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2010 Minnesota Annual Conference

June 2-4, 2010, Saint Cloud, Minn.

"We're people of faith! Yeah, we're odd! We're Christians! Yeah, we're odd! We're United Methodists! Yeah, we're odd!" Bishop Sally Dyck gave this, well, odd charge to Minnesota Annual Conference session members during her episcopal address on the first day of the 2010 session, held June 2-4 in Saint Cloud, Minn.

Encouraging members to "rethink worship" (Minnesota Conference's theme for the coming year), she explained this means both nurturing a sense of awe and a willingness to be "odd"-to distinguish oneself and one's church from other groups in our communities. Good worship evokes awe of God and also makes us odd, she said, quoting Eugene Peterson's version of Romans 12:2: "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking" (The Message).

Marcia McFee, a United Methodist worship designer, leader, and professor, helped the conference worship team plan this session's worship. She also led two workshops on June 3. Given that the United Methodist mission is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," rethinking worship might entail transforming worship so we can transform lives, she says. The converse is just as true, she says: "Transformed lives can transform our worship." She elaborated on five "practices that will transform our worship and our lives."

During lay session, the Rev. Cindy Gregorson, conference director of congregational development, and Diane Owen, River Valley District lay leader, described social trends churches should understand in order to create new places for new people. Instead of lamenting the post-modern reality, churches can see it as a mission opportunity, Gregorson said. Owen added that rather than competing for people's time, churches should consider what they offer that is compelling and transformative. They also identified spirituality, chemistry/welcome, and strategy as the three legs of principled lay and clergy leaders of thriving churches.

Session members endorsed eight petitions that ask General Conference 2012 to remove discriminatory language against homosexuality in "The Book of Discipline." The full text of the petitions can be found at under the "Conference Session" menu. One of the petitions' sponsors explained that "with the removal of the prohibitive language from the Discipline, faithful United Methodists will be enabled to minister to the world, while disagreeing on the issue of homosexuality."

In other actions, session members approved an updated equitable compensation schedule, which has steps for only the first eight years of ministry and sets higher increases for those years, and revisions to the clergy housing policy that address housing allowances for clergy couples.

They also asked the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on whether Division 1, Article IV, of the church constitution and Discipline paragraphs 139 and 214-255 (related to membership qualifications) take precedence over Judicial Council decision 1032, particularly given the change made to paragraph 225 by 2008 General Conference.

Members also passed a resolution that denounces a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that corporations' financial support of political candidates is a form of constitutionally protected free speech.

Members approved a 2011 budget of $6,542,436-about the same as the 2004 budget and lower than the 2010 budget by about $147,000. Barbara Carroll, director of finance and administration, noted that from 2000 to 2008 Minnesota United Methodist congregational expenditures increased by 24 percent, while from 2000 to the 2011, the annual conference recommended budget increased by 14 percent

The penalty for those whose cell phones rang during session benefited Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist initiative against one of the killer diseases of poverty.

Twelve clergy retired. Two candidates were commissioned to the deacon track and two to the elder track. One person was ordained a deacon and ten were ordained elders. The ordinands' average age is 38. Upon being voted full members of annual conference, the ordinands danced back into clergy session to a rock tune.

Membership stands at 74,798, down 1,401 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 10,790, up 200.

--Victoria Rebeck, Director of Communication, Minnesota Annual Conference