“A career of service, made possible by the grace of God”
A very familiar and visible face in the West Virginia Annual Conference is retiring.
Jim Berner, who has spent tireless hours helping laity, clergy, and the local church better understand their financial and business practices, has announced that he will step down in 2019 as our Conference Treasurer and Director of Administrative Services.
In the days winding down to his retirement, Berner took time from his busy schedule to reflect on his twenty-five years of service as the chief financial officer of the Conference, which serves most of West Virginia and Garrett County, MD.
“I believe the most positive change in my tenure as conference treasurer has been the education of laity and clergy with regards to the financial and business aspects of the United Methodist Church. We have implemented a variety of tools for explaining Fair Share and apportionments. We have made numerous visits to local churches not only to educate people, but to show the connection between the business office and the local church.”
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball echoes that sentiment. “It is because of Jim’s love and compassion for Christ, the Church, and God’s people and his very generous heart and spirit that Jim worked so hard to do his very best for all of us in the West Virginia Conference, even when this work put him in the cross-hairs, so to speak,” Bishop Steiner Ball said. “Jim worked tirelessly to try and help pastors and congregations, as well as the Conference, with anything in relation to finance, administration, or benefits.
“For Jim, being the treasurer has not been a job, it has been his calling and his ministry,” she continued. “Jim is ministry-minded. He understands that the resources generously given to the Church and the Conference are gifts given to be used on behalf of others. There is not a time that I have worked with Jim that he has not advocated for expansion of the mission and ministry of Christ in this Conference no matter what the financial picture or situation.”
Berner, a WV native, grew up in the South Charleston area where he attended South Charleston High School and graduated from Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston) with a degree in Banking and Finance.
His degree took him to a different part of the state earlier in his career, but he never regrets the day God’s grace gave him the honor and privilege to return to the Charleston area and work for the Church.
When the opportunity presented itself in 1994, Jim was a local church treasurer at Chapel Hill UMC in Buckhannon, where he and his family were living at the time. His pastor, Rev. Ellis Conley, advised him that the Conference treasurer’s job was open and encouraged him to apply.
“I had tried to outrun the call to put my God-given gifts to work for the church,” Berner admits, “but God finally caught up with me.” And, as they say, the rest was history. “Through His grace,” Jim states without hesitation, “God made it possible for me to serve the people of the United Methodist connection.”
Not only has he faithfully served the WV Conference and, as Bishop Steiner Ball affirms, placed it in a good financial position, Jim is also “United Methodist through and through, serving previously as a delegate to the General Conference and on both the General Board of Pensions and the General Commission on Finance and Administration. He received a national award for his work with the Board of Pensions. He felt it was important to be involved and to lend his thoughts and wisdom to the whole Church and not just the West Virginia Conference,” she stated.
You also might not know that Jim, “is a wonderful preacher,” according to Bishop Steiner Ball. Jim reads, prays, studies the scripture and preaches if asked, and she has “no doubt that he will be called upon as a guest preacher in the future.”
The Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, Chair of the WV Conference Finance committee, reaffirms Berner’s service to the Church. “For 25 years, Jim Berner has set a standard of excellence in serving as our Conference Treasurer and Director of Administrative Services,” Ramsey said. “His leadership and his total commitment to the church have led us forward as an Annual Conference. He has been a true servant of Christ and through this position has helped facilitate ministry, support mission, and position our church for the future. He has traveled tirelessly throughout our state preaching, conducting workshops, communicating changes, and helping people understand how vital our dollars are for so many people in need. It has been an honor and privilege to serve with him and our entire Annual Conference is grateful beyond words for the service he as offered.”
Bishop Steiner Ball unequivocally thanks God for the faithfulness and dedication of Jim Berner. “I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to work with Jim. The West Virginia Conference has benefited greatly from the gifts that God has given him to do his ministry here with us. Jim has been a good ministry partner and, as a bishop, having a treasurer who is ministry-minded is a tremendous gift and a value beyond measure. Jim is not only a partner in ministry, Jim is a friend. Jim will be missed.”
Berner plans to stay on in service to the Conference until his replacement is found and trained. He will then continue to reside in the Kanawha Valley, playing a little bit of golf and devoting the majority of his time to his wife of forty-five years, Beth, his two children, Craig and Stacey, and his four grandchildren.
Thank you, Jim Berner for all you have done to fulfill your ministry to your Church, and to us!