Clergy and their family members who need a safe and confidential place to go for help with personal issues, concerns and stresses now have it with the new Clergy Services Director of the Indiana Conference.
As the new director of this position that began Jan. 1, 2015, the Reverend R. Michael Warner has a broad charter from Indiana Conference Bishop Mike Coyner: To provide confidential pastoral care for clergy (both active and retired) and their families. Warner will provide a space for short-term confidential conversations regarding personal issues, concerns and stresses. He will serve as the initial contact for clergy and families, as well as discern together if needed, next steps for pastoral care that may include referral to additional resources.
“This is really a ministry of care for our clergy and their families,” Warner said. “We want to provide a safe place for people to come and talk. It’s stressful being clergy or in a clergy family, living in a glass house.”
For the past 20 years, Warner served in the Air Force as a chaplain to troops in more than 30 countries, with his most recent assignment as the deputy command chaplain at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, a position roughly equivalent to being a District Superintendent of a very large district. He retired from the Air Force last year. He also has an extensive background in local church leadership, having served Bradley UMC in Greenfield, Old Bethel in Indianapolis and Arlington in Bloomington.
“I have always, always had a passion for pastoral care and counseling,” Warner shares, “It’s just the way God has wired me.”
Warner stresses that the service he provides is confidential and free of cost.
“The conversations are completely confidential,” he said. “This is a stand-alone resource. No information is relayed to anyone in the chain of command,” Warner states using a military term for those in one’s line of supervision.
In fact, this new director won’t even have an office in the Conference Center. Working from a remote location, no one from the conference or district will even know a person is talking to him. He will be available to talk by email, Skype or in person at a conference or district event. No topic of conversation will be out of bounds, whether marital, financial, problems with congregations, problems within families or any other issues clergy or their family members may encounter and/or may be experiencing.
Warner further shares, “This ministry is designed for short-term conversations. If professional counseling will be helpful, I can get the person connected to those resources.”
While this is a new position for the Indiana Conference, Bishop Coyner said it is just a continuation of a long-term commitment to clergy and their families.
“The Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church has a long history of commitment to the psychological and spiritual wellness of its clergy and their families,” said Bishop Coyner. “In recent years that commitment has included utilizing the Buchanan Counseling Center for such services, along with the development of Rejuvenate Ministry of the Indiana United Methodist Foundation.”
When changes at Buchanan made those services unavailable last fall, IU Health made a $3 million contribution to the Indiana Conference to help address and promote the psychological and spiritual wellness of clergy.
As the ministry develops, Warner’s priority will be to get to know people in the conference one on one, by Skype or telephone, and to develop resources for clergy and their families, whether off-the-shelf self-help resources like books or professional resources to refer people.
“I am delighted that Mike has agreed to serve as our first Director of Clergy Care Services,” Bishop Coyner said. “As a clergy member of the Indiana Conference and as a retired Air Force chaplain, he has a wonderful knowledge of Indiana and has the experience to help us develop this new ministry to assist our clergy and their families. Mike has a very caring and pastoral style, as well as knowledge of resources and services, so he will provide confidential support to our clergy and families who reach out to him.”
Warner also shares, “It’s tough struggling with a multitude of challenges presented in today’s culture, expectations and pressures in our most areas of our lives ... and it’s all lived out in the context of a culture that is increasingly suspect of religious faith. How do you walk through those waters? Where do you turn to process the complexity of life? Perhaps there’s never been a more rewarding or challenging time to serve as a clergy. Our folks need a safe, trusted and confidential place to share their story … because sometimes, we all need someone to listen and care.”
Any clergy person or family member who would like to contact Mike Warner may do so through his cell phone at 317/550-5406 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.