministers have been appointed who will work to support specific Mennonite Church USA conferences. Phil Bergey will oversee relationships with North Central and Western District. Iris de León-Hartshorn will minister to Illinois and Ohio. Jorge Vallejos is the denominational minister for South Central.
Keith Harder, former director of Congregational and Ministerial Leadership, is currently a denominational minister in addition to leading denominational efforts for a health-care plan for congregational church workers. Other denominational ministers continuing on are Linford King and Lee Lever.—June Galle Krehbiel for MC USA
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