Dear Members and Friends of Central United Methodist Church,
As Chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, I wish to announce to you the
appointment of Rev. Dr. Joan VanDessel as our new Associate Pastor effective July 1, 2023.
Pastor Joan was introduced to our Staff Parish Relations Committee recently as our
next Associate Pastor by our District Superintendent, Rev. Jodie Flessner, on behalf of Bishop
David Bard, who set this new appointment in consultation with the Clergy Assistant to the
Bishop and the Appointive Cabinet. Pastors Chris and Linda and our committee are excited
about the spirit, gifts, and abilities that Pastor Joan will bring to our congregation.
As some of you may remember, Pastor Joan was a guest preacher here last October 23. She is
currently the Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids, a downtown
church of similar size and mission as ours. In her role there, she has helped to foster community
ministries like the First Church Work Program and the MLK Tutoring Center. She has been a
strong leader with the Missions committee and Social Justice committee and has continued to
reach out to the community to develop partnerships for shared ministry. In an earlier life,
Pastor Joan was a music professor at Cornerstone University. She is an accomplished musician
with a great love of the arts.
Our committee was also delighted to meet and get to know Pastor Joan’s wife, Shammora “Sham”.
We will be planning a warm celebration for Pastor Joan and her wife as she accepts this new
role in July. We will also celebrate Pastor Linda in her new role as our Senior Pastor.
In the meantime, of course, we will also be celebrating the ministry of Pastor Chris Lane to
thank him for his years of faithful service as we pray God’s blessing upon his future. Please hold
Pastor Chris and family in prayer during these months of transition.
Pray, too, for the whole Cabinet, including Bishop David Bard, as they continue to meet, pray,
and discern God’s will in the appointment-making process. We trust God’s amazing grace,
Christ’s faithful love, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as we move into the future.
Serving Christ with you,
Staff Parish Relations Committee Chair
John Ellinger says
We take another step step forward with the appointment of Linda Stephan as our “new” lead pastor as of July 1 and the appointment of Joan Van Nessel as our next Associate Pastor. We should celebrate having two women leading Central Church for the first time! Let us look forward to welcoming Joan and her wife, Sham, into the ministry of Central Church.