2007 West Michigan Annual Conference
May 31-June 3, 2007, Grand Rapids, Mich.
The theme of the West Michigan Annual Conference was "All Connected: Fully-Formed Lives," and conference members assembled a large puzzle of pictures depicting people in ministry and mission.
Michigan Area Transition Team co-chairs the Rev. Benton Heisler and Paul Thomas presented the team's progress toward creating a new single conference in the Michigan Area.
Members celebrated the 300th birthday of Charles Wesley, a prolific hymn writer and the brother of Methodism founder John Wesley.
Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, addressed the conference and said "business as usual" no longer suffices. He said The United Methodist Church is called to focus and refocus on the mission.
Conference members adopted resolutions calling for the conference to:
- Encourage President Bush and Congress to provide continued federal support to Gulf Coast victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita; encourage Bush to keep his pledge to address issues of race and poverty that were laid bare by this tragedy; and encourage conference churches to continue to help victims;
- Ask the president and Congress to "take positive and immediate steps to end the war and occupation of Iraq;
- Ask the president and Congress to uphold the Geneva Convention prohibition against mistreatment and torture;
- Request the president and Michigan's congressional delegation to support justice and peace for the people of Darfur;
- Instruct conference agencies and those holding meetings to refrain from using Ice Mountain water, bottled by Nestle; the resolution asks local churches to do the same.
The conference endorsed petitions to the 2008 General Conference to:
- Add a paragraph to the Social Principles (Para. 160A) expressing concern about the privatization and commodification of water resources;
- Amend the Constitution of The United Methodist Church (Division 1, Article IV) re: membership to include the words "gender, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, and ability" to the definition of "all persons" eligible for membership;
- Amend Para. 214 to say that "no person shall be excluded from membership in The United Methodist Church for reasons related to his or her sexual orientation or gender identity."
In other business, the conference voted to continue to provide domestic partner benefits for eligible conference employees; adopted a plan for sale of escrowed, unneeded parsonage sale funds for other missional use; and revised guidelines for Equitable Compensation Support and eligibility.
Conference Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton declared September 2007 to be Open House Month, using Igniting Ministries materials and also focusing on the Nothing But Nets campaign to raise money to combat malaria in Africa.
Special offering totals demonstrate the conference's longtime commitment to missional giving: UMCOR/Haiti, $7,470; UMCOR/Global AIDS Fund, $4,420; United Methodist Community House in Grand Rapids, $3,467. Conference youth raised $2,550 for the Youth Service Fund.
The conference elected delegates to the 2008 General Conference. Clergy elected: Benton Heisler, Lansing; Laurie Haller, Grand Rapids; Russell Mc Reynolds, Lansing. Laity elected: Laurie Dahlman, Kalamazoo; Joel Pier-Fitzgerald, Holland (young adult); Rebecca Farnum, Mt. Pleasant (youth).
Conference members also elected delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Clergy elected: Jerome DeVine, Albion; John Boley, Mt. Pleasant; Lynn Pier-Fitzgerald, Holland. Laity elected: Sarah Hehyoung Baek, Kentwood; Lois Moseley, Grand Rapids; Steven Lett, Laingsburg. Alternates elected: the Revs. Joy Moore, Greenville, and Bradley Kalajainen, Caledonia; Nichea VerVeer Guy, Grand Rapids, and David Lundquist, Kalamazoo.
Statistical information on membership and worship attendance is not available at this time.