2009 Minnesota Annual Conference
May 26-29, 2009, St. Cloud, Minn.
"Why did the United Methodist cross the road?" Bishop Sally Dyck asked at the opening of the
Minnesota Annual Conference session.During her episcopal address on May 26, Dyck introduced this year's conference-wide theme, "Who is My Neighbor?" drawn from the Good Samaritan story. Minnesota United Methodists will be developing ministry with their "neighbors" over the coming year as a way to pursue the conference gospel imperatives: reach new people and cultivate spiritual vitality. "Why would United Methodists cross the road? Because Jesus always crossed the road and we will find him there on the other side of the road, with and in our neighbor," Dyck said.
The worship services, seminars, and much of the conference legislation reflected this theme. The bishop also reiterated her three goals for the conference: 100 percent apportionment payments, the highest percentage of young adult clergy among all annual conferences, and an increase of at least one in the conference membership statistics by 2012.
To start thinking about who their neighbors are and how to reach them, conference members chose from among three Wednesday night seminars: Rethink Church, lead by the Rev. Larry Homitsky of Pittsburgh; understanding the spiritual perspectives of young adults, led by the Rev. Annie Arnoldy of Grand Junction, Colo.; and ministry across class differences, led by Jodi Pfarr, director of Emma Norton Services in Saint Paul. Clergy learned about a new focused continuing education process and church-development strategy that will require churches to prepare a ministry plan using Natural Church Development (www.ncd-international.org) and clergy to create performance and development plans that work together to put churches on the path to vital ministry.
The majority of those voting favored the 23 amendments to the United Methodist Church constitution that deal with the worldwide nature of the church; affirmative vote totals ranged from 64 percent to 65percent. The majority voting also favored: amendment I, which uses the phrase "all persons shall be eligible" in place of the list of characteristics that should not result in discrimination, about 75percent; amendment VI, which allows for non-proportional representation to General Conference for newly organized annual conferences, about 56percent; amendment XIX, which would extend to local pastors, associate members, and provisional clergy members the right to vote for delegates to General Conference, about 66percent. All vote tallies are posted at www.minnesotaumc.org.
In other action, conference members:
- Approved the development of a curriculum that promotes a just and lasting peace with equal rights for Palestinians in the Middle East;
- Urged all of its churches in 2010 and 2011 to study poverty in Minnesota and to address poverty in the communities they serve;
- Added a paragraph in the policies and procedures manual that allows the conference Council on Finance and Administration, in consultation with the Common Table and the cabinet, to adjust authorized spending levels and prepare a spending plan when necessary to meet changing economic conditions or financial challenges;
- Changed the formula by which district superintendents' salaries are computed (subtracting $20,000 from the recommended 2010 budget);
- Rejected a proposal that the clergy contribute 15 percent rather than 10 percent toward their health insurance premiums (adding about $200,000 to the recommended budget);
- Instructed its churches to create or update their safe sanctuary policies; passed a budget of $6,690,241, about $180,000 higher than recommended by CFA.
As directed by 2008 conference session action, only fair-trade coffee was served during breaks. Members each received a sample of fair-trade coffee and chocolate. During sessions, members donated $77,500 to the Love Offering for Missions; $2,100 to Saving Lives in Sierra Leone, part of Nothing But Nets; $2,658 toward replenishing $25,000 to conference reserves paid out for a Russia Initiative commitment; and $3,772 for the Ministerial Education Fund.
The Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of congregational development, reported on nine current congregational starts and one to start on July 1. Four people were ordained; their average age is 41.
Membership stands at 76,496, down 1,451 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 36,636, down 1,165. Church school attendance stands at 22,153, down 2,038.