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2012 Wisconsin Annual Conference

Wisconsin Annual Conference
May 31-June 3, Wisconsin Dells

The 2012 Wisconsin Annual Conference took place at the Chula Vista Conference Center in the Wisconsin Dells on May 31-June 3. The conference session featured the theme "Live, Give, Love...Beyond All Expectation," which is the culmination of our 2009-12 quadrennium themes.

Conference attendees lived their ministry by participating in a mission project for Kids Against Hunger over the lunch hour on Saturday, June 2, to pack 50,000 meals - enough to feed 137 kids for a year. They gave generously for Ingathering, amassing a number of items including: 1,020 health kits, 1,589 school kits/bags, 145 cleaning buckets, 243 birthing kits, 482 sewing kits, 251 bedding kits, $5,962 in funds for Ingathering shipping as well as donated $7,320 in Offerings, and $4,539.93 in Pennies for Angola. The attendees also celebrated groups throughout the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference, who show God's unconditional love to people in their local communities and around the world.

The "Live, Give, Love&ellipsis;Beyond All Expectation!" theme was also featured in several sermons during Annual Conference. Bishop Linda Lee gave a sermon titled "Greater Works" at the ordination service on Sunday, June 3. The Scripture she focused on was John 14:12 - "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father." She talked about how inconceivable these words are in the face of the many awe-inspiring works that Jesus and the disciples performed. And yet, she said, "Converting one sinner is greater than all these works." She gave the example of a KKK leader who tormented a rabbi who had recently moved to town. Through a series of interactions between the two, the KKK leader eventually sought help from the rabbi and renounced his old ways. The great act of love that the rabbi showed overcame even extreme hatred and discrimination. "The greatest thing we can do for God is love," Bishop Lee said.

You can view the bishop's sermon via an archive of the annual conference live-streaming here. It is also posted on the Wisconsin Conference Youtube channel. If you would like a DVD copy of the sermon, contact Michele Virnig, Wisconsin Conference communications director, at 888-240-7328 or mvirnig@wisconsinumc.org.

The Rev. Stan Pegram delivered a spirited sermon titled, "It's All About&ellipsis;" at the commissioning service on Saturday, June 2. He spoke about how the church has forgotten why it exists. In a time when six Christian churches close each day in the United States, he encouraged us to follow Jesus' lead and get out of our comfort zones. Jesus was more than just a nice guy who lived a long time ago, Pegram said. "He changed people, and he changed lives, and he made a difference for people."

Peter Block, the conference teacher, spoke about "Abundant Community" during the plenary session Friday, June 1. He said that in order to build community we must encourage a shift in narrative from one of blame, separation and limitation to one of citizenship, connection and possibility. Instead of depending on heroic leadership, more money, or more programs, Block encouraged those present to take responsibility for the things that need to be changed and realize the possibility that lies in all people to make that change. "We have within ourselves the capacity," he said.

The Francis Asbury award, given to people who have been instrumental in helping people explore secondary education and become acquainted with campus ministries, was given to Jane Follmer Zekoff. The Harry Denman Evangelism clergy award, which recognizes excellence in evangelism, was given to the Rev. Eduardo de la Cruz. The Denman Laity Award was presented to Scott and Dawn Bethke from Sun Prairie United Methodist Church. The Thelma Gregg award, which honors lay persons who are doing vital missions in ways that reflect the love of Christ, was given to Bonnie Lund of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. Other awards were given to Julie Miehe and Mac Weddle (Commission on the Status and Role of Women Bridgebuilder Awards)Elaine Weidemann and the trial court of the Rev. Amy DeLong trial (Perry Saito Awards), and Vince Ramsden (Love in Action Award).

The delegates and volunteers for 2012 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference were also recognized for their service. A customized Wisconsin General Conference video was shown. A DVD copy can be ordered through communications director Michele Virnig.

Retiring clergy were recognized for their years of service. Bishop Lee was thanked and honored for her eight years with the Wisconsin Conference at a banquet that included liturgy, music, a video presentation and gifts. Bishop Lee plans to retire in the fall. The conference also welcomed guests from the Dongbu Conference in South Korea to honor the sister partnership between the two conferences. The Dongbu delegates gave a slide show presentation, participated in worship services and shared gifts with the Wisconsin Conference.

Several conference action items were voted on for implementation in the coming year. Most were passed. The approved items included:

  • continued partnerships with the East Angola Conference, Native American communities and the Hmong House of Good News
  • a resolution to increase awareness of human trafficking
  • a resolution to propose action plans to address the issue of cyber bullying.

The Rev. Amy DeLong's written document outlining procedures for clergy in order to help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an adversarial spirit or lead to future clergy trials was approved in the clergy session on Thursday, May 31.

The Rev. DeLong wrote the document in response to her sentencing at the church trial, which took place June 21-23, 2011. The financial support for the new procedure was approved in the plenary session on Sunday, June 3. A request for a decision of law on whether all or a portion of the resolution regarding the creation of the covenant team by the clergy session is in compliance with the United Methodist Book of Discipline of the was raised. Bishop Lee stated she will take the matter under advisement and make a response as required.

Bishop Lee commissioned six provisional elders. Fourteen people were licensed as local pastors. Two people were ordained as deacons and seven people were ordained as elders.

  • Michele Virnig, director of communications in the Wisconsin Conference