Bishop: ‘Share the Good News’

By Audrey Stanton-Smith

“Go and preach,” Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball told clergy and laity at the Service of Licensing, Commission, and Ordination Sunday morning at the 2024 West Virginia Annual Conference on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“Everyone deserves to know that they are a child of God, whether we tell the good news across the ocean or across the street,” Steiner Ball said during the final worship service of this year’s conference.

Citing Luke 2:10 and The Great Commission, the bishop called on the entire body to share the Good News. To the candidates and all in attendance, she extended a challenge to participate in “the mission of sharing and spreading God’s heart.”

”The baton has been handed over. Go, ye, … Do not be quiet about the Good News as you go about your life. Share it at all times, in all places, in all ways, to all people, that they might come to believe and say ‘yes, Lord,’ ” she said.

Steiner Ball reminded candidates that they are called to be “Good News people.”

The bishop noted three essential elements of the Gospel that Christ’s followers are to preach: that Christ died for our sins, that Jesus was buried and took on all sin in that death, and that Jesus rose again.

“When Jesus rose from the dead three days later, God said ‘Amen.’ Steiner Ball preached. “Jesus was no ordinary person. He was God in flesh. … The death which comes with sin could not hold him, had no claims upon him, thus Jesus was able to walk out of the tomb in victory and power. … He rose out of that death so that we could too. This is the message that we have been given to preach.

“If you believe that message, then I challenge you, laity and clergy, to share it with others,” she said.

“We are to take the Good News into all the world, no place off limits, no people group left out,” she said. “The phrase ‘preach the gospel to all creation’ underscores the inclusive nature of God’s love and salvation. The Good News is for everyone.”

Steiner Ball said that United Methodists believe they are called to this challenge to let all people know that they are welcome and invited to Christ’s table.

“Sometimes the hardest part of reaching the world is believing that everyone is a child of God, just like you and I are children of God,” she said.

Sunday’s message preceded the laying on of hands on three candidates for commissioning and one elder candidate.

Sarita L. Robinson, Caitlin Ware, and Sarah Elizabeth Wilmoth were presented by the Board of Ordained Ministry for commissioning as provisional members.

Todd Hurley was presented by the Order of Elders for ordination as elder.

“May God, who has given you the will to do these things, give you grace to perform them, that the work begun in you by the Holy Spirit may be brought to perfection,” Steiner Ball said to the candidates after publicly examining them.

Licensed local pastors were also recognized during the service. Those receiving the licenses of local pastor were Valerie Biundo, David Blankenship, Jay Foresta, Angela Hazelwood, Stacy Hoover, Tyler Helton, David Lee, Paula MacCoy, Sheila Radochio, Robbie Parsons, and Matthew Tallman.

Also recognized was Robert Murphy, who completed the West Virginia Conference Pastoral Ministry Licensing School but passed away prior to Sunday’s service.

“We believe he is standing on higher ground now,” said Rev. Gwen Wilford, who co-directed the 2024 Licensing School with Rev. Scott Mayberry. The bishop presented his certificate to Murphy’s family, who attended Sunday’s service in his honor and memory.

The new licensed local pastors are appointed by the bishop to perform all the duties of a pastor in a particular local setting.

Sunday’s service of Licensing, Commission, and Ordination also included recognition of the ministry of the deacon, though no one was commissioned or ordained as a deacon this year.