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2013 Nebraska Annual Conference

Nebraska United Methodist Annual Conference Session
June 6-8, St. Mark's UMC, Lincoln, Neb.

Theme: "Leaving Emmaus With Burning Hearts" (Luke 24:13-35)

In the walk to Emmaus, the apostles did not recognize Jesus as he walked down the road with them. It was only when they broke bread together that they realized who he was, and then he vanished. The apostles were left with burning hearts, yearning for the past relationship they had had with Jesus, yet knowing they would soon be leaving Emmaus.

Following are highlights from the Nebraska session.

Six were ordained during the Friday night ordination service, including Jeff Adams, Zach Anderson, Jim Corson, Tom Lucas, Bonnie McCord and Pat Norris. Great Plains Episcopal Area Bishop Scott J. Jones presided over the ordination, joined by Nebraska Synod Bishop Brian Maas of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Maas commented that the ordinands should remember they are sent "to serve, rather than (to) be served."

The Rev. John Holbert, special guest, delivered the ordination sermon, "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Moses Gets a Call." The message focused on the fact that Moses was a man of great faults; yet, God called him to serve. He also analyzed how Moses wanted to deny the call. Holbert characterized Moses' questions in this way: "Who are you? Who am I? I don't talk very well...choose someone else!" He said we all, like Moses are prone to respond this way. He concluded his message by saying, "The bush is still burning. It's still on fire. If you listen hard enough, you'll hear it say 'I will be with you. ... I need to change the title of my sermon to 'Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Grab It and Go!'"

The conference passed Resolution #1: Immigration, calling for Nebraska United Methodists to advocate for and support the work of the interagency Task Force on Immigration of The United Methodist Church and Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans. The resolution passed with one amendment.

Resolution #2: Gun Violence and Promotion of Alternatives to Violence provoked passionate debate. Following 20-30 minutes of floor discussion, the resolution was referred to committee for writing revisions.

Conference members participated in table conferencing to review and ask questions about the Great Plains United Methodist Conference Plan of Organization. Most of the more than 650 members in attendance took part in the exercise intended to help clarify plan objectives. Great Plains Transition Team members from Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West annual conferences were on hand to answer questions and clarify points made in the document.

A plenary session for a time of questions and answers followed the table conferencing. Most were technical questions related to how the plan would be carried out.
Holbert, church pastor, longtime teacher and committed researcher in Hebrew Bible and homiletics, conducted teaching sessions each day in addition to participating in the ordination service. Each day, Holbert unpacked a different piece of Hebrew Scripture. Friday's lecture was "Abraham, Elijah and a Walk to Emmaus: Being Found by the Holy." Saturday's teaching was "Will the Real God Please Stand Up?" Holbert's deep baritone voice and preaching style kept everyone in rapt attention.

The Rev. Charlotte Abram preached the memorial service honoring 12 deceased clergy and four clergy spouses. Abram, pastor at Tri-Community United Methodist Church, Omaha, delivered a powerful message of comfort and courage in the face of adversity and change.

Called "Next Chapter...New Chapter," Abram's sermon used Joshua 3:7-10a, 11-14 and 17-4:7, to set the stage for talking about "memory markers." Using imagery from Joshua, Abram said, "God used memory markers to ready his people for the changes in their lives. He wants us to remember all the lessons we have learned to prepare us for the new chapter of our lives."

Referring to the changes from life to death to resurrection and especially to the current changing face of United Methodism in Nebraska, Abram asserted that life for us is changing and has already changed. She said we must face these changes with the faith that God will be with us through it all.

Conferees honored each of the deceased by the striking of a bell. A reception for family and friends followed in the narthex.

Deceased clergy memorialized during the Friday evening service were Morland S. Addell, Richard A. Fairbanks, John O. Craig, Paul A. Leperd, John Paolini, Robert E. Frescoln, Gilbert E. Karges, Robert L. Miller, Donald E. Littrell, William C. Simmer, J. Richard Shapland and Robert D. Wigert. Deceased clergy spouses memorialized were Kevin Keezer, Sharon R. Linder, Ardis D. Bevins and Lois M. Naylor.

Twenty retirees were honored Friday morning. Those recognized included Dorothy E. Aspegren, Harold D. Backus, Linda J. Battello, Nita Gelling Cloran, Charles (Chuck) W. Cornwell, Nancy K. Flader, Steven L. Flader, Brian L. Fong, Inez Foster, F. Cole Fowler, Betsy Galloway-Carew, Jaclyn J. Hoy, Kaleuati "Kelo" F. Kaleuati, Nancy L. Leonard, Nancy J.H. Phillips, Carroll A. Plisek, Frederick G. Richart, Susan Sanders, Jay A. Vetter and Carol W. Windrum.

More than 60 high school and middle school youth attended Youth Annual Conference (YAC/MAC) held on the Nebraska Wesleyan University Campus. YAC members led a service on Saturday morning. On Thursday of YAC/MAC, the group gathered at the community garden located on the Wesleyan campus to cultivate. "It's nice to do something instead of just hearing about things that others have done, "said youth Jacob Patten. "It's great that it (the garden) is not just for Wesleyan."

Children's Annual Conference (CAC) brought in 18 smiling faces Thursday. Two new friends were welcomed with 16 who returned from last year. CAC's theme this year was "Open Our Eyes: See, Hear, Share Jesus." This theme went along with CAC's mission priority of helping, not only Nebraska foster children, but also the foster parents. CAC traveled off campus to the Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association headquarters in Lincoln. The children heard a brief history about the organization and what they could do to encourage and support their peers. CAC was involved with mailings and setting up a meeting space. The most rewarding experience was making homemade birthday cards for foster children. On Friday, CAC traveled to Lost in Fun, the Outdoor Playland Indoors, and on Saturday, they worshipped with MAC and YAC.

Offerings/UMCOR donations totaled $22,312.70:

  • UMCOR Material Resource Ministry - $2,767.44
  • Contain Your Joy (UMCOR shipping costs) - $1,747.75
  • United Methodist Global AIDS Fund - $3,221.76
  • Imagine No Malaria - $4,288.52
  • Youth Service Fund - $2,871.08
  • Nigeria/Nebraska Partnership - $7,416.15

Additionally, 4,265 kits, collected on a semi-trailer during the session, plus 68 boxes of bulk supplies, will be delivered to the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La.

2011-2012 statistical table comparisons:

  • Membership, 74,415, down 1,942 from 2011
  • Worship attendance, 30,596, up 584
  • Church school attendance, 8,557, down 307

While church membership and church school attendance are down from 2011, worship attendance increased slightly.

The following United Methodist churches closed in 2012-13: Union (7/1/12), Sterling (12/30/12), Greenwood (6/30/13) and Mascot Bethel (4/28/13).

Find more coverage of the annual conference session on the website.

--Kathryn Witte, director of communications/marketing, Nebraska Annual Conference