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2008 North Indiana Annual Conference

May 28-31, 2008, West Lafayette, Ind.

The North Indiana Annual Conference met at Purdue University using the theme "Friends with Christ, Friends with Each Other" based on John 15:15. Its 1,064 registered members discussed a 52-page Imagine Indiana Design Team report and voted by ballot on a detailed plan to unite with the South Indiana Annual Conference to form a new Indiana Conference.

The conference spent more than four hours on presentation, small group discussions and debate on the multi-layered proposal. If approved by both conferences, the new Indiana Annual Conference will have 10 districts (rather than the current 18) served by five statewide resource centers. The conference center will be located in Indianapolis. The unity vote will be announced on June 7 following a vote of the South Indiana Annual Conference session in Bloomington.

More than 300 members from both conferences have been involved in the process in addition to participants at 18 district meetings held by Indiana Area Bishop Michael Coyner. The goal is to better serve local churches than the current structure through five resource centers, a conference leadership team modeled after the denomination's Connectional Table, congregational clusters and clergy covenant groups. If approved, Coyner will appoint a transition team, and a special session of both North and South Indiana Conferences will be convened at the Indiana State Fair Grounds in Indianapolis on Oct. 4 to finalize details and elect officers. If approved, the new conference will begin functioning on Jan. 1, 2010. The two conference foundations also are discussing merger.

The Outdoor Ministry Site Project continues to progress toward a $22 million renovation of the conference's four camp sites including a new retreat center at Epworth Forest in North Webster.

The conference trustees reported they received the Oakwood Inn and Retreat Center property in Syracuse, Ind., from the Oakwood Foundation. The conference also accepted the recommendation for the sale of the Oakwood property and requested that an Oakwood endowment be established for future camping programs.

The conference unanimously endorsed the Rev. Frank Beard, Kokomo district superintendent, as an episcopal candidate to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

Tom Butcher, the denomination's first director of congregational development, outlined the national Path 1 campaign to start 650 congregations within the United States. The conference's new church development report included more that 300 projects to expand congregational ministries and celebrated the commissioning of three new congregations sponsored by existing congregations.

Other guests to annual conference included:

  • Shawn Bakker, director of The Advance, who informed the conference about extra-mile giving to missions;
  • Eboni Lemon of Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, who thanked members for supporting the Black College Fund;
  • Dan Evans, CEO of Clarian Health, who helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, the denomination's largest United Methodist-related hospital;
  • Anthony Dioh, director of Operation Classroom in Liberia, who thanked the conference for its strong partnership in rebuilding Liberia after its civil war;
  • Tom Grey, field director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, who asked Hoosier United Methodists to join in a statewide effort to stop the expansion of legalized gambling;
  • Kakez-A-Kapend Christian, who received a courtesy ordination as elder from Bishop Coyner, on behalf of the South Congo Zambia Conference. Christian is an intern at the Wesley Foundation in West Lafayette.

The body adopted resolutions, with unanimous approval, that:

  • Endorse public policy measures to end the expansion of legalized gambling in any and all forms by the Indiana State General Assembly;
  • Ask all current mission mandates be included in the new conference if it is approved; and
  • Agree to form an Iraq War Task Force to address Iraq war issues including steps to end the war.

The conference retired 15 clergy, commissioned 11 probationary members, ordained 10 elders and approved a 2009 expense budget of $8.9 million, a 9.6 percent decrease from the 2008 budget.

Membership stands at 96,320, down 699, or 0.7 percent, from 97,019. Worship attendance stands at 63,656, down 2,144.

Daniel R. Gangler