Profile in leadership

The Boleys, a happy family of University of Michigan Wolverines. L-r: Diane, Ian, John, Rob and Hannah. ~photo courtesy John Boley

Meet the Clergy Assistant to the Bishop for The Michigan Conference, the Rev. John Boley.

On December 15, 2017 Bishop David Bard announced the names of persons who will serve as the core leadership team for the new Michigan Conference. While many are familiar faces, each will be serving in the context of a new Director Model that takes people out of ministry silos and into a collaborative team effort.

MIconnect is introducing these persons and the positions in a series called, “Profiles in leadership.” This week we meet the Rev. John Boley.

John started ministry for The United Methodist Church in Michigan in 1992 as pastor of Mancelona and Alba UMCs on the Grand Traverse District. Other pastoral appointments include Lansing: Central; Mt. Pleasant: First; Kalamazoo: First; and Kalamazoo District Superintendent.

On July 1, 2016 John began appointment as the Clergy Assistant to Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey. On September 1, 2016 he continued in service with Bishop David A. Bard.

(L-r) back row Ian, John, Rob; front row Jessica (Ian’s spouse), Hannah, Diane, Emma (Rob’s spouse). ~ photo courtesy John Boley

John is a link in an intergenerational chain of United Methodist clergy. His father, the Rev. Robert W. Boley, served in the Detroit Conference. John’s son, the Rev. Ian Boley, is currently serving Walled Lake UMC, Ann Arbor District. John’s wife, Diane, has been a strong partner in ministry.

Meet John Boley, in his own words …

Please share a little personal background.

I grew up in United Methodist parsonages in the Detroit area. I’m a cradle to grave Methodist – firmly believing in the movement and theology of John Wesley. I have always had a call to ministry, but didn’t take ownership of it until I was in my mid 30’s. Growing up in the parsonage and the local church, I grew to value the itineracy and our called and sent theology. Even during those years when I wandered away from the church, I never doubted the truth of the church as a prophetic agent for justice and compassion in God’s created world. John Wesley’s focus on prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace, and his focus on personal and social holiness held together are the framework of what I took away from my growing up in the United Methodist Church.

What about your professional background and leadership lessons you’ve learned along the way?

After college I did a tour as an Officer in the US Navy. I then went to law school and practiced corporate and commercial law in a large law firm in Grand Rapids for a number of years before going to seminary at Duke Divinity School. I’m grateful to have served and lived all across Michigan. I believe in the role of the itinerant professional clergy in the servant leadership of the local church laity.  

Please describe the role of the Clergy Assistant to the Bishop as you understand it.

The work of the Clergy Assistant to the Bishop depends on the specific desires for assistance of the particular Bishop – based on their passions, strengths and growth areas. I consider myself as “in-house counsel” for the Bishop, assisting him in much of the behind the scenes decisions and actions. I thrive on being a consultant for the Cabinet in its appointive work. I also consider myself a clearinghouse for information and communication as we hold together so many groups working hard for Christ in Michigan.

What’s your vision for the Michigan Conference and your personal and pastoral commitment to assisting in its birth?

I grew up in the Detroit Conference and served in the West Michigan Conference. I voted for merging the two conferences each time it was presented in the past. I’m delighted that we are now moving forward so well together. I sincerely believe that we are better off together than separate and look forward to devoting the remained of my appointed ministry to make it work.

The Conference is shifting to a “Director Model.” What advantages do you see in that way of working together?

The Directors Table coming out of the Design Team will be a great new tool for coordinating mission and ministry. So often in the past there has been a disconnect between the Bishop’s office, the programmatic staff and the finance and administrative staff. This will be a great step forward in communication and mission alignment all across the United Methodist Church in Michigan.

What is it that nurtures, sustains and guides you in your work?

Despite its warts, I believe the Church of Jesus Christ contains the truth of Christ for all times and places. I believe it holds the prophetic message of justice and compassion that no other entity can hold and maintain. In that regard, I believe that whatever I can do to assist the Church (Capital C) and the churches (little c) in being healthy and thriving is my mission in life now. I miss the local church and its ministry and relationships. But I can do my part in making the connnectional church healthy and vibrant.

What excites you the most about the future of The Michigan Conference?

I am excited by having all United Methodists in Michigan be together in mission and ministry. Theologically, practically and symbolically, it is critical for the future for all Michigan United Methodists to see themselves as one.

What are the challenges you see as we move forward as a new Conference?

Our biggest challenge is renewing our passion for the evangelical and social witness of the Gospel. The new structure of United Methodism in Michigan is putting us in a place where making disciples will be enhanced. However, we still need the passion and the dedication to meet people with the relevant and life-saving message or the Gospel. Our desire for comfort often gets in the way. Our busy-ness often gets in the way.

Where do you see God at work in Michigan and the worldwide connection right now?

I believe that the life-giving message of Jesus Christ is as relevant and powerful now as at any time in history. As the world becomes more of a global village, the worldwide United Methodist Church must adapt to this reality and use its communications and leadership to spread the Gospel around the world. The Gospel of Christ is of critical importance in the world for peacemaking, human rights, and a just distribution of resources. The words of the hymn, “In the Midst of New Dimensions” (The Faith We Sing #2238) capture the spirit of this moment in our history as God’s people.




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