Steve DeWilde

Church Name: Central (Kansas City)

Share any relevant background information including leadership experience both within the church and in other areas of your life.

I often refer to myself as a born and bred Methodist – four Methodist family lines coming together – including the late 1800’s England. I grew up in a small, country Methodist church built on land donated by my great grandparents with lumber milled in my great grandfather’s sawmill. I learned leadership from my grandparents and parents in that little country church with “ME” over the door. 

At Central, I have been Chair of the Council on Ministry, helped lead the merger of the Council on Ministry and the Administrative Board to the single Administrative Council model and chaired the single Administrative Council.

Corporately and with non-profits I have led change – internal and internationally – with skills in diversity, complex team leadership, training, group facilitation, change management and Roberts Rules of Order. The key to success was providing space for people to think and create, helping them see other alternatives and honoring who they were and their personal experiences.

Describe your personal practices of intentional faith development that strengthen your spiritual engagement with God and your capacity for fruitful leadership in the church.

My faith development is an ongoing process. I attended Adrian College – a Methodist college in Michigan – where I sang in the chapel choir. Wednesday chapel services taught me the importance of worship, prayer and service on more than just Sundays.

I was certified as a Disciples Bible Study series facilitator and have led several groups through different levels of classes. And in each case, I found that I learned as much or more than those attending. I continue to read and study the scriptures and supporting writings with a focus of seeing and learning something new or in a new way.

After being introduced to the concept of prayer as part of ordinary daily activities, I changed my approach to “devotional time”. It is no longer just a separate time of my day; it is my day. No matter what I am doing or where I am, I can be in a state of prayer and in conversation with God. It has carried me through some very difficult times.

I am also a Stephen Minister to help others on their journey.

Why do you seek election as a lay delegate representing the Missouri Conference?

I have to be perfectly honest, the 2019 Special GC vote felt like a gut punch. I think of my niece who grew up in the Methodist church and feels abandoned by it. And all LGBTQ+ persons that have never known the church and feel completely rejected by it. The aspirational goal of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” suddenly felt like an empty promise.

But the 250+ year history of the Methodist movement & church, is rife with joining, separation and rejoining. Stumbling, falling and getting back up. But through it all we have continued to serve the mission of God. Our history shows there is hope.

My goal in being part of GC2020 is to use all of my gifts to help others engage in open dialog and see a way for all God’s children to be part of this amazing Wesleyan experiment called the United Methodist Church. Plus, my experience as a four-time delegate to Annual Conference (including as a Teller) and experience with Roberts Rule of Order can assist others in navigating the procedures.

How will your involvement in General Conference 2020 support the church to fulfill the mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”?

If we are truly to fulfill this mission, we must include all people and invite them to the table. Not reject people just for being who they are. If we continue down this path, who might be rejected next?

And if we start to eliminate “experience” and “reason” from “scripture, tradition, experience and reason” we are no longer Wesleyan. Wesley did not tell us to turn our brains off at the door. He not only invited us to think and reason, he demanded it.

My prayer for CG2020 is that the United Methodist Church can reclaim its heritage as truly Wesleyan and fully Christian, and lead in a way that does transform the world for ALL PEOPLE. What form that will take, I have no idea, but I am confident that if we truly listen, God does.

I hope my previously noted gifts can help with the open, honest dialog needed and the space to listen.

I would be honored and humbled to serve as a delegate to General & Jurisdictional Conference, fully dedicated to the future of the United Methodist Church.

Since the primary focus for Jurisdictional Conference is to elect new bishops, what qualifications do you think the church needs in its future episcopal leaders?

I would ask that they do what very good corporate and board leaders need to do: 

  • Be honest and transparent
  • Be able to inspire and motivate people
  • Be able to subjugate your personal opinions or favorite solutions for the greater good of other people and the organization
  • Be able to lead with integrity in times of change, struggle or confusion
  • Be able to balance the desires to do great things with the costs of making them happen
  • Be able to manage and work in a way that honors the diversity of those around you
  • Be able to develop an inclusive environment
  • Be willing to truly listen to all views
  • Have the ability to be honest with yourself
  • Be able to take the long view, but still work in the present

Plus, as episcopal leaders:

  • Be in love with God
  • Love the UMC
  • Be Wesleyan in approach and truly embrace the essence of the quadrilateral
  • Be able to love and treat others as they would want to be treated
  • Never, ever lose sight of our mission