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2007 North Indiana Annual Conference

May 30-June 2, 2007, West Lafayette, Ind.

Under the theme "Imagine Indiana: Let the Church Rise," North Indiana Annual Conference met at Purdue University as its 1,082 registered members discussed a 12-page report.

The conference voted by ballot on a recommendation to unite with the South Indiana Annual Conference to form a new Indiana Conference. The unity vote will be tallied and announced on June 9 following a ballot vote of the South Indiana Annual Conference session in Bloomington.

The seven-member Imagine Indiana Planning Team, with an equal representation from each of the two conferences, convened 14 discernment teams throughout the state to envision a unified conference. More than 300 members from both conferences have been involved in the process. Two items envisioned are clustering churches geographically and forming voluntary affinity groups of churches conference-wide around specific issues, missions and ministries. If approved, Indiana Area Bishop Michael Coyner will appoint an implementation team to come to the two 2008 annual conference sessions with a detailed plan of union.

The Outdoor Ministry Site Project continues to show progress toward a $16 million renovation of the conference's four camp sites.

During the opening plenary, Bishop Coyner announced the death of retired Bishop David Lawson, an Indiana native and resident who served as bishop of the Illinois (Great Rivers) and Wisconsin Area. A memorial service will be held in Indianapolis on June 11.

Brent Williams, conference treasurer, reported that the new "tithe plus" system that replaced traditional conference apportionments is working well and that the conference is ahead of last year in financial support.

Coyner announced that the $14,000 donation for pastor's pensions from the United Methodist Publishing House will go to pastors in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

Retired Bishop Woodie White served as conference preacher and challenged members to work for justice for all. He emphasized the importance for the church to engage in justice and charity "not because we are good, but because we experience a living God who says, 'This is my world; these are my children; and I love them all.'"

In a second sermon, he told those anticipating ordination: "It's not our church, our ministry, our conference or our vision. It's Christ's. We proclaim Christ, not ourselves."

Guests included:

  • David Cumbest and Larry Davis, of the Mississippi Conference, who thanked the conference for its continued assistance to Hurricane Katrina survivors;
  • Juliana de Silva, of Kentucky Wesleyan College, who thanked members for supporting the Black College Fund;
  • Bill Cross, who was honored as he retires as Cokesbury bookstore manager after 35 years of service;
  • Missionary Ken Vance, who serves in Zambia and emphasized the need for economic development across Africa;
  • Bob Ferguson, principal of the Red Bird Mission School in Kentucky, asking for renewed financial support for the school;
  • James Salley, Africa University's institutional advancement officer, who thanked the conference for its $49,000 in support last year and for its involvement with agricultural projects at the university.

The conference also celebrated:

  • The 30th anniversary of diaconal ministry and the 10th anniversary of the permanent Order of Deacon;
  • The 20th anniversary of Operation Classroom/Operation Doctor, an area-based ministry to schools and hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Last year, 163 North Indiana churches and 50 individuals provided 800 scholarships among eight schools, plus school and medical supplies.
  • Chartering of the first Hispanic congregation in Indiana as the Cristiana Getsemani United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.

The body adopted resolutions asking congregations to pray for the people of Darfur and for Sudan's government to administer in just and fair ways; asked the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits to divest targeted funds in Sudan; and increased the priority status of campus ministry in North Indiana.

The conference voted to forward three petitions asking the General Conference to:

  • Establish a study group to review tithing as a basis for General Church apportionments;
  • Give elders and licensed pastors the responsibility to determine the readiness for those who wish to profess membership in the church;
  • Ask the General Church to support basic health care coverage to all citizens in the United States.

Lay delegates elected to General Conference are Kayc Mykranz, Carolyn Johnson, James Ottjes, Paula Shrock and Edwin Fenstermacher. Clergy delegates are Frank Beard, Kimberly Reisman, Bryan Siefert, Cindy Reynolds and Michael Dominick.

Lay delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference are Pat Weeks, Charles Hefley, Ashley Loomis, Kenneth Adams, Ruth Ellen Stone, with reserve delegates Albert Bohnstedt and Manet Shettle. Clergy delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference are Mark Fenstermacher, Michelle Cobb, Mary Eileen Spence, Chris Nunley, Gregg Parris, with reserve delegates Robert Dexter and Jean Brindel.

The conference retired 14 elders and local pastors, commissioned 11 probationary members and ordained 11 elders, and approved a 2008 budget of $9.87 million.

Membership stands at 97,028, down 1,271 or 1.3 percent. Worship attendance stands at 65,800, down 2,346. Church school average attendance stands at 25,349, down 882.

Daniel R. Gangler