Bishop Names First Director of Newly Created Arkansas Conference ReStart Initiative

September 9, 2022 – Bishop Gary E. Mueller and the Appointive Cabinet, in their roles as Chief Mission Strategists, have made it a priority to support those who will remain United Methodist even if their congregations ultimately disaffiliate.

As part of this work, they recently launched the Arkansas Conference ReStart Initiative to provide support, care, and opportunities to help those remaining United Methodists chart their futures. Today, Bishop Mueller is announcing the creation of a new position to lead this effort and appointing its first Director, the Rev. Dr. Michael Roberts.

Bishop Mueller stated, “I am delighted that Dr. Roberts has agreed to serve as the first Director of the Arkansas ReStart Initiative. Michael is passionate about the future of the church. He brings indepth knowledge and experience after his years with Connected in Christ and service as Sr. Pastor at Conway First United Methodist Church. He is a perfect match for this position at this time. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Michael, thankful for his willingness to serve, and excited about the work he will do in this position.”

Financial support for this position will come from the conference budget money designated for new church starts and funds that the Conference Board of Trustees has made available to the Appointive Cabinet for new church starts from the sale of closed churches.

Dr. Roberts will serve as a member of the Cabinet and work closely with the Appointive Cabinet and individual District Superintendents; support those in disaffiliating congregations who will remain United Methodist; offer pastoral care; organize worship opportunities; connect those who wish to join another United Methodist congregation in the area; create networks and systems of laity and clergy support; and work with remaining United Methodists to determine the most appropriate ReStart Initiative for their congregation.

Dr. Roberts shared, “The challenge before us is born in much pain; the possibilities before us are rooted in God’s continuing love for all. I am honored to help lead this new ministry and invite prayers for inspiration and especially for all who need an extra measure of care and support within our beloved church.”

Roberts has served 10 years as senior pastor of First UMC, Conway. He previously served as Director of Connected In Christ, a ministry of the Arkansas Conference to facilitate connections for faithful and fruitful ministry among clergy and congregations. He has also served as pastor at St. Paul UMC in Fort Smith, Gardner Memorial UMC in North Little Rock, and First UMC Russellville, as an associate pastor. Michael is a delegate to the General and Jurisdictional Conference. He holds degrees from the University of Central Arkansas (B.A), Duke University Divinity School (M.Div), and Southern Methodist University (D.Min). He is married to the Rev. Dede Roberts and together they have three grown children and are the guardians of two grandchildren. Favorite pastimes include playing guitar, writing, and theological conversation among friends.

He will begin this new appointment on October 1.