Allen oversees multiple regions for Disciples of Christ
PARKERSBURG — Within the Disciples of Christ denomination, there are 32 regions in the United States and Canada.
In the mid-morning hours the Rev. Thad Allen sits in his second floor office at the denomination’s First Christian Church on Washington Avenue. A cup of coffee in one hand, a laptop nearby on his desk. Regional minister mail from West Virginia and Pennsylvania makes its way to his desk.
From that office, Allen oversees not only West Virginia but Pennsylvania as the regional and administrative leader for the DOC. The two states do not make a single region but are two regions. And that fact alone makes Allen the only regional minister in the entire denomination with more than one region to watch over.
“West Virginia and Pennsylvania’s regions entered into a staff sharing relationship in 2014 when Pennsylvania had a leadership transitional time,” Allen said. “I take energy from leading a great staff across both regional churches.
“I had seven years of experience in West Virginia which were helpful for taking on this holy assignment,” he continued. “It is a great model for middle judicatory life. We were early adapters.”
Besides West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Allen also oversees a portion of Maryland, Garrett and Allegheny counties. The counties are a part of the West Virginia region so that makes two entire states and part of a third.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Parish Disciples of Christ was formed in 2006 by two separate congregations: First Christian Church and Central Christian Church in Marietta. Even though the churches are in different regions, they share a single minister.
But as close as Marietta is to Parkersburg, it’s not within Allen’s responsibility, whereas First Christian of Scranton, Pa., is. That’s a 434-mile trip, one way. Six hours and 37 minutes between city limits on the wideworld of Internet maps.
“Every local congregation is part of a regional church,” Allen said, “and that region is much like a diocese in the Catholic church. I am pastor to 150 ministers and 88 congregations. I do the oversight of commissioning and ordaining of the clergy and I preach 45 times a year in different areas.”
“There’s not a whole lot of churches within West Virginia that I can’t drive to and back in one day,” he said. “Some of those in Pennsylvania? Now that’s a different story. A number of those, yes, it is an overnight trip. But around the holidays, Easter and Christmas, I’m trying to stay around the church and family.”
Thad’s father, the Rev. Bill Allen, sat in his chair before him. “Dad was a wonderful model of how things should be done from this office,” he said. “He and I both have wonderful wives who are gifts from God. They understand our calling and let us go off and do our thing on the weekend.”
Rev. Bill’s “gift” is Gwen. Thad’s “gift” is Jennifer. Thad and Jennifer have two daughters, Kaylie, who is a senior at Parkersburg High, and Haddae, who is a sophomore. Kaylie will be attending Bethany College in the fall. Bethany College is a Disciples of Christ sponsored college. Thad is on the Board of Trustees, which just had the archives of the school moved from Nashville to Bethany.
“Every day I get to be involved,” he said. “I get to be involved and help congregations and the members of those congregations. It’s fulfilling work. Collegiality is huge with covenant and unity.”
Allen said the parishes are from “Weirton to Huntington along the Ohio River. Down Interstate 77 to Charleston, Beckley and Bluefield and across Cumberland, Md. “It makes a nice big ‘K’ for the region.
“But having these two regions energizes you as you see the two regions learning about each other’s gifts,” he said.
“The church is unity driven,” Allen said. “We have a code of conduct. Part of my role is to help ministers to be the best servants we can be.
“One of the hardest things I have to do is to enter into a conflict,” he continued.
“It’s always a pastoral conflict and by the time I have to enter into a conflict, it’s bad. Like I said, for the Disciples of Christ, unity and covenant is a value. The regional minister is called to promote peace and unity within the church. We’re called to be agents of reconciliation. A divided church presents a divided God. People are suspective enough of organizations today, especially of the church. In a world of the fearful, we, the church, can’t be that way.”
“In my ministry I have to put my own opinion on hold and work on the unification of the church body and keep it whole,” Allen said. “I’d rather be together than be right and that’s not always easy. But there is this, when there is open conflict and chaos, God does some of his best work in chaos. The gospel means ‘good news.’
“We are called to be obsessed with loving and caring for them,” he said speaking of “our brothers and sisters in the world. We can care for someone who is different from us.”
That’s a rarity when Allen has to step in like that. “When the church is given the chance to be Christian, it is,” he said. “It’s a beautiful, loving vessel God has chosen to be on this earth.”