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2011 Nebraska Annual Conference

Nebraska Annual Conference
May 31-June 4, 2011, Lincoln, Neb.

Joined in Community by the Spirit was the thematic underpinning for the Nebraska United Methodist Annual Conference Session. Lincoln St. Mark's UMC provided extraordinary hospitality and offered one of the best venues for the annual conference session in many years.

Inspired by Psalm 27, the theme helped session attendees focus on spiritual formation-one of Nebraska's six signs of discipleship. The psalmist helps us see that, in this time of change, everyone is on a journey. We are not on that journey alone. Following are highlights from the Nebraska session.

  • The Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team provided a report followed by holy conferencing that resulted in taking a vote to gauge support for becoming one new annual conference out of Nebraska, Kansas West and Kansas East. Two-thirds of the body was in general support of such a move.

  • Delegate vote recap:
    GENERAL CONFERENCE: (clergy) the Rev. David Lux* and the Rev. Cindy Karges; (laity) Lavina Schwaninger and Tom Watson
    JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE: (clergy) the Rev. Charles K. Murithi and the Rev. Nan Kaye-Skinner; (laity) Lisa Maupin and Katie Karges
    ALTERNATES: (clergy) Stephanie Ahlschwede and Galen Wray; (laity) Marilyn Zehring and Dave Mendyk

  • Conference members approved a budget of $7, 371,281, a 2 percent increase over the 2011 budget.

  • Special guest, the Rev. Dr. Gil Rendle encouraged the church to move to vibrancy. He said the church as it is today, from the local church on up to the general church, is well designed for 1945. "God is not done with us," Rendle said in closing. "God is using us and will use us all. We can truly make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, but in order to do this, we must be open to the Spirit and open to bold change. We must be willing to follow God where God wishes us to go."

  • Rendle's ordination message was to be cautious of loving the church too much. His reference was for all of us to think less of the church as the building and think more about the church as the community. Lynda Parson was ordained as elder; Jeff Adams, James Corson, Adam Davenport, Carla Gunn, Thomas Lucas and Bonnie McCord were commissioned as elders. Portia Cavitt, Cesar Duran and Jesse Foster were welcomed into communion with the Nebraska United Methodist Church from other Christian traditions.

  • The Conference's youngest elder, the Rev. Matt E. Fowler, preached at the memorial service using the imagery of the mantle passing from Elijah to Elisha from the second chapter of Second Kings. He reminded worshipers that the ministry of the honored deceased goes on in those who remain to do the work of the Church. "You can see it in many ways," he said. "Like the fact that they asked the youngest ordained elder to preach at this service."

  • The conference celebrated 234 years of ministry with the retirement service honoring ten retirees, including Robert Berlie, Larry Biederman, Michael Davis, Richard Fairbanks, Ruth Henderson, Karl Lent, Secundino Morales, Ken Rood and Denny Silk. Diaconal minister Sue Rood was also recognized.

  • More than 80 people participated in "The Church Has Left the Building II." The mission work day, held in Lincoln, was an optional event scheduled the day before the annual conference session began. The groups worked in seven sites around the city.

  • This year, we had several petitions and resolutions concerned with the broad issue of how to be in ministry with and to our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) friends, relatives, neighbors and church members. It was quite clear that our conference cares deeply about this issue and that we do not all agree. On most of these resolutions and petitions, the vote was close enough that the Bishop asked us to stand for a counted vote. Except on the petition affirming equal civil rights, the decision of the annual conference was NOT to ask the General Conference to change its stance on this issue. Those individuals and groups who submitted petitions or resolutions are free to submit the same petition or resolution to General Conference for consideration but without a stamp of approval from our annual conference.

  • We also dealt with petitions and resolutions on a variety of other issues. We affirmed requests for Immigration Reform, support of Africa University, support of the 20/20 plan for an AIDS Free World and maintaining our stance on Reproductive Choice. The concerns of the Association of Retired Ministers and Spouses were accepted into the Transition Team report as a friendly amendment, and the full version of the Transition Team's report was then received. We affirmed the resolution calling for the use of the full slogan of the United Methodist Church: "Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." We rejected the petition that would have called for a change in the United Methodist Church's historic stance against alcohol on church property. All in all, it was a busy session.

  • The 2009-2010 statistical table comparisons: Membership stands at 76,885 down 1,271 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 30,054, down 493 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 9,011, down 680 from 2009.

  • More coverage of the AC session can be found on the website at under the AC banner.

-Kathryn Witte