20,000 Miles and CountingPart 1: The Center for Communication

20,000 Miles and Counting
Part 1: The Center for Communication

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Over the last 21 months, I have had the great pleasure of traveling around the state to visit with people from our Arkansas United Methodist churches. I have learned much from church leaders and church members. I have also had the opportunity to listen to and learn from many who are not part of any church.

When I introduce myself to lay people for the first time, I usually must also explain what the Conference is and then also explain what I do for the Conference. I was shocked at first that so many lay people did not understand the purpose of the Conference Centers and that we even exist.

While planning for the new year, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share the incredible discipleship support that the Centers offer to each and every Arkansas United Methodist.

I am beginning this series with a spotlight on the Arkansas Conference Center for Communication.

The Rev. Dr. Michelle Morris, shared a devotional with the Center for Communication team a few weeks ago about the importance of communication in the Bible. Beginning in Genesis 1:3, “God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.” God used communication by speaking throughout the entire first chapter of Genesis.

The Center for Communication is made up of six professionals with varied roles. Our team works directly to support the Bishop, the Center for Administrative Services, the Center for Multiplying Disciples, the Center for Connectional Ministry and its Ministry Coordinators, the District Superintendents and Administrators, the Arkansas Conference Communication Commission, the Board of Ordained Ministry, the clergy for all local churches, and lay leaders for all local churches.

Caleb Hennington is the Digital Content Editor and has been with the ARUMC for 20 months.

He manages the multi-award-winning Arkansas United Methodist: Living Our Faith online magazine that is published each month. This includes writing and gathering stories, photography, layout design, publication marketing, engagement analytics and advertising clientele. Caleb manages the outgoing email prayer requests, obituaries, press releases to secular media, and event engagement marketing (sign up for a Conference-sponsored event and you will see how cool this is). He reports on all of the major events, including Annual Conference and General Conference. He plays a very important role in supporting social media, videography content and overall communication strategy.

Day Davis is the Social Media Specialist and has also been with the ARUMC for 20 months.

Day manages all of the social media platforms for the ARUMC that includes the main ARUMC Facebook page, ARUMC News Facebook page, ARUMC Instagram, ARUMC Twitter, ARUMC YouTube and 200K Reasons Instagram. She manages the weekly email newsletter that is distributed to approximately 6,700 individuals and also provides onsite training to local churches on developing an effective newsletter through email. Day manages all of the communication project “traffic” such as printing, media buys, and event promotion planning. She is also our lead in-house graphic designer. In 2018, she developed the ARUMC Social Media Principles that have been utilized and promoted on a national platform by COSROW.

Jacob Turner is the ARUMC Communication Liaison and Website Developer.

In 2018, Jacob built the award-winning ARUMC website. He manages the hosting services for local churches and provides training for local churches in website maintenance and web marketing. Jacob serves as our local church liaison and has worked with more than 40 Arkansas churches over the last six months to build effective communication strategies. These “communication audits” are conducted onsite and include the church staff to identify any opportunities for improvement in communication and marketing practices. Ask anyone who has been through a communication audit for their church and they will tell you how valuable this is for building and streamlining their internal and external communications.

The Rev. Dr. Michelle Morris is the CouRSe Coordinator. She is an Elder in Full Connection, has authored numerous publications, served in an adviser/professor role for numerous universities and has served as a Circuit Elder, Pastor and Associate Pastor. Michelle is appointed to the Center for Multiplying Disciples but is on loan to the Center for Communication due to the transition of the online learning system project ownership.

Michelle announced the launch of CouRSe (Congregation Resourcing System) at the 2019 Arkansas Annual Conference thanks to a valuable partnership with the United Methodist Foundation. This discipleship tool has been able to serve more than 500 people in 2019 with a variety of courses to enhance and equip local churches. Michelle manages the catalog of courses offered and works with local churches to determine needs for education. She coordinates each course including research, video and content, based upon preset goals and manages the analytics of CouRSe to better the program in its entirety.

Christina Choh is the Videographer for the ARUMC. Joining the Conference as an intern during the summer of 2019, Christina is experienced in full video production and graphic design project management.

Christina has served as the lead videographer for more than 30 video projects in 2019, including many offsite shoots that involved overcoming weather, sound and lighting barriers. She has also provided design work for various Conference-sponsored events throughout the year.

