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2015 Iowa Annual Conference

The Iowa Conference will “Change a Child’s Story,” even as it positions itself for a dynamic future based on ministry achievements of the past.

Gathering for an annual meeting June 6-9 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, some 1,600 laity and clergy pledged to put one million books in the hands of children over the next two years.  The initiative, titled “Change a Child’s Story,” is the unanimously endorsed proposal of the Poverty to Opportunity task force.  Equally important is the promise to invest one million hours reading with and to children in third grade or younger by 2017.

“Almost anyone can read to a child and help that child to read back to them,” task force member Clint Twedt-Ball said. “We want these books to be a way that churches connect with kids in their neighborhood and their community.”

Presenting the challenge, Twedt-Ball declared, “Today we are calling on United Methodists to love God’s children!”   Within days of the annual session’s adjournment nearly 20 percent of the conference’s congregations had pledged to participate. 

Twenty-five years of the Iowa Conference-Nigeria Partnership were celebrated in an energetic morning of vibrant drumming. The observance offered glimpses of the years of building relationships, digging wells, establishing medical clinics, supporting primary and secondary schools, providing PETs, guiding agriculture and being in ministry together as partners.

Beverly Nolte, who has been involved from the beginning, recalled, “The Lord led the way in this partnership as we looked, listened and learned one from the other.”  Iowa Conference Bishop Julius Trimble described the partnership as “one of the longest running in the church.”

The Workforce Design Task Force called for “adaptive change” to guide the Iowa Conference into the future. Emerging from the Strategic Priorities (2013), the task force “spent a lot of time prayerfully listening and then praying some more as we considered what we heard,” according to Lynn Calvert.

“We heard a desire for deep change,” Rev. Barrie Tritle reported of the effort to align organizational structures and staffing resources with mission and strategic priorities. Betty Stone observed, “We are at a new beginning.”

The final proposals to implement the proposed “pathway process,” including the work of a Healthy Conference Implementation Team, will be presented in 2016 and 2017.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, offered three teaching sessions.  He called on the people of the Iowa Conference to “radiate possibility, focus on people and be ready for change.”  In the course of a wide-ranging interview he said, ““We’ve got to do everything we can to raise up a generation of leaders.” He met with over 50 younger clergy following the first of his presentations.

“Jesus invites us to come close and then go out,” Bishop Trimble said in his Episcopal Address.  “Jesus never asked his followers to play church [and] he is expecting a response from us.”

Offering her first Laity Address, Margaret Borgen asked, “So the question is, are there things we can do differently in our churches that will help us do better?”  Realistically, she noted, “There is no one way, no magic bullet, but there is lots of guidance for us if we’re open to it.”   Candidly, she noted that there are divisions within the church. Even so, she concluded, “God is our rock on the journey to unity.”

Terry Montgomery, conference treasurer/director of administrative services, said: “It’s time for us to be an extroverted church again.” He reported that the financial health of the Conference has improved in the last year.

Six clergy and six laity will represent Iowa at General Conference 2016.  Clergy delegates are Lilian Gallo Seagren, Katie Dawson, Brian Milford, Barrie Tritle, Diane Wasson Eberhart and Thomas Shinkle.  Lay Delegates are Phil Carver, Norma Morrison, Becky Hereen, John Rothlisberger, Darcy Rubenking, and Craig Scott.

Clergy who will serve on the Jurisdictional Conference delegation are Sean McRoberts, Mike Morgan, Lanette Plambeck, Tom Carver, Nate Nims, and Brian Oliver. Laity serving on that delegation are  Margaret Borgen, Lindsay Drake, Kae Tritle, Marcia Young, Richard Hofmeyer, and Lisa Larson.  Alternates are (clergy) Heecheon Jeon, Scott Kisker, Beverlee Bell, Steve McElroy, Deborah Wise, John Louk and (laity) Beverly Spencer, Dorothy Higdon, Lauren Wise Loonsfoot, Ryan Russell, Nitza Dovenspike and Noreen Kahler-Miller.  Phil Carver was elected to chair the General Conference delegation.

Bishop Trimble’s new book A Faithful Church and A Healthy World was available at the meeting.  He had a book signing during the Monday noon break.

Other news of note:

  • Iowa Conference’s consistently generous support of UMCOR was recognized
  • Imagine No Malaria Campaign Director Sheri Atland presented an award to the Iowa Conference for surpassing the $2 million goal ($2.1 million given)
  • One Matters Discipleship Awards were presented to Mt. Ayr First UMC, St. Paul’s UMC Waterloo, and Bettendorf, Quad Cities Korean UMC
  • Heifer International recognized the Iowa Conference for its contributions of over $3 million in recent years
  • Worship preachers were: Rev. Karen Nelson, Opening and Memorial Service, Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Service for the Ordering of Ministry, Rev. Lilian Gallo Seagren, Service of Recognition of Retirement
  • Caitlin Congdon, director of training and development for United Methodist Communications, presented a workshop on “Tools for Increasing your Church’s Vitality” at a breakfast sponsored by the Iowa Conference Communications Ministry Team
  • The Conference supported a resolution expressing support of the Connectional Table proposal to the 2016 General Conference that the denomination take a more open stance on homosexuality
  • Eight persons were ordained as elders; one was recognized for professional certification, eight became commissioned elders, and four were recognized as course of study graduates
  • Thirty-four clergy retired
  • At the Memorial Service 29 clergy and 21 clergy spouses were remembered, along with Conference Lay Leader David Decker and Bishop Rueben Job.  Mrs. Beverly Job was present for the service.

Statistics:

  • Professing membership declined 3,369 (2%)
  • Worship attendance declined 2,888 (5.4%)
  • Local church income was flat at $83,947,193
  • The approved 2016 budget is $14,810,617, a decrease of $1,203,480 (8.1%)
  • 2014 apportionment receipts: 485 (62%) churches paid 100%; 79 churches paid 10% or less

Media postings:

  • The Rev. Arthur McClanahan, director of communications, Iowa Conference