Bishop Farr Lifts up Social Justice and Next Generations as Priorities Moving Forward


Media Contact: Kim Jenne, Director of Connectional Ministries
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Bishop Farr Lifts up Social Justice and Next Generations as Priorities Moving Forward
COLUMBIA, Mo. – February 13, 2017 – Bishop Robert Farr announced his intent to appoint Rev. Tina Harris as Director of Mission, Service and Justice and Rev. Jeff Baker as Director of Next Generations effective July 1.

These Cabinet-level appointments involve a change to the conference’s current organization and will require a change to the standing rules when the annual conference session meets for worship, learning and business June 9-12, 2017, in Springfield. The structural change aims to help local congregations by equipping them in the areas of social justice and next generations as they seek to serve Christ. According to Bishop Farr, it became quite apparent through the conversations with the Mission Council, episcopacy committee and in listening sessions held around the state that there is passion and need expressed in the areas of social justice and next generation ministries.

Last year’s decision to merge the Creative Ministries and Social Justice teams came about because the two teams desire to collaborate together for the sake of leading congregations in the area of mission, service and justice; as well as the belief that the work of mission and service can never be parted from social justice. By moving camping ministries out of the Office of Mission, Service and Justice and appointing Harris to the post, Bishop Farr is hopeful that the team will equip the local church for issues related to social justice and mission that works toward the transformation of both individuals and the world.

 “With Tina’s experience in diversity initiatives and her passion for local and global mission, I am excited about the strategies she will bring to help resource our local churches struggling to deal with the rampant poverty in both rural and urban communities,” Farr said. “Methodists have a long history of working toward justice. Unfortunately, many of the societal ills John Wesley fought against are still problems today. We cannot avoid the personal and the social dimensions. That’s what Wesley called, ‘holiness of heart and life.’”

A former chief diversity officer at Bryan Cave, Harris discovered her calling at St. James UMC in Kansas City. In 2014 she became the first African-American pastor to serve the 150-year-old Grand Avenue Temple in downtown Kansas City.

“I think my experience translates well to the ministry area of social justice. We have serious issues before us, and Jesus is the only answer,” Harris said.

Harris is encouraged by the Conference putting an additional emphasis on this area and is honored to be appointed to the position.

Rev. Lia McIntosh, recently named as Associate Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence, will continue to work in collaboration with the Office of Mission, Service and Justice focused on social justice and churches where poverty and urban issues intersect.

“The Missouri Annual Conference remains committed to working toward diversity and inclusion, particularly in our conference leadership,” Farr said. “Adding Tina’s voice to the Cabinet room will help us work toward those values in a real way.”

Camping and Next Generation ministries are currently housed in separate conference offices and supervised by two different directors. As camping has stabilized and grown, the Bishop is prepared to focus attention on children, youth and college-age discipleship within one office. Camping ministries will fall under the Next Generation umbrella. According to Baker, camping can be expected to take 25% of the office’s focus. This summer looks to be a big year for the team including 10 core camps, 22 mobile camps, 70 mission sites to choose from for mission camps, and the return of Intrepid Wildfire Camp at Central Methodist University June 17-22.

The move to its own office with a dedicated director will allow the team to work on discipleship for children through college-age throughout the year. The prime directive to the team is to create encounters with Christ for children, youth and college-age adults and to equip local churches for this work. Last summer, 300+ kids professed a belief in Christ for the first time publically, and WOW 2017 continues to increase the focus of the weekend event on discipleship, equipping youth to explore their faith within their local church.

A former Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy, Baker is a licensed local pastor serving at the Conference office. He started with the Missouri Conference in 2008 as the Volunteers in Mission coordinator. He first became involved in international mission following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. The father of three children, ages 13, 16 and 18, has been encouraged by positive experiences he has seen in his own family that came from Conference-level ministries relating to youth. His passion in this area is shaping his vision for the future of children, youth and college-age discipleship in Missouri.

“We need to provide more opportunities for people who are working with children and youth to come together, share successes, ask questions and access resources,” Baker said. “I’d like to see more training and sharing of resources for people in the vitally important roles of children and youth worker in our small churches across the Conference.”

In their January meeting, the Mission Council tasked the Rules and Procedures and Council on Finance and Administration to develop the necessary recommendations to the standing rules and the 2018 budget in order for this vision to happen. Director of Finance and Administration Rev. Nate Berneking believes the restructure can occur within the confines of the existing conference budget and anticipates the apportionment levels to remain flat. The Annual Conference session will vote on the standing rules revisions and the 2018 budget at the annual meeting.