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2012 Nebraska Annual Conference

Nebraska United Methodist Annual Conference Session
June 6-9, Lincoln, Neb.

"Revive Worship in the Reign of God" was the thematic underpinning for the Nebraska United Methodist Annual Conference Session. Inspired by Psalm 71, the theme helped session attendees focus on dynamic worship - one of Nebraska's six signs of discipleship. Lincoln St. Mark's UMC once again provided extraordinary hospitality.

As we gathered again for our work as a conference, we were reminded that we are called to bold and confident proclamation of the goodness of God. In an age of anxiety and in the face of an unknown future, we can say with the Psalmist that we have hope ... always. Our song of praise is revitalized as we lift our voices together.

Following are highlights from the Nebraska session.

  • On Saturday, June 9, Kansas Bishop Scott Jones and Nebraska Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson simultaneously announced the results of a vote to combine the current three United Methodist conferences in Kansas and Nebraska into one new conference. Jones was at Church of the Resurrection, in Leawood, Kan.; Sherer-Simpson was at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, in Lincoln, Neb. The vote affects the Kansas West, Kansas East and Nebraska annual conferences of the church.

    Votes were announced in the order they were taken.

    The Kansas West Conference cast 550 votes, with 409 yes votes, 140 no votes and 1 abstention.

    The Kansas East Conference cast 478 votes, with 415 yes votes, 62 no votes and 1 abstention.

    The Nebraska Conference cast 528 votes, with 370 yes votes and 158 no votes.

    The motion was approved by at least 70 percent in all three conferences - Kansas West was 74.4 percent in favor, Kansas East was 86.8 percent in favor and Nebraska was 70 percent in favor.

    The three conferences will become one new conference Jan. 1, 2014.

    "I'm excited, and there is every reason to be hopeful," Sherer-Simpson said."Our conferences are committed to positive change."

    "It's a great opportunity," Jones said. "I'm excited. And there's a part of me that's just scared that somehow we've got to do this and grab a hold of the opportunity we've been given."

    Kansas West voted May 24. Ballots were sealed and counted following the votes in the other two conferences. Kansas East voted June 7 and Nebraska voted June 8. All the ballots were counted the evening of June 8. Results were announced at the Kansas East and Nebraska annual conference sessions and webcast live across the two states.

  • The conference endorsed the Great Plains Area name and the temporary location of the area office in Wichita for the next quadrennium while additional area and conference structures are developed and implemented.

  • Conference members approved a budget of $6,933,064, a 6.1 percent decrease over the 2011 budget.

  • Special guest, Marcia McFee, designed all the worship services and also taught each morning of the sessions. "Her presentations are very multisensory and multimedia-oriented, and beyond what small churches might think they can do, yet she provides ideas that big and small churches alike can use in their worship services," said the Rev. David Lux, senior pastor at Lincoln Saint Paul UMC.

  • The Rev. Richard Wyatt, Presbyter in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Bishop Joel Martinez were participants in the ordination service where Martinez also preached. His message, titled "Bring Your Own Shoes," focused on the notion that we need to bring all of our gifts to ministry to be put to use to bless the work of God's people. We are to "offer what we have," said Martinez, who served as Nebraska's bishop from 1992-2000.

    In his sermon, Bishop Martinez focused on the variety of ways in which we are gifted by God, and urged those being ordained or commissioned to share their gifts with the world. "Offer what you have and let God bless it and use it," he said, "and the whole church will bless the whole world."

    In a series of questions, Martinez asked, "Will you nurture those who are in need of comfort? Will you bring a history of service...your love and respect of others...an appropriate suspicion of power...your gift of welcoming strangers and sojourners...a passion for the full gospel, personal holiness and social justice...so that the message of Jesus Christ might fill the lives of others?"

  • More than 400 worshipers gathered in the St. Mark's UMC sanctuary Friday evening for the 2012 Nebraska Annual Conference Session Ordination Service, where they joyously celebrated the call to ministry for the 152nd time and where Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson presided for her last time, as she is retiring later this year.

