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2012 Minnesota Annual Conference

Minnesota Annual Conference
May 30-June 1, 2012 Saint Cloud, Minn.

"Do you want to be made well?" Jesus asked the invalid at the pool of Beth-zatha (John 5). Bishop Sally Dyck asked it of the 760 Minnesota Annual Conference members in session on May 30-June 1, 2012, at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Introducing the conference theme, "Healthy Church, Healthy World," Bishop Dyck observed in her episcopal address on May 30 that the church is in pain - on a denominational, conference, and local level. Strained budgets limit ministry, struggles with issues of human sexuality affect not only gay people but their families and friends, and congregational conflict discourages visitors from returning.

Bishop Dyck challenged members to consider what they were being faithful to - balanced budgets or compelling ministry and mission? Certainty about one's own opinions or a commitment to work through our differences? Survival or extravagant hospitality and generosity? Jesus' words to the ailing man - stand up and walk - "is the command to us to beat the odds on doing what seems impossible," she said. It seemed impossible to some that the 70,000-member Minnesota Annual (regional) Conference would achieve a $1.8 million goal toward Imagine No Malaria, she said. Yet since last year, Minnesota United Methodists have raised $2.5 million in gifts and pledges.

"You have become the standard bearers in The United Methodist Church," the Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director of the denomination's global health initiative, told session members.

Healthy churches are reliant on their leaders' health, the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (Tipp City, Ohio), told session members. He recommended daily devotions, lifelong commitment to learning, investing in personal relationships and good diet and exercise. Healthy congregations are "missional" rather than "attractional," he said; "I don't want to bring thousands of people in, only to have them not be transformed." Alluding to Jesus' reading Isaiah 61 in the temple (Luke 4), Slaughter told congregations to ask themselves: What are we doing for the poor? "If it's not good news for the poor, it's not the gospel," he said.

In legislative session, members voted to divest of one campground - Kingswood Camp, Mound, Minn. - to invest the proceeds in lowering the conference camping ministry's $900,000 debt and enhancing facilities at two sites, Northern Pines in Park Rapids and Koronis in Paynesville.

In recent years participation in Minnesota United Methodist camps has declined from 6,109 in 2003 to 3,315 in 2011. The Retreats and Camping Ministry Team unveiled a strategy focused on instilling faith in children and teens through residential camping.

Star Lake Wilderness Campground also was recommended for divestment in the same legislation that recommended Kingswood. However, advocates of the Star Lake Wilderness campground moved a successful amendment that will allow a group to negotiate with conference trustees for an opportunity independent of the camping ministry to operate a camp program on the property for the next few years. If the effort is successful, the group may bid to buy the property. The amendment delays a conference decision to sell the Star Lake property.

Members voted on social issues. They affirmed (400-169) a resolution against a proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution that would reinforce a statutory ban on marriage between same-sex couples; agreed to "drop the 'I' word - illegal - when referring to individuals who may not have proper immigration documentation; and resolved to ask through the conference secretary that federal legislators investigate Israeli practices of home demolitions and "become familiar with Peace House," the Shawamreh family home in Anata. The Israeli government has demolished it several times, though it has been rebuilt by the assistance of Minnesota Conference 2003 Love Offering funds and the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions.

Session members passed a 2013 annual conference budget just a little more than $6.2 million. That budget was $130,000 lower than the 2012 budget and at "ceiling," the maximum allowed by conference rules. The 2013 budget is at the same level as the 2003 budget and continues a trend of declining budgets.

Throughout conference, Bishop Dyck and her spouse, the Rev. Ken Ehrman, heard appreciative farewells from Minnesota Conference clergy and lay members, who have valued their leadership over the past eight years. Bishop Dyck, who has served two four-year terms in Minnesota, anticipates being assigned to another conference effective Sept. 1. Ehrman, now pastor of Minnetonka United Methodist Church, plans to retire from the East Ohio Conference this year. Minnesota and the Dakotas will share a bishop beginning Sept. 1, although the conferences are not merging.

No episcopal election is expected in the North Central Jurisdiction in 2012 so no candidates were endorsed.

Donations received at session: Love Offering for Missions, $73,353; Walker Community United Methodist Church fire recovery, $5,700; Ministerial Education Fund, $4,567.

Members honored Denman Evangelism Award winners the Rev. Mark Nordell of Cascade United Methodist Church in Deerwood and Sandra Driscoll of Glendale United Methodist Church in Savage; Jeanne Audrey Powers Ecumenism Award winner Ann Carlson, the director of the Dignity Center at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, and Rural Churches Award winners Fairfax, Hector and Faribault Fourth Avenue United Methodist churches.

One deacon and two elders were commissioned, and two elders were ordained; the average age of the five was 39. Twenty clergy retired.
Membership stands at 70,126, down 2,110 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,657, down 591. Church-school attendance (Sunday morning statistics only) stands at 8,352, down 955.

- Victoria Rebeck, Director of Communication, Minnesota Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church