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2007 Missouri Annual Conference

June 10-13, 2007, Jackson

The Missouri Annual Conference continues to follow the course to the future that was presented at a special March 31 "called session." The June 1-4 conference approved a budget, along with changes in structures and programs toward that vision.

Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase began addressing the changes in his episcopal address. "I'm optimistic," he said. "I feel like we've got some good years ahead. I pray our work has been faithful and will be wonderfully fruitful in the end as well."

The bishop reminded delegates that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. He cited the biblical story of Abraham setting out not knowing where he was going and compared that to transitional points in life like getting married, having children or getting a new job. The conference, said Schnase, is now also at a transitional point. "The next phrase about Abraham is, '&ellipsis;and he looked forward.'"

The conference has moved toward congregations keeping more of their resources to use in missions of choice. Delegates approved a conference budget of $739,000, which was less than the previous year.

A new, simpler apportionment formula was adopted. It drops attendance and membership factors and bases apportionments entirely on church expenses (excluding expenditures such as mission giving and capital improvements).

The core structure of leadership in the conference is changing also, as recommended by the Pathways Task Force, a group appointed by the bishop to develop plans to better align the conference structure and resources with its mission of leading congregations to lead people to actively follow Jesus Christ.

"A key change in our direction is the way a conference is governed between conferences, primarily through the Council on Ministries," said Larry Fagan, conference lay leader. The council, he said, has been strong in communication and weak in visioning and accountability because of a structure that encourages focus on the present and the past but not the future.

In addition, the council is too large for effective decision making, Fagan said. The Pathways task force recommends creating a mission council smaller then the current body. The members will not lead other conference committees, but will work at providing vision to the other committees.

"We are recommending that the chair of the mission council be the bishop," Fagan said. The current structure isolates the bishop, denying the conference the vision of the episcopal leadership. "The current conference council has made the decision to suspend its work," announced the Rev. Carl Schenck of the Pathways Task Force. "The Pathways team will become the interim council, laying the foundation for future fruitfulness."

Private donations from lay members provided each conference delegate with Bishop Schnase's new book The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. People shared during a learning time how they had been putting the book into practice in local congregations.

This year, 12 people were ordained in the Missouri Conference, with five of them under the age of 40. Four guests from Mozambique attended the conference session, and an offering for disaster response in Mozambique collected more than $30,000.

Lay delegates elected to General Conference are Larry Fagan, Beverly Boehmer, Randy Biggerstaff, Jerry Ruth Williams, Margie Briggs, Casey Andrews, Carol Smith and Shannon Meister. Clergy delegates are Cody Collier, James Bryan, Steve Breon, Bob Farr, Sally Haynes, Michele Sue Shumake-Keller, Amy Gearhart Sage and Ron Watts.

Lay delegates elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are Nathan Jeffries, Don Mowery, Roslyn Kelley-Sykes, Betsy Vicente, Jerry Akins, Deb Spaulding, Andrew Ponder Williams and Rufus Harding.

Clergy delegates elected to South Central Jurisdictional Conference are Nancye Dunlap, Carl Schenck, Brent Mustoe, Yolanda Villa, Bruce Baxter, Robin Roderick, Emanuel Cleaver III, and Bob Cassidy.

Lay delegate alternates are Mike Sykuta and Weldon Macke. Fagan is the head of the delegation. Clergy delegate alternates are Ann Mowery and Cathleen Burnett.

Membership stands at 171,443, down 2,351 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 84,253, down 1,050. Church school attendance stands at 32,621, down 987.

Gwen Green