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2011 Arkansas Annual Conference Special Session (10/29)

Arkansas Annual Conference Special Called Session
October 29, 2011, Hot Springs

The Oct. 29 Called Session of the Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference resulted in an approved budget for 2012.

Budgetary decisions at the June gathering had been referred to this special session because the adoption of the Imagine Ministry team's proposals affected the Conference budget. At that time, Bishop Charles Crutchfield set the Called Session for Oct. 29 to allow the Council on Finance and Administration adequate time to consider the financial implications of Imagine Ministry.

After questions and comments from the floor of the Conference, a voice vote was taken, followed by a show of hands that confirmed the budget's approval by a wide margin.

The morning began with worship, including a message from the Rev. Vic Nixon drawing upon 2 Corinthians 5:6-21, in which Paul encourages the church at Corinth to get on with reinventing themselves. Translated into common vernacular, "Paul's second letter to the emergent church at Corinth is a 'git-r-dun' message," Nixon said.

"I believe that God constantly inspires the church to change," he said, adding that we live in a time that calls for bravery and boldness.


The first action item related to the conference budget involved a motion made at annual conference in June by the Rev. Bennie Harmon. The motion, which would have set district superintendent salaries at 120 percent of the average elder's salary, had been referred to the called session to allow for further study. It failed to pass.

The Rev. Brittany Richardson Watson, a member of the transition team's budget task force, presented the 2012 budget. She explained that the most significant changes reflected the transition from nine districts to five; the elimination of parish and community development grants to allocate those funds to the network of discipleship and mission; and the redirecting of the Connected in Christ budget to fall under the new Center for Clergy and Laity Excellence in Leadership.

Many line items for the second half of 2012 remain fluid because the work of the transition team continues. Voting members approved a motion by the Rev. Todd-Paul Taulbee to correct the cost of district superintendent insurance premiums for the second half of 2012. The amount had not been known at the time the report was issued, but has since been determined. The motion replaced the estimated cost with the confirmed cost, which is lower than the estimate.

After speeches relating to the stress the conference budget places on small congregations, lay member Jay Clark asked for clarification on how much direct control the conference has over its budget. Clef Vaughan of the Council on Finance and Administration explained that because of insurance premiums, pensions and general church apportionments, the conference has direct control over only about 20 to 30 percent of its budget.

Many budget questions cannot yet be answered because the work of the transition team continues. Council on Finance and Administration member Don Riggin said that more clarification will be available in the spring of 2012. The budget passed as amended.

The final budget total is $14,440,544.

Reports given

The agenda also included reports from the task forces relating to Imagine Ministry, as well as conference task forces on children and youth ministry, ethnic ministries and young adult ministry. These groups will provide further updates and recommendations at the 2012 Annual Conference.

"Our next step is to begin the dreaming process," said the Rev. David Freeman, convener of the Conference Task Force on Young Adult Ministry. The group understands that their task is a spiritual one, and Freeman invited the members of the conference to join them in prayer, fasting and study.

As a time-saving measure, the bishop requested that questions for the task forces be submitted by e-mail to Jim Kimsey, a lay member of the transition team, at

The Rev. Bud Reeves, a member of the Imagine Ministry team, provided a summary of Imagine Ministry and highlights of the related task forces' work since their formation this summer.

"Our goal, again, is not primarily to save money, but to be effective in ministry," he said.

One significant change since approval at annual Conference is that the Networks for Personal and social holiness have been consolidated into a single entity called "Holiness of Heart and Life: The Network of Discipleship and Mission."

"We realized that to separate the two would violate our Wesleyan heritage," Reeves said. An explanation of the Wesleyan rationale for the name change is posted at, along with other documents in the "Interim Reports" section of the Oct. 29 agenda.

The Rev. Stephen Coburn provided an update from the transition team, then chastised conference members for their lack of trust. "We are all on the same team, or at least that's what I thought," he said.

Some statements posted to Facebook, both as individual status updates and as comments on the Imagine Ministry Group page, reflected the contentious tone of parts of the session.

-Amy Forbus, editor, The Arkansas United Methodist