Category Archives: Great Plains Conference

2023 Great Plains Annual Conference Preview

The 2023 Great Plains Annual Conference (GPAC) will meet in two segments. The first segment is May 31, 2023 online to consider administrative actions, including the disaffiliation requests of 155 churches in the GPAC and the closure of a few churches not associated with disaffiliation. The second segment will be in person on June 7-10 in LaVista, Nebraska.

The Lay Member to the GPAC for CAUMC, Forrest Buhler, has prepared a summary of the actions to be taken on the budget, the Petition, and Resolutions. A link to that document is below. If you have any questions or wish to express your thoughts, you may contact Forrest by email at or by phone 785-477-4385.

2023 Great Plains Annual Conference Preview

Hopeful Signs Among Disaffiliations

From Forrest Buhler, CAUMC Lay Representative to the Great Plains Annual Conference:

I thought you might be interested in an article entitled “Taking stock after a season of disaffiliations” published December 15, 2022, by the United Methodist News (UM News), the official source of information and news about The United Methodist Church. The link to the article is below. The article puts together in one place information and links on the results of disaffiliations so far from across the
United States. You will also see a link in the article to stories showing how this is impacting the budget process for the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration.

Overall Numbers in the US. The article includes the numbers so far for Jurisdictions and Conferences in the US. All disaffiliations from the UMC must be completed by the end of 2023, so there is still more to come (see link below), but the article helps to give a picture of what the numbers are at this point. For example, the UM News says that 2,003 churches in the U.S. have disaffiliated so far. That translates to about 6.6% of U.S. congregations withdrawing since 2019 when the church’s disaffiliation provision took effect. The Southeastern Jurisdiction has the highest number of withdrawals.

South Central Jurisdiction Numbers that Include the Great Plains Conference. The article includes a chart with the total number of disaffiliations in each of the five Jurisdictions in the UMC. Our Great Plains Conference, made up of Kansas and Nebraska churches, is in the South Central Jurisdiction, which includes the states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to the article: “The Texas Conference, stretching from the Houston area to the eastern part of the state, on Dec. 4 approved the highest number of disaffiliations — 294, or nearly half of its 598 churches. The Northwest Texas Conference, voting on the same day, ratified the highest percentage of disaffiliations — 74%, or 145 of its 196 churches.” Similarly high numbers were recorded for churches in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. There is a link in the article to the numbers for each of the Conferences in the United States.

Great Plains Conference Numbers Relatively Small. So comparatively speaking, the 77 disaffiliations we have experienced so far in the Great Plains Conference out of about 960 local congregations, is much lower than the conferences elsewhere. In addition, the income on which the Great Plains Conference based its budget for 2023 increased over previous years.

Hopeful signs. There are hopeful signs as well. The article says even with the disaffiliation, there are still more than 28,500 United Methodist congregations in the U.S. The article also reports new congregations forming made up of members who did not agree with the disaffiliating church’s decision.

The link to the article is as follows:

Link to Special Sessions for disaffiliations in 2023:

All Day Zooming

I won’t be in the office at all today because I’m working from home, attending an all-day (9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) Zoom meeting of the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. I’m inclined to complain about this, but as a clergy person, my “church membership” is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. That means my serving on this committee is equivalent to the many meetings that you all attend for College Avenue UMC. So I’m going to suck it up and do my best.

Remaining United Methodist

Bishop Saenz has put out a video about why he will remain United Methodist following the launch of the Global Methodist Church  (GMC) on May 1, 2022. He names many of the reasons why I will remain United Methodist as well. The United Methodist Church has long been a big tent denomination and I love the image the Bishop used of the UMC having a hard Jesus center and being soft around the edges to include all kinds of folks. 

And because I had a question about this, let me assure you that remaining United Methodist as a member of Abilene First is easy. You just stay right where you are. There’s nothing else you need to do. If you’re conservative, and you choose to stay—fear not—it looks like you’ll have plenty of company. The UMC will remain a big tent denomination.

Conference Worship Guidelines

The Great Plains Annual Conference has shared some guidelines for worship in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. A pdf document of those guidelines is available here. Please note that is the recommended place to go to find out our county’s risk level. Please also note the sentence “Continue to follow recommendations from the CDC on wearing masks throughout this process.” That means that we will continue to wear masks for now.

New District Superintendent

Our current District Superintendent, Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston will become the new Director of Clergy Excellence and Assistant to the Bishop effective July 1. You can read more here. I’ll miss Dee, but I’m very excited for her to receive this opportunity and bring her gifts to bear for the entire annual conference.

Rev. Williamston will be replaced by Rev. Karen Rice Ratzlaff, who I think will be an excellent DS. (Jenny knows her better than I do and she agrees with this assessment.) You can read more about Rev. Ratzlaff here. Like Dee, she will be serving both the Salina and Hutchinson Districts.

The 2021 Annual Conference Will Be Virtual

2021 ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL BE VIRTUAL — This week it was announced that the 2021 Annual Conference (the meeting of United Methodists from all over Kansas and Nebraska) will again be held online. The explanation from the Bishop (and I agree) is as follows:

“As we enjoy warming temperatures, spring moves closer on our horizon, and the COVID-19 pandemic appears finally to be easing across Kansas and Nebraska, vaccinations across our two states lag. Put simply, with us coming so close to overcoming the virus, now is not the time to put down our guard or put people at risk. This is why we will not meet in person on May 26-29 in Grand Island, Nebraska, as previously planned.”

The theme for this annual conference session is: “Love me … and know that I am God” (Psalm 46; John 21:15-19).

Conference Online Communion Service

Received from the Great Plains Annual Conference:

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. invites clergy and laity of the Great Plains Conference to a special online communion worship service as an act of pastoral care and encouragement after a contentious election season.
Please prepare to virtually join together in worship by securing bread and grape juice for when the bishop consecrates and distributes the elements that night. Substitutes include crackers and water.
The worship service will be livestreamed from the conference website and from the conference Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.


Installation of New District Superintendents

From the Great Plains Conference Website:

Join in a worship service to celebrate the installation of new District Superintendents Rev. Tom Brady serving Five Rivers and Parsons Districts, Rev. Jenny Collins Flint Hills and Topeka Districts and Rev. Dee Williamston serving Hutchinson and Salina Districts. The combined worship service will be the first in a joint online service for all 6 districts. We will get to hear from each of the District Superintendents [in] an hour[-long service] of worship. Everyone will be invited to leave a word, prayer or scripture verse blessing their new District Superintendent in the chat window at the end of the service.

You Can register to attend online.


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information on how to link in by computer or phone.

You can also download a bulletin.