The following report was received from Pam Jackson, who attended Annual Conference on behalf of Abilene First UMC, and lightly edited for increased clarity:
Great Plains Annual Conference Report
June 10-13, 2015
This year’s Annual Conference, “Though many, One”, was held in Wichita, KS, at Century II Conference Center. The theme of the Opening Worship Session was “Unity”. Bishop Scott Jones, now in his 11th year, gave the sermon. He will serve 12 years. He said that technology has allowed the conversation to become more shallow. He said, ”We have become much more polarized and it has made it easier to demonize those who do not agree with us.” He said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” The Unity theme continued as the three Great Plains Conference Mission Partnerships with Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria were discussed. An offering was taken for these missions.
Camp enrollment is up with kids, conference wide. There was a decline from 2013-2014 in professions of faith, average worship attendance and small groups. Overall apportionments paid increased from 86.13% – 87.04. The Bishop said, “if a church is not meeting it’s apportionment obligation, it is financially unhealthy”.
- The average age of clergy is 56 and in the next 10 yrs., ½ of clergy may retire.
- Increased number of young people including 33 interns serving in various ministries.
- Bridges to the Future raised more than 8.7 million dollars to expand Hispanic ministry, Campus ministry and new church start-ups.
- Imagine No Malaria raised by GPC = $623,000. Total of $66,000,000!
- United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) 75th Anniversary. Called to be “the hands and feet of Christ”. Serve 80 Countries worldwide. UMCOR donations = $8,939,720.
- The Great Plains Conference UMW (United Methodist Women) was second in the nation in Mission Giving last year and 1st in the So. Central Jurisdiction in Mission Giving.
- The UMM (United Methodist Men) celebrated its 26th year of awarding scholarships to students who are pursuing degrees in Christian Leadership or related fields.
- Personnel Committee – proposed to retain the minimum compensation for clergy. Proposal carried.
- Clergy will continue to obtain their own insurance with an allowance of $14,232.00.
- Congregational Excellence – New feature on website called local church toolbox to help find resources to help further ministry. You will find it online at, greatplainsumc.org/toolbox
- There were three formal Worship Services: The Memorial Service with Communion celebrating the lives of 42 departed clergy or spouses from the Conference; The Retirement Service also honored 42 retiring clergy and The Ordination Service with Bishop Bruce Ough, from the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area delivering the Sermon, “Who Was I That I Could Hinder God”.
- There were a total of 23 Resolutions that were presented for approval at Annual Conference. Most of them passed with some being tabled for further consideration. Sadly the first 7 were regarding Church Closings.
- The Finance Committee presented the Budget which passed without issue. The Audit balanced to the penny and there is $75,000,000 in reserve (the vast majority of these reserves are designated for specific uses).
- There were 7 Petitions presented. Three on No Fossil Fuel Investments were defeated. Three regarding Geographic Consideration for the Election of Bishops, Holy Conferencing for the Election of Bishops and Limiting the Number of Bishops From Individual Annual Conferences all passed.
- Petition #7 – Acknowledgement of Diverse Beliefs Regarding Homosexuality, which would amend the wording in the Book of Discipline, passed 496-363 votes. There were (5) arguments for and (5) against this Petition before the vote. (No action until it is voted on at General Conf.)
- All controversial votes were cast by electronic hand held devices to ensure anonymity with the voting decisions.
- The 4 Petitions that passed will be presented at the General Conference in May 2016. No action is taken on the Petitions at the Annual Conference level.
- The most time consuming part of the Conference was the election of Delegates to represent our Conference at General Conference. There were a total of 30 elected. 6 Clergy, 6 Laity and 3 Alternates to General Conference and 6 Clergy, 6 Laity and 3 Alternates to Jurisdictional Conference. (You may be pleased to learn that the Laity completed their voting before the Clergy!) The electronic devices proved to be a bit arduous which forced an evening voting session from 7:30PM – 9:30PM on Thursday Evening cancelling some of the Social events.
- There were numerous vendors with the largest being the Cokesbury booth where a few purchases were made by most who attended.
- The music, prayers, committee reports, worship time and networking with each other was a wonderful part of the Conference time.
It was a good Annual Conference with an opportunity to see friends from Nebraska and Kansas. It was good to see Pastor Rick Saylor and his wife. They extended greetings to Abilene FUMC. Annie Ricker and Ava were there and are moving with Jason to a church appointment in S.E. Kansas. I also got to see Bob Clemence which was a nice surprise. I am not going to mention others as I will leave someone out.
I appreciate so much being allowed to serve as a Delegate to Annual Conference, representing Abilene FUMC. I thank the church for giving me this opportunity to serve on your behalf.