Saying that I am blessed to work with these aforementioned communication pros is an understatement. They inspire me every day by their passionate work ethic and dedication for doing things right.

As the Director of the ARUMC Center for Communication, I work directly with the Bishop on overall messaging for the Conference and strategic campaigns that enhance the Conference trajectory. I have the honor of serving on the ARUMC Cabinet that includes Bishop Mueller, all of the District Superintendents, Center Directors and Lay Leader, Karon Mann.

I am the Chief Media Officer for the Conference. I work directly with local and national media for our Bishop, districts and local churches, as needed. I work with the Bishop on the ARUMC Crisis Communication Team and provide media training/coaching and crisis communication training to leaders across the Arkansas connection. I recently served as a media spokesperson for the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

As the Center Director, I manage our team of communication professionals. I coach on streamlined strategy and integration of all platforms to promote the Conference trajectory. I am most proud that we have been able to stay laser-focused with the Bishop’s and Conference messaging and also incorporate training for local churches as an added priority.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the ARUMC Center for Communication. I also hope you understand that we are here to support the local church – no matter the size – improve its communication strategies to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world!

This article is the first of a four-part series that will highlight the Center for Administrative Services, the Center for Communication, the Center for Connectional Ministries and the Center for Multiplying Disciples.

Rev. John Fleming appointed as Northeast District Superintendent, Chief Mission Strategist

Rev. John Fleming, newly appointed Northeast District Superintendent and Chief Mission Strategist

Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church announced today the appointment of the Rev. John Fleming as the Northeast District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist, effective July 1, 2019.

Announced previously, the Rev. J.J. Galloway, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist for the Northeast District, will be appointed as the District Superintendent/Mission Strategist for the Southwest District, upon the retirement of the Rev. Rodney Steele.

“It is with great joy that we welcome John to this appointment. He will continue to use his gifts to lead God’s people toward the mission and vision of the church. I hope you will join in celebration not only for his ministry but also the vital ministries already being done in the Northeast district,” Bishop Mueller shared.

Fleming has served as the senior pastor of Paragould First United Methodist Church since 2013. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee, and his Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Fleming is currently serving as the Vice-Chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Chairperson of the Northeast District Leadership Team. He has also served as Chair of the Residency Committee on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and has received the Barnabas Award (given to those who encourage young pastors).

In addition, Fleming is a member of the Board of Directors at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, the Rotary Club of Paragould, and Chair of the Arkansas Methodist Medical Center Foundation.

Galloway stated, “I have known John for almost 20 years, and I am thrilled he will be the next District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Northeast District. Through his work as Chair of the Northeast District Leadership Team and Vice-Chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, John is well acquainted with the churches and clergy of the district. The Northeast District will have a great leader and friend in Rev. John Fleming.”

Fleming is married to Susie Fleming, and they have two daughters, Annie Grace (17) and Julie Ann (12). He is an avid baseball fan, and his favorite team is the Atlanta Braves. John enjoys running, movies, spending time with his family and friends, serving in pastoral leadership, and traveling when possible.



Sponsored by the Arkansas Connection of Orthodox Wesleyans
Total Number of Pages: 3

Affirm Current Doctrine and Discipline Concerning Human Sexuality
Discipline Paragraph:
Book of Discipline 2016, Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Marriage

Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Human Sexuality
¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination
General Church Budget Implications: None
Global Implications: Yes

The United Methodist Church is in continuity with the “holy catholic and apostolic church” (The United Methodist Hymnal, #880 The Nicene Creed). The historic and Biblical position of United Methodism on human sexuality has been consistently reaffirmed since 1972 despite consistent attempts to alter our position at subsequent General Conferences.

That position was once again reaffirmed at the General Conference of 2016, that defines “marriage as the union of one man and one woman” (Book of Discipline 2016, Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Marriage).

This position is grounded in the doctrine of the United Methodist Church that clearly confirms the authority of the Old and New Testaments, which “is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice” (Book of Discipline, Confession of Faith, Article IV). Furthermore, the Scriptures exhort us to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

The 2016 General Conference also reaffirmed our conviction that “Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” (Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Human Sexuality).

The 2016 General Conference also reaffirmed our confidence that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God;” and yet continues to maintain that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” while balancing that view by continuing to “implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends” (Book of Discipline 2016, Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Human Sexuality).

