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2014 West Michigan Annual Conference

 

June 11-14, 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The West Michigan Annual Conference was held on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 11-14, 2014. This year’s event flowed under the able leadership of Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey and worship leader/teacher, Marcia McFee.

It took three ballots for the clergy and four ballots for the laity to elect delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2016. Clergy delegate to General Conference is the Rev. Laurie Haller (Birmingham, Michigan), and lay delegate is Nichea Ver Veer Guy (Grand Rapids). Guy will serve as the head of the delegation. Jurisdictional delegates are the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai (Lansing) and Laurie Dahlman (Kalamazoo). Lay reserve delegates are Laura Witkowski (Grand Rapids) and Anne Soles (Pentwater). Clergy reserve delegates are Benton Heisler (Grand Rapids) and John Boley (Kalamazoo).

The Rev. Marco Depestre, coordinator of reconstruction for Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti,  joined Michigan Area Haiti Task Force co-chairs, Dave Morton (West Michigan Conference) and Don Gotham (Detroit Conference) in a renewal of the covenant first signed in 1996.”Pray that we bless you as you bless us,” he said as he thanked the conferences for their years of partnership.

Thursday afternoon Michigan’s Imagine No Malaria head coach, Molly Turner, called Katie Dawson forward. Dawson, a pastor from Iowa, also is an Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, like Turner. Katie said, “Where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.” Turner shared where the Michigan Area now stands halfway in meeting its $1.5 million commitment to Imagine No Malaria. The goal for the Detroit and West Michigan conferences was to have raised $750,000 by June 2014. Turner yelled, “Yahoo!” after reporting that the total, received and pledged to date, is $802,704.

Legislative action included:

  • Divestment: call on the leadership of the U.S., Israel and Palestine to reject all acts of aggression and violence and respect the equality and dignity of the region’s people.
  • Immigration Reform: urge federal legislators to continue to work diligently toward a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living and/or working in the U.S.
  • Support for Ministry to All Persons: adopted as amended — Now therefore, we encourage all UMs within our annual conference and beyond, lay and clergy, in accordance with our membership vows to “resist evil, injustice, ad oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” by supporting spiritually, emotionally and prayerfully the issue of marriage equality and the clergy and local congregations who faithfully minister to all persons, courageously risking any consequences for their living fully into the duty of performing marriages for all people. Further: The West Michigan Conference desires a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same sex wedding ceremonies and instead recommend we continue a process of theological, spiritual, and ecclesiastical conversation
  • The Board of Christian Camping was authorized to engage in a special conference-wide financial appeal totaling $450,000 between, July 2014-2016. To fund camp scholarships, three full-time site directors, and fund development expenses.

There was much in common between the two Michigan annual conferences this year. Marcia McFee worked with planners from Detroit and West Michigan to create worship that is m-m-good. She led conference in three teaching sessions. Conference preachers were “home-made”: The Rev. DeAnn Dobbs (West Michigan-Indian River United Methodist Church) and the Rev. Dr. Anthony Hood (Scott Memorial United Methodist Church, Detroit).

Two churches were discontinued during the Corporate Session: Parma (Albion District) and Waterloo First (Lansing District). One new church was blessed. Gary Step, director of new church development said, “We’re launching a re-start at Plainfield.” Rivercrest United Methodist Church will be launched under the leadership of Kel Penny.

July 17 was the date given when the “Bishop will itinerate” to a new Episcopal Office, 1011 Northcrest in Lansing. An open house will be held Sept. 7, 3-5 p.m. ET.

Saturday’s Service of Commissioning and Ordination welcomed one new deacon in full connection, Pat Castellier (66). No provisional deacons were commissioned. Five persons were ordained elders: Letisha Bowman (47), Cathy Christman (33), Patricia Haas (60), Jonathan Van Dop (38) and Rebecca Wieringa (38). Four were commissioned/received as provisional elders (47).Seven completed Licensing School.  Seventeen retiring clergy were honored on Thursday evening during Marking Sacred Time. Wednesday night’s Memorial Service celebrated the lives of 14 clergy; 10 clergy spouses, and three laypersons.

On Saturday, dean of the cabinet, the Rev. Tamara Williams, provided the annual report. “We are reminded of loss every time we go to church,” she said. “Fewer people. Fewer visitors. Less giving. Too many stories begin, ‘We used to.’” The dean then moved from grief to encouragement. “Don’t give up. There is abundant hope for congregations wiling to grieve then let go and turn their focus outward.” She reminded all that “there is time to sit at Christ’s feet to listen and learn but soon he is up and out the door and expects us to move with him."

Statistics:

Lay membership stands at 59,277, down 1,374 from 2012

Worship attendance stands at 34,126, down 1,938

Church School attendance stands at 8,434, down 883

Professions of Faith stand at 1,307, down 117

Baptisms stand at 1,254, down 68

— Kay DeMoss, senior writer/editor for the Michigan Area