Bishop Saenz challenges pastors at Orders & Fellowship


When Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. was assigned as episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference, he was given a notebook with facts and figures about the two-state region: A whopping four pages.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. shares his reflections on the Great Plains Conference after his first few months traveling Kansas and Nebraska as the area's episcopal leader. Photo by David Burke

It wasn’t nearly enough of a description of the 1,000-plus churches, clergy and laity in the region, but the bishop has begun to fill in the gaps in his first 4 ½ months as the leader of the Great Plains.

“I’m hopeful. I’m excited,” Saenz told 600-plus clergy at his first Orders & Fellowship gathering, Jan. 18-19 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. “I know we have the resources. I know we have the people. I know we have the passion.”

In a segment of the Orders & Fellowship that Bishop Saenz dubbed “Observations, Findings and Musings,” he talked about the next steps that could be taken by the Great Plains Conference, made possible by the unification of the Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West conferences in 2014.

“This is an opportunity to think of how we should reshape the conference,” he said.

The continued unification of the conference, Bishop Saenz said, needs devoted leadership at all levels, as well as highly committed clergy, laity and congregations.

Churches, he said, need to increase their spiritual formation and learning groups, as well as their missional engagement within the community.

A vibrant candidacy process system is essential, Bishop Saenz said, as well as strong leadership of district superintendent assignments, or DSAs, and certified lay ministers, or CLMs.

Bishop Saenz said the annual conference session each of the next four years would focus on main tenets of John Wesley and his witness:
  • 2017: Knowing and Loving God.
  • 2018: Proclaiming Christ.
  • 2019: Serving Others, especially the poor and marginal.
  • 2020: Seeking Justice.
He said the conference needs to optimize on its strengths, including the historic ways that the United Methodist Church has been relevant to the community – including schools and hospitals; expand the Wesleyan witness throughout the boundaries of the conference; promote knowledge-sharing and collaboration among churches; and enhance the service relationship of the conference and district teams with local churches.

With Christ-centered leadership, he said, fruitfulness could be measured in quantifiable outcomes such as average worship attendance, professions of faith, baptisms and active persons.

Bishop Saenz stopped short of making any official commitments for the conference for the next four years.

“The concrete is not set. The concrete is still wet,” he said. “My question is, ‘How are we going to accomplish the mission?’”

David Burke is communications coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. Contact him at

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