Bishop Bob Farr announced his intent to appoint the Rev. Dr. Roger Ross as Director for the Center of Congregational Excellence. Ross is currently serving as senior pastor of First UMC in Springfield, Illinois, in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. The cross-conference appointment comes with the blessing of Bishop Frank Beard.
The position has been vacant since Farr was elected to the episcopacy in July at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Wichita, Kansas. Ross rose to the top of the field after a national search. He expects to start in the new role on July 1.
“The Center for Congregational Excellence is one of our priority areas for the Missouri Annual Conference,” said Bishop Farr. “Roger has a great track record in planting and transforming congregations. We think he will be a great fit to our team and help us discern the next season of connecting the Gospel with new people in new places.”
Ross grew up in Cambridge, Illinois, near the Quad Cities. His father worked for Farm Bureau and as a crop reporter for the state. His mother was a home economics teacher. Ross attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where he earned a degree in biology. He had intended on going into marine biology, but his involvement in a campus ministry group led to him answering a call to ministry and continuing his education at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Texas.
Following seminary he spent three years at Moline Riverside United Methodist Church and then went to the small (population 450) town of Melvin UMC. After five years in Melvin, he was appointed to start a new church in Champaign, Illinois, called New Horizon. He was there 14 years, grew the church to an average attendance of about 800, and birthed another church, Quest, which grew to about 300.
His next appointment was to First UMC in Springfield. Abraham Lincoln had attended revival services at this historic church, and it was the largest church in the Conference when Ross started there, with an attendance of about 1,200. He was following a senior pastor who had been there for 29 years, and most of the staff and church leadership had also been there for about three decades.
“It couldn’t have been more different from the new church that I had started in any way,” Ross said. “We experienced a lot of transitional changes, and a shift from a 1950s institutional mode to a new missional mode.”
Ross is the author of Meet the Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith and has contributed to several publications and journals. Married to Leanne Klein Ross, they have two children, Zach, an engineering student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Jane, who is a freshman majoring in secondary education/history at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
“The Missouri Annual Conference is a well-known leader in our connection at effectively starting new churches and transforming existing churches,” Ross said.
“I can’t wait to join the team, roll up my sleeves with church planters, pastors and laypersons, and find fresh ways to multiply the life-changing love of Jesus Christ.”
Additionally, Bishop Farr announced that Rev. Lia McIntosh has been promoted to Associate Director for the Center of Congregational Excellence. McIntosh will continue her work from Kansas City, and Rev. Suzanne Nicholson will continue to serve as Mission Strategist from St. Louis. Both McIntosh and Nicholson continue to provide day-to-day management and accountability of the Center with oversight from Rev. Kim Jenne, Director of Connectional Ministries, during the transition.
Through the Leading Edge and some other large church associations, Ross has had the opportunity to become acquainted with several large church pastors in Missouri. He’s excited about the upcoming move to Missouri and looking forward to getting started.
“I feel a little like Abraham, in that God is calling me to land I know not of,” Ross said. “But I know God is already doing great things there. It’s my privilege to join in that holy work.”