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2013 Wisconsin Annual Conference

Wisconsin Annual Conference
June 7-9, Middleton, Wis.

The 2013 Wisconsin Annual Conference took place at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton June 79. The Conference session featured the theme "Live the Fruit of the Spirit," the new theme for the new quadrennium. Conference attendees lived their ministry by giving generously for Ingathering, amassing $5,858 and a number of items including more than 50 infant hats; 46 bedding kits; 124 layette kits; 134 Sewing kits; 159 cleaning buckets; 175 sweaters; 257 birthing kits; 450 Health kits; 1,065 kits for Harbor House Crisis Shelters, Northcott Neighborhood House, United Methodist Children's Services of Wisconsin, and Solomon Temple; and 2,005 schoolbag kits. The offerings included $1,868 for Summer Developers and Rising Sun Camp at the Opening Worship service, and $2,546 for the Clergy in Transition Fund at the Ordination and Commissioning service. Visit our Wisconsin Conference UMC home page at www.wisconsinumc.org to review featuring links to archived video that was live streamed, and recaps of events from each day.

The Conference welcomed Bishop Chul Lee and other delegates from the Dongbu Conference of the Korean Methodist Church to honor the sister partnership between the two Conferences. The Dongbu delegates participated in worship services, spoke at Plenary sessions and Bishop Jung's banquet on Saturday evening, and shared gifts with the Wisconsin Conference UMC, including a donation of $2,000 that Bishop Jung gave to the Hmong House of Good News, a Wisconsin Conference Health and Welfare Ministry located in Milwaukee.

During his inspiring Opening Sermon, Bishop Jung spoke about being blessed through his many visits to Wisconsin congregations since last fall. "It will require more than a year to visit all 485! But if I am to lead you, I need to know you," he said. He also introduced his new fruit-producing strategy, Imagining Wisconsin Anew, which he explained as "an effort to bear good fruit by serving new people, diverse people, young people, elderly people, and all people. It is about being passionate in inviting new people to a relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. To read the sermon in its entirety, click here or view the recording of the worship service by clicking here.

On Saturday evening, members and friends of the Conference gathered for a banquet to welcome Bishop Jung and his wife Im, who is a clergy member of the Wisconsin Conference. Rev. Amanda Stein shared a presentation that celebrated Bishop Jung's travels around the state of Wisconsin during his first year, recognized Bishop Chul Lee and delegates, and featured the commissioning of Hyo-Won Park as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries. Rev. Park will serve as a church planter in Russia.

During the banquet, the recipients of several Conference awards were also honored. The Harry Denman Evangelism clergy award, which recognizes excellence in evangelism, was given to Rev. Renee Thomas. The Thelma Gregg award, which honors lay persons who are doing vital missions in ways that reflect the love of Christ, was given to John Wierschem. Other awards were given to Doug Pierce (Commission on the Status and Role of Women Bridgebuilder Awards)The United Methodist Women of the Wisconsin Conference (Perry Saito Awards), and Ron Schobert and Chuck Wedemeyer (Love in Action Award).

Ray Buckley, renowned author and international speaker, led Bible Studies on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He drew on his Native American heritage to tell impassioned stories of suffering and forgiveness. On Saturday, he spoke on the significance of the names children are given at birth within the Native American culture, and that we shouldn't live by the names of derision that others give us. We need to be positive about who we are and live out our sacred names, he explained. On Sunday, he spoke about the sadness of the past treatment of Native Americans and how they were tortured and killed by many people, including Methodists. Many Native Americans today don't know their ancestors' stories, he said, because they were raised in institutions and adoption agencies. He spoke of the Act of Repentance and the importance of both United Methodists as well as the Native Americans to repent."We Native Americans need to repent for our years of anger and learn to forgive," he said. Buckley also talked about the importance of all United Methodists to take responsibility to make disciples of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter if you are clergy or laity, he said. He challenged all brothers and sisters to "Take thou authority. Go into the world and tell the story of Jesus Christ to people who are tired. Serve where there is a need...if you don't do it, no one else will." Click here to watch the full video from Saturday and click here to watch the full video from Sunday.

During his State of the Church presentation on Sunday morning, Bishop Jung talked about his delight and surprise to be back in Wisconsin to lead our congregations for the next four years. He also talked about our quadrennial theme Live the Fruit of the Spirit and how we will be inviting new people into a relationship with Jesus Christ through existing congregations and new faith communities. "I believe we will bear good fruit by serving new people of all ages and ethnicities," he said. He celebrated the amazing commitment of our Wisconsin United Methodists who participate in missions here in Wisconsin and around the world, as well as the generous giving of our membership. Bishop Jung also spoke about his priorities and recommendations for the Conference. "Since arriving in Wisconsin, I have made visiting every congregation and circuit a priority. So far, I have visited 140 congregations in 10 months, and I look forward to traveling to the rest of the churches and circuits prior to the end of 2014," he said. Bishop listed other steps he is taking, including focusing on abundance and not scarcity, adding the Director of Connectional Ministries to the Cabinet, producing new resources for congregational leaders, building bridges to other faith communities, emphasizing recruitment rather than retention, adding a Director of Congregational Development to the Cabinet, exploring the possibility of adjusting the number of districts, and planning a possible Capital Campaign to help fund new faith development and other ministry connections. Click here to read Bishop's address in its entirety and click here to view video from the morning.

Rev. Steve Scott presented the Clergy Covenant report at Sunday morning's Plenary session. The Clergy Covenant team was formed at the 2012 Annual Conference session and after the trial of Amy DeLong in order to help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant within the Wisconsin United Methodist Church. "This is all very personal," Scott said. "We are the Church together. What we have discovered is that we can either continue to debate over differences in theology or we can focus, as this team is charged to do, on living together in better ways." Bishop Jung affirmed the document as "a tool to be used for future conversation, not as a document up for debate or approval." Click here to visit the Clergy Covenant team website, and click here to read the full report. Click here to watch video from the morning.

Several Conference action items were voted on for implementation in the coming year. All were passed. Some of the approved items included: the 2014 budget, continued partnership with the Hmong House of Good News, Cedar Crest, Inc., and Hillcrest Family Services; the chartering of Whitewater: Cristo La Roca UMC, the discontinuance of Neillsville UMC, and the abandonment of Reedsville UMC; and the approval to elect delegates to General Conference a year earlier than previous years, in 2014. Click here to view the list of all action items voted on at this year's Conference.

Fifteen retiring clergy were recognized for their years of service. Two former Wisconsin bishops participated in the Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination Service on Sunday afternoon. Bishop Sharon Rader gave the sermon, and Bishop Linda Lee gave an opening blessing. During the service, four individuals were licensed as local pastors, two were commissioned as deacons, five were commissioned as elders, one was ordained as a deacon, and five were ordained as elders. "We're gathered here because we know the spirit of God has placed a message deep in our hearts," Bishop Rader said. She talked about the message Living the Fruit of the Spirit manifesting itself in ways such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. She also talked about the meaning of freedom through the Church: "There are those outside the Church who think we're not about freedom at all; that you, who are to be licensed, ordained, commissioned you're not free. But I declare to you: you are, we are; this Church has been set free to live, to love, to dance, and to invite others to do the same." Following the service, the individuals that were licensed, commissioned and ordained were honored at a celebration dinner. Each of them spoke words of gratitude, and Bishop Jung congratulated them. Click here to view video of the ceremony.

-Amanda Rehrauer, Communications Assistant, Wisconsin Conference