September 18, 2014

An Open Letter from the Camping and Retreat Ministries Board

September 18, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Missouri Conference,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!

As events have unfolded in the past couple weeks surrounding the new direction we are proposing for camping and next generation ministries, we are painfully aware that we stumbled out of the gates. We mishandled the flow of information and did not lead with vision. People were caught by surprise and some are hurt and confused and others have lost faith and trust in the Annual Conference. For that we apologize. In recognizing that we did a poor job in communicating the proposed changes, we hope to start afresh with our explanations and communications around the proposals we are making.

We believe that the seeds of a new beginning were planted this Monday in the morning session of our Camping & Retreat Ministries Board. About a dozen supporters of our camps, people who have given many years of service to Christ and his church, sat through our meeting. Our guests listened as we explained to Bishop Schnase the two-year journey we have taken to get to this point. We explained the theological and philosophical reasoning that led us here, as well as the research and visioning. They listened courteously, took notes, and were genuinely grateful for the explanation. We then opened the floor for comments. Our guests shared their thoughts and feelings and voiced their objections to our proposals. We heard the pain in their voices and the sense of loss they are feeling. We all entered the room a bit tense but departed feeling renewed in our deep covenant relationship through the bonds of Christ and our Annual Conference.

Going forward, we will do more of this. In a few weeks we will meet with all the event directors from our four properties and talk about how their camps will be supported and facilitated at alternative locations. We will work together to assure that they have successful camping experiences in 2015.

As we get closer to Annual Conference, we will hold a series of forums across the state to present our proposals for camping as we go forward into a new future. These forums will be open to all and will include a thorough explanation of our new vision for camping and will give opportunities for feedback. And, if those plans include the sale of one or more of our properties, that proposal will be brought to the 2015 session of the Missouri Annual Conference for discussion and a vote.

Before then, if you have questions about our vision and proposed changes, please send them to Sarah Sims at SSims@moumethodist.org. Questions will be compiled according to themes and an FAQ sheet published.

We are excited about the future of camping and the making of disciples of next generations in Missouri. We believe the best is yet to come! Please join us in prayer to that end.

Yours in Christ,

The Missouri Conference Camping & Retreat Ministries Board

Ron Watts, Ann Mowery, Lee Smith, Jon Spalding, Betsy Vicente, Garrett Drake, Sherry Habben, Bart Hildreth, Dan Steska