And the 2016 General Conference has again made clear that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (Book of Discipline 2016, ¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination).

We value denominational unity, provided that it does not compromise our existing, consistently-affirmed core convictions on marriage and Scriptural holiness. Moreover, the core of the Christian doctrine and Scriptural holiness is not determined by cultural context or changing historical realities, but is grounded in that which has been “believed everywhere, always and by all” (Vincent of Lerins) and has been confirmed in the experience of the community of faith in the church universal.

The Arkansas Annual Conference petitions the 2019 General Conference, assembled in St. Louis, February 23-26 to retain our current core convictions in regard to human sexuality, particularly as related to marriage and ordination.

Date: June 6, 2018
Tom Letchworth
Elder, Arkansas Annual Conference, retired


Tom Letchworth
Bob Hager
Dee Harper
Bryan Fink
Christopher Bounds
Jeff Warrick
Joe Head
Deborah Head
Pat Bodenhamer
Mary Baker Meier
Troy Conrad
Steve Pulliam
Jim Lenderman
David A. Moore
David Jones
John Miles
Justin Ledbetter
Debby Bodenhamer
Paul Coy
Tommy Toombs
Todd Vick
Ann Ferris
Andrew Thompson

Press Release from Council of Bishops: Constitutional Amendments

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

The Council of Bishops has announced the results of voting by annual conferences on 5 Constitutional Amendments adopted by the 2016 General Conference. 2/3 of the lay and clergy members voting are required for ratification. Amendments I and II related to gender equality did not receive the required number of voters. Amendments III, IV and V did.

Arkansas Results

Amendment I
Yes 387 – No 169

Amendment II
Yes 372 – No 184

Amendment III
Yes 527 – No 29

Amendment IV
Yes 540 – No 14

Amendment V
Yes 487 – No 64

Please read the Press Release with Attachments from the Council of Bishops that includes vote totals, as well as statements from the Council of Bishops and women bishops.

I want to reiterate my full commitment to equality of women in all aspects of our common and church’s life. We have a long way to go in this work. It’s not just an issue for women; it’s an issue for every single one of us. I will walk with you, hold you in my prayers and would welcome conversation at any time.

Grace and peace,

Bishop Gary Mueller

Letter From Bishop Gary Mueller: Council of Bishops

May 4, 2018
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
The Council of Bishops has just concluded our spring meeting. It was bathed in prayer, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and involved caring and honest conversation. 
We agreed to release our report to General Conference no later thanJuly 8, 2018, so that it can be edited and translated into our official languages. The Council of Bishops have adopted the following:
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the special session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:

  • All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
  • The Council’s recommendation of The One Church Plan.
  •  An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.

Rationale: In order to invite the church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission has been on, the Council makes all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council. The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans. The majority of the Council recommends The One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.
It is critically important to understand that three official actions are included in this one formal motion and rationale.
First, the Council of Bishops is forwarding three complete plans as part of its report to the General Conference: The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan. This means the General Conference will have all three plans in front of them for consideration and has the right to adopt, reject or amend any of them.
Second, in a series of conversations and polls, the preference of the majority of active bishops on the Council was to recommend one plan to the General Conference and for that recommendation to be The One Church Plan. Not surprisingly, there was significant support for the other two Plans as well.
Third, the Council is going to share the full body of the Commission and Council’s work in order for the delegates to have the resources they need as they decide the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.  
Ultimately it is the General Conference – and not the Council of Bishops – that will chart the way forward for our Church next February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis.
Between now and then, I will be working closely with our delegation as they discern where they believe the Holy Spirit is leading the church. I urge you to pray for them, as well as all the delegates of the General Conference, on a daily basis.
We come from a variety of perspectives concerning human sexuality, which means you may be experiencing either hope or pain in light of the Council’s action. That’s why I want to invite you to get in touch with me if you would like to talk.
You may remember I shared a letter with you about a week ago as Karen and I prepared to leave for the Council meeting. As part of that letter, I reminded you that four things remain true regardless of how the Council decided to act: 1) God still is God; 2) People still need Jesus; 3) We still need each other; and 4) God still is not done with us yet. I still believe these things, perhaps even more powerfully than before. After all, our trajectory is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
I consider it a deep privilege – and also a great joy – to serve as your bishop. Even more importantly, I love you!

Grace and Peace, 

Gary E. Mueller