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2015 Dakotas Conference


Over 600 members and visitors of the Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered in Fargo, North Dakota to experience “God’s Vision: Our Mission—Unleashed”

“It is time to take and pass the final exam.” That’s what Bishop Bruce R. Ough told members of the 22nd session of the Dakotas Annual Conference. In his episcopal address, Ough said the question Jesus asks on the final exam—the question he thought would be put to us in the final judgment—is haunting: “When was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not care for you?” (Matthew 25:44). “The final exam is whether you and I will fully, sacrificially, extravagantly engage in Christ’s mission to transform the world,” Ough said. “The final exam question will not be about what we professed but what we did when we saw the least of these hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or in prison.”

The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida, led two teaching sessions at this year’s conference. “Jesus wants your church to be fruitful”—and it begins with being faithful, Acevedo said. God wants Pentecost to happen in your life and in your church. Acevedo shared four ways Grace Church has tried to model its ministries around the movements of grace that Methodism founder John Wesley identified : reach, connect, form and send ministries.

The Rev. Ray Baker, common table chair, Vincent UMC, Minot, North Dakota, and the Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Dakotas Conference director of ministries, presented the 2014-15 Missional Report on behalf of the Dakotas Conference Common Table. Trefz reminded the conference of the “Journey Toward Vitality” and the four vision pathways of:  developing missional leaders, equipping missional congregations, extending missional impact and generating missional resources. The report highlighted the accomplishments in each of the vision pathways.

  • Growth rate of 4.3 % in average worship attendance
  • Eight grants and programs for campus and young adult ministries
  • Ten churches are engaged in the Missional Consultation Church Initiative (MCCI)
  • Strategic shifts to the camping program
  • $280,000 in cash and kits collected for fall mission events
  • Launching Renew UMC—Kenmare Regional and Embrace Summit Ave campus
  • Dakotas Conference churches gave $2.2 million beyond apportionments .

Several business items came before the members of the annual conference session. The results from a capital campaign feasibility study were shared; there is a significant endorsement of and willingness to participate in a capital campaign for congregational development plan over the next seven years.  Thrive: Hope for Today, Strength for Tomorrow was launched with beginning pledges of $2.2 million.

The approved budget for 2016 is $4,365,000 in apportionments and $2,661,664 in direct billing to churches for a total of $7,026,664. This is an increase of $91,231 from 2015. The 2016 budget designates: $43,211 to enhance the efforts of the Missional Congregations Link;  $125,000 for the capital campaign; increasing staff in leadership development; increasing the amount needed to move clergy and support district superintendents and 0 percent premium increase in Health Flex.

Members attended preconference workshops on Wednesday afternoon. Workshops included “Telling your God story,” “What we are learning—Lessons on leadership hospitality, discipleship and other ministry areas from our MCCI churches, ” “Impacting our communities-How some Dakotas churches are extending missional impact,” and “Recovery as a discipleship tool."

A mission festival was held where Dakotas Conference missions were highlighted in video and "roving reporter" interviews.  Displays from Bakken Oil Rush Ministry, Out in Faith Ministry, Solar Oven Partners, Spirit Lake Ministry Center and Tree of Life circled the room for those in attendance at the festival to view. Several activities encouraged donations to Imagine No Malaria: the opportunity to get your photo taken with a flat John Wesley or flat Bishop Ough, a "Beat Bishop Ough" hoop shoot, a change war challenge and a fashion show with netting where design teams dressed their district superintendent. Over $63,000 was collected for Imagine No Malaria through a special offering and activities throughout the conference.

Several clergy and laity were honored. Bob Lower, Calvary UMC, Fargo, North Dakota was the recipient of the Genesis Award for his effort and support of disaster response. Four Jubilee Clergy were celebrated.  Seven retiring clergy were honored. The Rev. Brandon Vetter was awarded the Francis Asbury Award.  The recipients of the One Matters Award were Knollwood Heights United Methodist Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Faith United Methodist Church in Minot, North Dakota. 

The Denman Award for Evangelism was presented to the Rev. Luke Smith, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Watertown, South Dakota, Mike and Libby Flowers, Spirit Lake Ministry Center, Sheyenne, North Dakota, and Matt Bader, Pierre First UMC, DWU sophomore.

Sarah J. Herman, Mark Carlton Johnsen, Karl Richard Kroger, Sara Rose Stoddard McManus and Jennifer M. Tyler were ordained as elders. Luke David Smith and Joy Lynn Tracy were commissioned for the work of a deacon. Martin James Avery, Travis William Krogman, Seth Richard LaBounty, Juwle Sewinknon Nagbe, I and Mark Gerald Tracy were commissioned for the work of an elder.

Membership stands at 36,243, down 213 from the previous year. There were 803 professions of faith in 2014 up from 756 in 2013. Worship attendance stands at 21,669, up 858 from the previous year. Church-school attendance (Sunday morning statistics only) stands at 5,793, up 69. The number of people engaged in mission work grew to 4, 392 in 2014 from 3,124 in 2013.  Over 8,000 adults were engaged in a small group compared to 7,000 the previous year.

—Doreen Gosmire, associate director of communications, Dakotas Conference