TOGETHER TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD
For nearly 150 years, the Southern Michigan Conference has grown and prospered because of the interwoven nature of our connectional relationships between pastoral and lay leaders and local churches. Connectionalism has been one of the constants that has made us strong and abounding in fruitfulness both within Southern Michigan and beyond. The wisdom of our founders embraced the idea that meaningful connection among our leaders and the churches they serve was to be preferred over autonomy.
The Southern Michigan Conference consists of a network of nearly 40 local churches and church plants spread across a 15 county area in our state as well as Ontario and Ohio. Together we worship and work together in order to extend the Kingdom of God both within and beyond our own borders. We are bound together by our commitment to Scripture, our Wesleyan/Armenian theology and our Book of Discipline. And, we hold dear two core values:
1. We are better together than we can be by ourselves.
2. We can do more together than we can do by ourselves.
WHAT WE DO
Recruiting and developing catalytic leaders for the transformation of churches and communities.
Networking and strengthening our partnerships with affiliate FM institutions.
Launching and sustaining new apostolic initiatives and church plants.
Resourcing and building upon our historic commitment to worldwide mission.
The Word of God is our standard and guide in all we do and propose. It is through the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom that results from seeking God, that clarity vision and understanding of function emerges. It is through the confirmation of God’s people that vision can become a reality and that the prayers of the saints can result in great movements of God in our world. The call to become an apostolic movement, a movement of God into the harvest fields of the world, will mean:
A church focused on the message of the cross, the resurrection and the Kingdom of God
A church with sound doctrine, integrating faith and learning
A church with a holy passion, surrendered to the purposes of God
A church which reaches and multiplies across all boundaries: religious, ethnic and national
A church that models Jesus We believe that the local church is God’s instrument to transform society.
We believe that local leaders are to be entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of fulfilling our Core Values. This, in short, represents the theological and practical basis for the proposals that follow.
We are a connectional church. We are strengthened most by our relationships based on truthfulness and grace. We believe our mission drives everything we do. We strive to make the message of the gospel relevant to our culture by remaining faithful to God while showing love and sensitivity to the world. We accept all who come to us, seeing the most desperate sinner with the potential to become a whole and devoted follower of Jesus. We see smaller groups and cells within the larger Body of Christ as the best environment for the birth, mentoring, encouragement, and care of new believers. We view our local churches as mission outposts. Our pastors are appointed not just to a local congregation and building, but to the evangelization of whole communities, towns, cities. We see ourselves as an apostolic movement. We are a “sent” people, charged with the task of reaching new territories and new populations of people with the gospel. We are Wesleyan in our doctrine and in our practice. We value the guidance of the scriptures and the consensus of the Church throughout her history. We are to be a holy people. Our conduct and our teaching are to reflect the holiness and love of God. We seek nothing less than the healing of mind, body, and soul of all who come under our care.
SUPERINTENDENT BRUCE RHODES
Bruce is a graduate of Spring Arbor College where he met his sweetheart, Jerilynn. After graduation in 1982, they were married and moved to Wilmore Kentucky to enroll in Asbury Theological Seminary. After earning his M.Div. Bruce began serving in Southern Michigan Conference churches in 1985. He served on staff at Chelsea and in the lead role at Garden City/Warren Road Light and Life, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti before being elected to the office of Conference Superintendent in 2014.
Bruce and Jerilynn have three children: Dan, married to Brianna; Rebecca, married to Jonathan; and Joshua, married to Maggie. They have two grandchildren, Wyatt and Olivia, who are the most wonderful children in the world! Together, the Rhodes also enjoy outdoor recreation including camping, fishing, and hunting.
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL FORNEY
Michael graduated in 1993 from Washington’s Northwest University with a degree in Pastoral Ministries. While in college, Michael married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy. Michael served in staff roles and as lead pastor in the Assemblies of God Northwest Ministry Network and in Colorado. He has worked as an executive in turnaround and early stage companies. Michael founded Gravitational Leadership, a company devoted to coaching and training pastors and churches. He has been coaching pastors and consulting with churches for over 12 years around issues of turnaround, governance, succession, organizational development and mission. Michael joined the Conference team in 2016 and oversees the leadership development and multiplication initiatives.
Michael and Nancy have four children: Loree, soon to be married to Cyril; Ashley, married to Dustin; Natalie, and Rachel. They have a grandson on the way! The Forneys enjoy reading, traveling, camping, hiking, and dark roast coffee.
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT BETTY WALRATH
Betty and her husband, Brian, both attended Aldersgate, the Free Methodist Bible College in their home province of Saskatchewan. In 1972 as a newly married couple they came to Spring Arbor College where they both finished up their B.A. degrees in 1974. Shortly after their return to Canada, Betty became a full-time Mom, eventually welcoming four children into the Walrath family. In 1992 the family moved back to the USA for Brian to teach at Spring Arbor College/University. Betty had opportunity at that time to upgrade her clerical skills by taking several classes at SAU. Betty began her work for the Conference in 2008.
Brian & Betty enjoy trips to Minneapolis, Chicago and Ann Arbor to visit their grown children, and still get back regularly to the Canadian prairies to visit extended family. While at home in Spring Arbor Betty enjoys attending concerts & recitals at SAU with her professor husband, as well as participating herself in the church choir.