  • Rebecca Hjelle and Fay Hubbard were ordained as elders. Trudy Hanke, Ezekiel Koech, Barbara Lenz and Joel Walker were commissioned to do the work of elder. Mara and Jonathan Bailey, members of the Iowa Conference, were commissioned earlier in the week and were brought forward to stand and be recognized with those commissioned from Nebraska.

    "Each name, each experience that the family relates, every little expression is a mini-portrait of the ones whom they love," he said. "And the words go deep, they strike a 'love chord.' We need to slow down at those points. It's not about doing; it's about pause. And tonight is one of those times. Tonight is about pause."

    The service also observed the closing of the Cotesfield, Westerville, Sutton Salem and Pilger churches. Clergy memorialized were Warren G. Spellman, Robert W. Barrick, Everett S. Reynolds, Milton E. Merritt, Charles D. Mitchell, Connie J. Buehler, C. Irene Coates, Nye O. Bond and Joree (Joe) C. Bennett. Deceased spouses were Garnett Bond, Gerald (Gary) Coates, Carol Kirtley, Shirley Reynolds, James Voigt, Abbie Haynes, Depha (Yoder) Findley, Colleen Atherton and Alice Dinsdale.

  • The Rev. Harold Backus preached the memorial service honoring 18 deceased clergy and clergy spouses. Backus, Prairie Rivers district superintendent, focused his message on John 17, calling the chapter Jesus' prayer for oneness, and said, "It is oneness that brings us here tonight." Recounting his first funeral as a 19-year-old student pastor in West Virginia, Backus said that most pastors make a common mistake and focus on what they should do at the funeral, when what we really need to do is pause, especially when it comes to reading the obituary.

  • Seventeen retirees were honored Thursday morning representing 397 years of ministry service, ranging from 5 to 46 years. Those recognized included Katherine Rice, Susan Davies, Charlotte Abram, Barbara Hart, John Henderson. Valera Heydenberk, Bill Hunter, Cynthia (Samm) Johnston, Frank Butler, Katherine Bullard, Connie Karr, Marvin Bauer, Michael Curd, Richard Karohl, Timothy J. Pratt and Glenn Hubbard.

  • Sixty-six high school and middle school youth attended Youth Annual Conference (YAC) on the Nebraska Wesleyan University Campus. YAC members led a youth-led service on Friday morning. Members of Camp Fontanelle and other young people infiltrated the Annual Conference Session floor following that service and staged a "flash mob," resulting in the body of the annual conference floor engaging in music and movement with the youth.

  • Children's Annual Conference played host to nearly 20 children and was held in an adjacent building on the St. Mark's UMC campus.

  • Special guest Simon Benjamin, director of the Nigeria/Nebraska Partnership Orphanage provided a 20-minute status report on the orphanage, presented more information during the Nigeria/Nebraska Partnership luncheon on Friday and was a special guest of the Children's Annual Conference where the children asked many great questions and learned much about global mission and justice work. Benjamin taught the children a song in his native tongue (Housa)-the chorus translated to "I belong to Jesus, everywhere I go, I do his work." The kids caught on impressively fast.

  • Final offering totals: Contributions for supplies for United Methodist Committee on Relief kits totaled $5,807.67, with another $2,544 donated to cover shipping. A truck stationed onsite accepted more than 160 cleaning buckets, which made up part of the $3,922 total kits awaiting transport to the UMCOR depot at Sager Brown. Craig Transport, owned byWade and Ginger Craig of Farnam, Neb., are donating the truck and transportation for this year's collection.

  • Other totals to date include: UM Global AIDS Fund, $2,690
    Epworth Village, $3,600
    Imagine No Malaria, $10,056
    Nigeria/Nebraska Secondary School Scholarship Fund, $3,637
    Youth Service Fund, $3,113
    Nebraska/Nigeria Partnership Fund (Orphanage), $6,175
  • The 2010-2011 statistical table comparisons: Membership stands at 76,357, down 611 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 30,012, down 107 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 8,864, down 194 from 2010. While the numbers are decreases across the board, they are less than one-third the size of the decreases sustained in 2009-10.

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

* Kathryn Witte, Director of Communications/Marketing, Nebraska United Methodist Conference