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January 18, 2013

New bishop leads new conference

Relevance, relationships central to 21st-century Methodism

SYRACUSE — Issues confronting mainline churches — caring for graying congregations while reaching out to the unchurched — await Bishop Mark J. Webb, the newly elected Methodist leader of the Upper New York Annual Conference.

In high school, his goal was to become the governor of Pennsylvania.

“God changed my mind,” Webb said.

The Williamsport, Pa., native holds a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University. He was elected bishop on July 19, 2012, at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference held in Charleston, W.Va.

OUTREACH

“The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Webb said. “To me, making disciples is two-fold. It’s helping those who are already in the church go deeper into that relationship, and it also is doing whatever it takes to invite folks who are not yet part of the church or in relationship to God to experience that.

”We care for those who are already a part of the church and help them to continue to grow and develop. We also reach out beyond the walls of the church. We have folks in our congregation who are willing and are reaching new people. Our challenge is to continue to find the ways so we can be more relevant to the community around us and be places of hospitality for folks who might come.”

Helping churches retool and relearn how to do church in the 21st century is part of his role as bishop and formerly as district superintendent of the York District of the Susquehanna Conference.

“One of the great pieces of the United Methodist Church, we are in a unique position to offer the good news of Jesus Christ because of our deep history and balance between personal holiness and social holiness. And our willingness to recognize it’s about individual and corporal relationships with God, but it is also about meeting the world where the world is and meeting needs and walking alongside people in communities.”

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