It is time to go “public” with some really good news. Some of you have already heard this news which was shared at the “Our Life Together” Clergy Retreat two weeks ago, and it was also shared with the youth at the Bishop’s Youth Rally last Saturday. Now it is time to share this good news with everyone as we move into what we are calling the “Public Phase” of our capital campaign drive for “Building Discipleship Centers.”

As a reminder: the 2015 Session of the Indiana Conference voted unanimously to approve a campaign to raise $6 million to build a new Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest, with additional “victory goals” of completing the Buck Lodge at Epworth, building the lake project at Camp Indicoso, and establishing a Scholarship Fund to help youth go to our camps. That total goal then was estimated to be $9 million – which represents the largest campaign goal ever attempted by the former North or former South or the new Indiana Conference. We have been working through a “quiet phase” to contact lead donors, and now we are able to share this good news. Ready? To date we have $7.7 million in cash and pledges! That includes gifts of $6.1 million for the Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest, $400,000 previously raised for the Buck Lodge, and an additional $1.4 million in designated gifts to expand the Discipleship Center to include a Young Leaders Center, an outdoor stage, a meditation porch overlooking the lake, and a historical center to honor our past.

Given the success, so far, of our Campaign, we are planning to hold a Ground-Breaking Service of Celebration at Epworth Forest on Sunday afternoon, August 7th, to start the construction of the new Discipleship Center there. If our campaign goes well between now and then, we hope to have a ground-breaking the same day for the Buck Lodge (honoring the memory of Rev. Stan Buck), and we would love to have a ground-breaking on that same weekend at Camp Indicoso for the lake project there.

Now we are ready for the “public phase” of this campaign which will continue to seek lead gifts but which will expand with contacts and communications to a variety of groups seeking gifts from everyone who wants to help support this project. The timeline for this “public phase” is that we want to do as much as possible in the next 13 weeks leading up to this year’s Annual Conference Session (June 9-11). We believe it will be a great celebration!

Why all of this effort to build Discipleship Centers? Let me remind you: we want every local congregation to be a Discipleship Center where people are brought into the Christian faith and encouraged on their discipleship journey. We know that our camps and retreat ministries can partner with our local churches to help this discipleship-making process happen.

Why now? Because the Conference leaders have identified the need, and because they asked me, “What legacy project would be a good way of honoring your leadership as our bishop these past 12 years?” I answered out of my own experience of God’s call at church camp and replied that this kind of campaign would be a wonderful legacy. I am honored and thrilled to think that we will provide additional facilities and scholarships so that many more persons of all ages can experience what I did at camp – namely they will experience the love of God in an atmosphere of Christian community, which will draw them forward into saying “Yes” to God and following Jesus Christ.

That is why I am involved in this campaign. That is why I am excited to “go public” with the good news of our progress to date.

In the next couple of weeks you will hear much more about how you can get involved in helping to finish this campaign and to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, and adults. So – please – share this good news. Go public with the Good News of Christ, and go public with the good news of our campaign to build Discipleship Centers all around Indiana.

Thanks be to God!