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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding and Rev. Dr. Bouwens acclimating to new roles

    March 8, 2023 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, recently announced the realignment of two executive staff positions at the Conference effective March 1, 2023. The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding is now the Assistant to the Bishop, and the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens is the Director of Missional Excellence.

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding’s new role

    Since forming the Upper New York Conference (UNY), Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding has served as the Director of Connectional Ministries (DCM). He also served the role of Assistant to the Bishop simultaneously, which he took on after Christine Doran, the former Assistant to the Bishop, retired in 2015.

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said, “Bishop Webb asked me to take on some of the responsibilities of the Assistant to the Bishop, but I was never able to take them all on.”

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding’s plate was full, serving as DCM and Assistant to the Bishop; he also served as Acting Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries for three years during a pandemic!

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said, “It was challenging to balance the demands of multiple roles. Thankfully, I had great leaders to work alongside me.  Even so, there was always more I wanted to do in each of my roles.”

    With Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding’s new role, he will be able to focus fully on the Assistant to the Bishop role, and he is excited to do so.

    “With this new reconfiguration, I can go deeper into the role of Assistant to the Bishop in a more concentrated way, and I’m looking forward to that,” Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said.

    He explained some of his new responsibilities, “Before this, I was not a regular part of the Appointive Cabinet. Now, I will assist the bishop by providing logistical and administrative support to the operations of the Appointive Cabinet.

    Being on the Appointive Cabinet is a big change and an important one. The restructuring strengthens the episcopal leadership team and provides more flexibility to Bishop Burgos to give leadership in other settings in the broader church while ensuring UNY remains healthy.

    Another part of my new role is that I will serve as the Bishop’s Chief of Staff. I’ve done that de facto, but now it’s a key function. I don’t think of it as administration, but ensuring organizational health, helping increase the wellbeing and effectiveness of the Conference staff and systems.”

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding will also lead the Executive Staff Team to keep the week-by-week operations of the Conference flowing smoothly. He will continue to be related to the Conference Leadership Team and continue to be the Project Manager of the Annual Conference.

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens’ new role

    Revitalization and leadership development have always been passions of the Rev. Dr. Bouwens, and he focused on these areas as Director of Vital Congregations even though leadership development was not a part of his official job description. As Director of Missional Excellence, leadership development and congregational development are now official functions in Rev. Dr. Bouwens’ new role. But there is much more. How he does congregational and leadership development work will change some.

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens said, “Because of the breadth of my portfolio, I will be building teams to help me with the revitalization and leadership development pieces.”

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens will continue to be involved with the Conference Leadership Team and the Innovation Taskforce. He will also continue the work of the Cabinet. Additionally, he will maintain his role of providing oversight to the Directors of Missional Engagement and Spiritual Vitality.

    Speaking of his new responsibilities, Rev. Dr. Bouwens said, “Probably the biggest add of my position is working with Pam Harris on providing oversight of the Camp & Retreat Ministries.”

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens is also looking after the Conference Resource Center; he said, “With a team I am forming, we are looking at the next right thing for the Conference’s Resource Center. What’s the best way to put the needed resources in the hands of the people who want to use them?”

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens is now part of the Executive Staff Team. In addition, he will fulfill some of the functions of a DCM.

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding explained, “Aaron will now represent our Conference on the Vision Table of the Northeastern Jurisdiction where a seat is set aside for DCMs. This role is significant—the DCMs bring missional energy to that body.”


    Partnership is important in carrying out the mission of the Church.

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said, “Aaron and I will be working on many things together and that partnership is really a key part of what Bishop Héctor has in mind.”

    “This new alignment, brings much needed focus to functions that are key to moving forward the mission and vision of the Conference, and it will also allow for greater collaboration and integration which will amplify our missional capacity to equip and resource our leaders and congregations in the years to come,” said Bishop Héctor.

    An example of the collaboration that Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding and Rev. Dr. Bouwens are exploring is identifying new funding sources through grant opportunities for initiatives to help increase UNY leadership and congregational development.

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding emphasized how the collaboration between Rev. Dr. Bouwens and him will be effective in supporting  local churches and ministries throughout the UNY Conference, “Everything in the Conference structure needs to be oriented to delivering resources and support to the local church, so they can effectively engage in the mission. Bishop Héctor has been very intentional in linking us together in this way so that we can bring all the elements of the Conference together around supporting the mission.”

    Rev. Dr. Bouwens piggybacked on Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding’s observation and said “Bishop Héctor has given a lot of clarity and focus to our roles. There were a lot of things that Bill and I willingly and for the most part, happily, did in our prior roles that weren’t necessarily within our area of work, but we knew they needed to get done. Now we know exactly what our work is to do which is energizing and triggers greater creativity and effectiveness.

    As far as collaboration, innovation needs roots in both the organizational health and ministry, so these are the collaborative conversations we will have to best position the Conference for future work.”

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding and Rev. Dr. Bouwens finished their thoughts on collaboration with a discussion about the importance of teams.

    “The definition of success is ‘how am I enabling others to do the work they are called to do?’ Aaron and I are building the leadership capacity of everyone we work with both staff and non-staff and trusting that God has provided us with all the people needed to faithfully continue moving forward in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding said.

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office / Vital Congregations

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."