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2012 Dakotas Annual Conference

Go! ... to the streets of our towns and cities
Go! ... to the world with hands and hearts open to hear and respond
Go! ... to the stranger, the hurting, the seeking, the fearful
Just Go! ... and offer them Christ!"

The Rev. John Edgar, senior pastor of the Church for all People and executive director of Community Development for All People, was the guest teacher. The Rev. Edgar encouraged members to "Get Up and Go" and do ministry with the poor and those throughout the community through an A, B, C, D approach: Assets Based Community Development. Edgar inspired participants to act, "What is the most outrageous dream you've ever had? How long have you held it sacred in your heart?"

The Rev. Ray Baker and members of the Dakotas Conference Common Table announced and celebrated the average attendance growth of 4 percent. The vision of growth continues throughout the conference.

The past eight years' ministry of Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, Dakotas Episcopal Area was recognized through gifts of art from the Dakotas Conference Episcopal Committee and the Conference Council of Youth Ministry. Bishop Kiesey also was bestowed an honorary doctorate of ministry from Dakota Wesleyan University. A quilted banner with all of the names of the churches throughout the Dakotas Conference was also gifted to Bishop Kiesey. Several clergy and laity provided words of thanksgiving and praise for Bishop Kiesey's ministry to the Dakotas Conference.

Dakotas Conference elected a new Conference Lay Leader, Blaine Wilson, Celebration United Methodist Church, Brandon, S.D., and a new Associate Conference Lay Leader, Jerry Bottger, White River, S.D. Janelle Jones, Dakotas Conference Lay Leader was recognized for her eight years of service to the conference. Jones praised the increased work, visibility and leadership of laity throughout the conference noting, "The pastor is the conductor, but they don't make the music."

The approved budget for 2013 is $6,022.354 in apportionments and $1,295,400 in HealthFlex direct bills for a total of $7,317,754. This is an increase of $21,784 from 2012 or 0.3 percent. The 2013 budget designates 8 percent of the total budget for Equipping the Local Church Link, and an increase of 2 percent in premiums for HealthFlex. Much of the rest of the increase is the Equipping Link attempting to address key areas that affect church health.

The Conference Council on Finance and Administration and the Stewardship of Resource Link are proposing changing the current apportionment formula to tithing at 12.5 percent beginning in 2014. Members of the annual conference indicated a strong preference to move ahead with further development and consideration of the tithing model with a Five Finger Ballot. A sexual ethics policy was debated and approved. Connectional Ministries link was renamed to Extending the Local Church link. Extend Health for medical benefits were approved for retired clergy and their spouses.

Members attended workshops that focused on equipping the local church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world on Thursday and Friday afternoon. Workshops included Dakotas Conference Toolshed, Safe and Sacred Spaces, Starting New Faith Communities, Practical Spirituality, Charting Growth, Worship Design, Coaching Laity for Leadership, Connecting with Next Generations, Partners in Ministry, Diploma to Diploma, After School Programs, Social Media/Workshop Technology, Stewardship Tools, Faith Incubation, Transforming the Turkey Dinner, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Preparation / Opportunities, Haiti Solar Oven Partners, Disaster Response and Extend Health.

A total of $11,979.67 was collected at the 2011 Dakotas Annual Conference. St. Francis House and the Union Gospel Mission local agencies that serve the homeless in Sioux Falls, S.D., will each receive $1,583.65. Minot Faith United Methodist Church lost its church building during the flood of 2011 and will receive $5,355.38 towards rebuilding. The offering at the Ordination Service of $3,457 was equally divided between the Pensions of the Central Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Dakotas Seminary Debt Reduction.

Ten retiring clergy were honored during the conference session.

The Revs. Jeffrey Adel, Andrew Bartels, Jenene Earl and Mathew Richards were ordained. The Rev. Henry Jenkins was received as a full member. The average age of those ordained at this year's conference session was 43 years old.

Membership stands at 36,732, down 708 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 20,142, up 826. Church school attendance stands 6,117 up 62.

- Doreen Gosmire, associate director of communications, Dakotas Conference