Prior to Bishop Lanette Plambeck’s assignment to the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area, Rev. Cindy Gregorson indicated her intention to transition out of the roles of director of connectional ministries and clergy assistant to the bishop at the end of the 2023-2024 appointment year.
To allow ample time for onboarding, Bishop Lanette has announced her intention to appoint Rev. Carol Zaagsma assistant to the bishop for connectional ministries, effective July 1, 2024. Rev. Zaagsma’s responsibilities will include stewarding the mission, vision, and values of the Minnesota Annual Conference through administrative leadership; aligning the work of our Annual Conference boards, agencies, and commissions; and strengthening the connections between local, district, annual conference, and general church ministries.
Bishop Lanette has also announced her intention to appoint Rev. Fred Vanderwerf assistant to the bishop for transitions and development in a part-time capacity beginning July 1, 2023; he will serve in this position for up to three years. Following the 2022 Minnesota Annual Conference, Interim Bishop David Bard formed a Transitional Table to explore how to best position the Minnesota Conference for the future in terms of staffing, structure, and resources. Team members will submit their report at the 2023 Annual Conference and hand off their research and recommendations to a newly forming Bishop’s Leadership Council. Vanderwerf will play a key role on that council and in guiding the system and strategy to position the conference for long-term vitality.
The right people for the roles
Rev. Carol Zaagsma currently serves as lead pastor at Good Samaritan UMC in Edina. She has served in several leadership roles within the larger church, including as co-chair of the Minnesota Conference Sessions Planning Team, chair of the Minnesota Episcopacy Committee, and a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
Bishop Lanette noted that Zaagsma’s administrative skills will be invaluable as various leadership teams work to assess and align the personnel, programs, policies, and resources of the conference.
“Carol is the right person for this role,” she said. “Not only does Carol possess a keen mind for strategic and organizational leadership; she also leads from a posture of humility, integrity, and faithfulness. She will be a fine partner in ministry. Further, her vision for beloved community and identity as a Christ-follower in the Wesleyan way will be a great blessing.”
Zaagsma looks forward to the opportunity to serve the conference as assistant to the bishop.
“Before ordained ministry, I worked in the financial services industry, which is highly regulated,” she said. “While there, I came to understand that how you do something is just as important as the end result. In my experience as clergy in the local church, I discovered the importance of identifying the clear why we do what we do. Of course, both are critical because the hows and the whys ultimately have an impact on the people. I am excited to work on aligning our processes and procedures (how) with our mission, vision, and values (why). I believe this will make a difference for all the people of the Minnesota Conference.”
For the past eight years, Rev. Fred Vanderwerf has served the conference as Southern Prairie District superintendent. He considers himself a missionary at heart and previously spent nine years as a missionary in Ukraine. In addition to serving the conference in a new capacity, he will work in a part-time role for the General Board of Global Ministries as coordinator for “In Mission Together—Ukraine.” In that position, he will develop and expand global partnerships with Ukraine, tell the story of what is happening there, connect the geographically dispersed Ukranian church, and equip its United Methodist leaders for planting and evangelism.
“Fred has been serving as the dean of the Appointive Cabinet and has a beautiful commitment to the now and future United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Lanette. “His leadership as a superintendent has been very effective and as we vision a new way of superintending and supporting clergy and faith communities in the conference, I believe he will guide well the system and strategy that will be stewarded by the Bishop’s Leadership Council. Further, I am overjoyed to be able to model for the greater connection what partnered ministry can look like in our worldwide United Methodist Church. The United Methodists of war-torn Ukraine will benefit from Fred’s presence and leadership. I certainly didn’t imagine forming a two-point charge of such a commute—but this is connectional ministry at its very best.”
Vanderwerf is eager to live into both of his new roles and to continue to serve the conference.
“When I go to a conference and sign up for breakout sessions, I don’t look at the topic—I look at the leader,” he said. “I’ve signed up for this because I believe we have a great leader in Bishop Lanette. I believe in her desire for us to enter into new ways of doing church together, while leaning into the old core of who we are as people in the Wesleyan movement.”
Forming a new team
Bishop Lanette, Zaagsma, and Vanderwerf will work closely together as a team—and both Zaagsma and Vanderwerf are excited to learn from and with each other.
“I have always admired Fred’s evangelistic heart and down-to-earth way of talking about Jesus,” Zaagsma said. “The experience Fred brings as a missionary and a district superintendent is crucial as he steps into these two new roles. Our styles and perspectives often differ, but we share the same love of Wesleyan theology and commitment to The United Methodist Church. I wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity to work and collaborate with Fred, as I believe we complement one another in ways that will help usher our annual conference into an exciting future.”
Vanderwerf echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve known Carol to be incredibly thoughtful and generously active in her desire to listen and understand others,” he said. “That has blessed me personally. And I believe it’s blessed our conference as she has been integral in shaping the now well-articulated values of the conference—rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation. I’ve seen these same values imprinted on her heart. Carol and I share a common desire for a conference that leans into the possibility of healing and hope in Jesus. I am so grateful to work near her in the coming years.”
Bishop Lanette expressed deep gratitude for Gregorson’s 12 years as director of connectional ministries and 22 years on the conference staff.
“As you consider Cindy’s institutional memory, her commitment to all levels of ministry, and her deep love for the conference, I am in awe and wonder of all that she holds in her roles and the effectiveness at which she does her ministry,” said Bishop Lanette. “She is gifted, called, and committed and has genuinely been the best partner in these early months of my assignment to Minnesota. I am grateful to have her guiding these transitions and I know she will serve the conference well in these next 14 months and beyond. Even as I celebrate her many accomplishments, I also take advantage of every opportunity to learn from her. There is no doubt in my mind that Cindy will encourage and resource Carol effectively and efficiently to the many nuances of her ministry.”
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