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2015 Great Plains Annual Conference


Officiating Bishop: Scott J. Jones

Memorable quotes from speakers:

"You are the message, the Gospel, embodied. How we show up matters."— Stephanie Hixon

“This unity stuff is difficult, in part, because authentic unity is a spirit gift." — Bishop Bruce Ough

“Technology has allowed the conversation to become much more shallow. We have become more polarized, and it has made it easier to demonize those who do not agree with us.” — Bishop Scott J. Jones

Bishop Scott J. Jones, talking about expanding child care for the 2015 annual conference session during his state of the conference address: “We have child care issues at annual conference. Praise the Lord! This is good news!”

Resolutions adopted by the conference:

  • Church closings (seven total, with one reopening with a new name)
  • Referred a resolution to reinstate a group health plan for clergy to the Board of Pension and
     Health Benefits.
  • Laity equalization plans related to the conference Board of Ordained Ministry, campus
      ministries and related to General and Jurisdictional delegates.
  • District superintendent membership (ex-officio) on the conference Board of Trustees and New Church Development committee.
  • Direct the Mercy and Justice team to study ways the Great Plains can assist United Methodist missionaries and Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land.
  • Encourage General and Jurisdictional conference delegates from the Great Plains to engage in dialogue with other delegates at these conferences to change the jurisdictional boundaries.

Petitions passed by the conference:

  • Geographic consideration for election of bishops: Would urge delegates to Jurisdictional conferences to include geography and cultural values along with sex, race and national origin as they consider their votes.
  • Holy conferencing for the election of bishops: Would require the presiding bishop at a Jurisdictional Conference to provide instructions saying, “In the Wesleyan tradition of Holy Conferencing, please do not intentionally vote for non-candidates for strategic purposes.”
  • Limit the number of bishops from individual annual conferences: Would limit the number of active bishops from one annual conference to two serving in a jurisdiction at any given time.
  • Acknowledge of diverse beliefs regarding homosexuality: Would strike references of homosexuality as being incompatible with Christian teachings and would eliminate restrictions against practicing homosexuals being certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the church. It also would lift restrictions on United Methodist pastors conducting same-sex marriages and would lift restrictions on annual conferences and United Methodist agencies from providing funding to homosexual-related caucus groups and similar agencies. The petition would eliminate the performance of same-sex marriages from the list of offenses that would initiate a church trial. We did have one clergy member, Rob Schmutz of Park City, Kansas, turn in his credentials immediately after the vote.

Election of delegates and alternates to General and Jurisdictional conferences:

  • The Rev. Adam Hamilton, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas
  • The Rev. Amy Lippoldt, Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, Newton, Kansas
  • The Rev. Mark Holland, Trinity Community Church , Kansas City, Kansas
  • The Rev. Zach Anderson, Hanscom Park United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska
  • The Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas
  • The Rev. David Livingston, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Lenexa, Kansas


Clergy members elected to the Jurisdictional Conference were:

  • Junius Dotson, Saint Mark United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas
  • Eduardo Boussan, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Stephanie Alschwede, South Gate United Methodist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Nathan Stanton, Great Plains New Church Development coordinator, Wichita, Kansas
  • Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, First United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas
  • Kibum Kim, Parsons District Superintendent

Clergy delegates voted to serve as alternates were:

  • Rebecca Hjelle, First United Methodist Church, Blair, Nebraska
  • Anne Gatobu, Lincoln New Hope, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Rick Just, Wichita East District Superintendent

The lay delegates elected to the General Conference were:

  • Courtney Fowler, College Avenue United Methodist Church, Manhattan, Kansas
  • Oliver Green, Asbury Mt. Olive United Methodist Church, Topeka, Kansas
  • Shayla Jordan, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas
  • Dixie Brewster, Milton United Methodist Church, Milton, Kansas
  • Lisa Maupin, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Wesley Gately, First United Methodist Church, Wamego, Kansas

Lay delegates elected to the Jurisdictional Conference were:

  • Keith Olsen, of Grant United Methodist Church in Grant, Nebraska
  • Randall Hodgskinson, First United Methodist, Topeka, Kansas
  • Esther Hay, First United Methodist Church, Waverly, Nebraska.
  • Karelle Leeper,Clair Memorial United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Bob Aderholt, Kenesaw United Methodist Church, Kenesaw, Nebraska
  • Sandy Simmons, First United Methodist Church, Leavenworth, Kansas

Lay delegates voted to serve as alternates were:

  • Carl Nord, Mulvane United Methodist Church, Mulvane, Kansas
  • Steve Baccus, First United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Kansas
  • Shane Hinderliter, At the Well United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership and average age: 21 people (average age 39)

Current membership: 219,095

Last year’s membership: 221,043

Current worship attendance: 87,645

Last year’s worship attendance: 90,082

Current church school attendance: 27,285

Last year’s church school attendance: 28,607

What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year?

Leadership Development

  • We introduced 33 young adults serving as interns for 10 weeks in Vacation Bible School for small churches, new church development, pastoral leadership, Hispanic ministry and youth ministry. The plan already is to expand to as many as 60 next summer.
  • Campus ministry was featured in a special luncheon and from the stage during a congregational excellence presentation. In the coming 12 months, we have planned expansion of campus ministries to Creighton University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
  • We presented the Local Church Toolbox available on the Great Plains website. The new pages provide portals to 12 areas where content is centralized for such topics as “Making Disciples,” “Dynamic Worship,” “Justice Ministries,” “Leadership Development,” “Clergy Resources” and more. In the next 12 months we will expand the breadth of content and make use of a submission feature to share best practices across the Great Plains.
  • The conference approved a capital fundraising campaign to improve amenities and expand services at Camp Comeca, located near Cozad, Nebraska.

Church Growth

  • The toolbox on letter C above serves for this purpose as well.
  • The congregational excellence team provided a presentation that included the Vital Congregations efforts. Sermons by Bishop Jones and Bishop Ough emphasized discipleship. Our Next Steps program will be expanded in the next 12 months, with more coaching for congregations beyond the 12 that participated this year.

Ministry with the Poor

  • An open house was planned for Open Door, a food pantry and homeless shelter in Wichita, Kansas, to provide attendees an opportunity to see this facility that is supported in part by mission shares. The tour had to be canceled, however, because a special session was needed to complete balloting for delegations for the General and Jurisdictional conferences.
  • The conference did not specifically address how it plans to work on this issue during the 2015 annual conference session.

Global Health

  • One of the booths at the conference emphasized the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative.
  • We reserved one of our worship offerings for the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Approximately $7,000 was raised.
  • The conference considered, but did not pass, three petitions dealing with fossil fuels.
  • The conference did not specifically set any goals or discuss matters pertaining to global health during the 2015 session.

Professions/reaffirmations of faith: 2014, 4,074; 2013, 4,392

Adults and young adults in small groups: 2014, 51,274; 2013, 51,157

Worshippers engaged in mission: 2014, 55,895; 2013: 49,094

Amount given to mission: 2014, $22,226,248; 2013, $21,573,423