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2012 Detroit Annual Conference

May 17-20, Adrian, Mich.

"Imagine a World...Healing, Healthy, Whole" was the theme of the 2012 session of the Detroit Annual Conference, which was held May 17-20 on the campus of Adrian College in Adrian, Mich.

The theme of the conference session focused on stamping out killer diseases by improving health globally, one of the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church. To highlight the theme, Michigan Area Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton spoke about "divine health initiatives" during the opening worship service while Shannon Trillli, director of global health programs at the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), addressed the conference session regarding the work of global health and the impact of the Imagine No Malaria campaign.

In response to Trilli's presentation, the conference collected $7,785 for Imagine No Malaria during a spontaneous offering. The conference also pledged to raise $500,000 for the program over the next four years.

During the report of the conference's leadership team, a strategic plan was unveiled that included three pathways and seven benchmarks to support the conference's vision of creating and nurturing dynamic and fruitful congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The seven benchmarks - developed by the leadership team in consultation with the members of the cabinet, chairs of conference agencies and members of the conference program staff - are grouped into three categories: creating new churches and revitalizing existing congregations, developing principled leaders, and mission engagement for local churches. As part of the plan, the conference will be focused on creating at least two new worshipping communities a year, increasing professions of faith by 3 percent, and having churches develop partnerships with conference and area ministries, in addition to other benchmarks over the next five years.

The conference collected more than $61,000 during special offerings at the conference, the majority of which went to ministries supporting global health. Supporting covenant partnerships with Haiti and Liberia, more than $20,000 was given for the Haiti Hot Lunch Program (Advance #418790), while more than $18,000 was raised for the Bishop Judith Craig Children's Home in Liberia (Advance #11820A). In addition, over $12,000 was donated to purchase a delivery truck for the Liberia Annual Conference. Over the last three years, the Detroit Conference board of global ministries has raised over $53,000 to purchase the truck for Liberia, and the agency announced that its fundraising goal for that project had been met and that a truck would be purchased.

As part of its legislative business, the conference took the following actions:

  1. Reaffirmed a challenge to all conference clergy to contribute one-half of one percent of their salary annually to support pastors' salaries in the Liberia Annual Conference and set up an online giving platform for all people to contribute;

  2. Encouraged each congregation to identify a person as their Restorative Justice Coordinator to reach out to, befriend, and mentor recently incarcerated individuals in their community;

  3. Designated all churches and ministries of the conference to remain concealed weapon-free zones, excluding qualified law enforcement officers, regardless of any changes made to the concealed weapon laws in Michigan;

  4. Encouraged congregations and their members to pose certain questions to 2012 candidates for federal office;

  5. Called on all churches without a United Methodist Men unit to appoint a men's ministry liaison; and

  6. Urged members of the conference session to contact the two Michigan senators to indicate their desire to prevent a war with Iran.

The conference also approved a $9.7 million budget for 2013, less than 1 percent higher than the previous year. Included in the amount being apportioned to churches is $7.3 million for a common budget, and $2.4 million for pensions. With a decrease in its general church apportionments and its administrative expenses, the conference increased funding to its program ministries by nearly 13 percent.

Twenty-one retiring clergy were honored for their ministry during the conference session, while 42 individuals, including 19 clergy, were remembered at the conference's annual memorial service.

Catherine Miles and Vincent McGlothlin Eller were ordained as deacons, while the conference commissioned six provisional elders. The average age of those ordained was 50, and this is the first time in recent history that an elder has not been ordained during the annual conference session. Upper New York Area Bishop Marcus Matthews preached during the Service of Ordination and Commissioning.

Membership stands at 90,324, down 2,302, or 2.5 percent, from the previous year. Worship attendance for 2011 was an average of 42,410, down 1,182, or 2.7 percent, from 2010. Average church school attendance was 11,463, 813 fewer than last year, or a 6.6 percent decrease.

* By Paul Thomas, the director of communications for the Detroit Conference.