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Bishop Laurie Haller announces the retirement of Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie as Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries effective July 1, 2021.
“I have had the great honor of working with Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie over the past three years,” said Bishop Laurie Haller. “During a very challenging time in The United Methodist Church, Harlan has provided outstanding and steady leadership in all of his appointments. Harlan made it a practice to connect regularly with superintendents, district administrative assistants, and conference staff. A person of great integrity and passion for making disciples, Harlan has also worked tirelessly to ensure that our conference boards and agencies are well supported.”
“I have always respected that living out a call to ministry is a sacred trust of blessing and personal and corporate responsibility as the Body of Jesus Christ. Through the appointment system, I have had the honor of partnering with faithful people of God who engaged in fruitful ministry throughout the Iowa Conference,” said Gillespie. “I have been and am ever thankful for the clergy and laypersons with whom I served as colleagues and friends. I have learned much from all of you and been shaped by you. I have been blessed to work with Bishop Laurie. I thank her for her leadership, friendship, and trust in me. God is faithful in all seasons, including the seasons ahead of us.”
However, this will not be the last we will see of Gillespie, as the Iowa Conference continues to realign its staff to meet the church's future needs and redirect financial resources to mission and ministry. He will take on a part-time position in the Iowa Conference to work with the immigration process for United Methodist pastors and special projects as needed.
“My life has been deeply enriched by the privilege I have had to work closely with Harlan,” said Bishop Laurie. “I am also glad that, in his retirement, Harlan will continue to be available on a part-time basis in the conference.”
Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence
Bishop Laurie will appoint Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck as the new Assistant to the Bishop, beginning on July 1, 2021. As the work of the Assistant to the Bishop is being reimagined, Plambeck will also continue her current position as Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence.
“As Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck will build upon her experience and strengths to assist me in our ministry of servant leadership in the Iowa Annual Conference,” said Bishop Laurie. “Over the past four and a half years, I have come to know Lanette as a deeply spiritual leader who is committed to creating a vibrant annual conference that connects the state of Iowa as well as to ministry in our worldwide United Methodist Church.”
“In her current role, Lanette relates to clergy and laity around the conference and is well-known as a teacher, preacher, continuous learner, advocate, and encourager,” said Bishop Laurie. “She has also shown leadership by supporting churches facing the unexpected loss of their pastor, facilitating the Anti-Racism Team and leading our Coronavirus Task Force efforts.”
Plambeck said she looks forward to “supporting the clergy, laity, and faith communities as we move forward through the pandemic and respond to the changes coming to our beloved church after our next General Conference.”
“While a portion of my work will continue to connect with the ministry of the Appointive Cabinet, Circuit Ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, Board of Laity, and the other boards, agencies, and commissions with whom I relate, there will be certain responsibilities of my current work that will find new ways of being expressed and fulfilled,” said Plambeck.
“I know 2021 will have its own set of challenges, but whatever the church looks like moving forward, I believe God is working, and we have many reasons to be hopeful about our future,” said Plambeck. “I will seek to orient my ministry to God’s unfolding work. I know the Iowa Conference of today and tomorrow will be a place for all who wish to live, lead, and love as people of faith - not despite the differences we might have, but in this diversity that is part of our United Methodist heritage. And for those who might align with future iterations of Methodism emerging post-General Conference, I will seek to be a key partner in places ripe for missional-collaboration formed out of mutual concern.”
Director of New Faith Communities and Director of Connectional Ministries
Bishop Laurie is also pleased to announce that Rev. Bill Poland, Director of New Faith Communities, will also serve as the Director of Connectional Ministries.
“In my lifetime there has never been a more difficult time to be in ministry. Our churches and clergy are dealing with the very real impact of COVID-19 in the church and in their communities,” said Poland. “We live in a society that is divided and polarized politically, and that division is experienced also in The United Methodist Church. Our future as a denomination is uncertain. Yet, it is in this time the world needs us most to be the church. Jesus lifted the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors, even our enemies, as we love ourselves. The Risen Christ commissioned us to take that teaching to the ends of the earth, starting in our own neighborhoods. We, as the followers of Jesus, must in the power of the Holy Spirit find a way to move beyond divisions and fear to connect with one another in love to be light in this dark time, to shine that love in the world. All of us must do our part to make that happen.”
Bishop Laurie notes that “The changes in these roles will continue to focus our efforts on the mission of the Conference to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the implementation of circuit ministry in the Iowa Annual Conference, and the stewardship of our financial resources.”