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2015 Wisconsin Conference


The Wisconsin Annual Conference celebrated our theme of “Cultivate and Nurture” June 12-15 at the Madison Marriott West.

Highlights from guest speakers

Guest speakers included the Rev. Elaine Heath, McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology; the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society; Bishop Han Ku Kim, Dongbu Conference; Dr. Olusimbo Ige, director of global health at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries; and Mark Miller, assistant professor of church music at Drew Theological School.

Bishop Han Ku Kim preached during opening worship on Friday and again greeted annual conference members during opening plenary that afternoon. Bishop Kim, who is visiting Wisconsin for the third time, said our conference has inspired him to encourage more women to enter into ministry in the Dongbu Conference in Korea. He said that for the first time, 30 percent of the Dongbu Annual Conference members are women, and 30 percent of its delegates to the General Conference are women. “I was challenged to help more women be elected as delegates when Bishop Sharon Rader and Bishop Linda Lee visited Dongbu conference,” Bishop Kim said. “I thank the two bishops and female members of Wisconsin Conference for being a model.” He went on to say, “May God intervene in all the churches, the clergy, and the members of Wisconsin Conference so that the church may grow, the businesses do well, and the families be happy. I pray in the name of the Lord that Wisconsin Conference may be able to go out to the world with the slogan, ‘The world is my parish’ and be a model conference for The United Methodist Church.”

The Rev. Elaine Heath led Bible studies on Saturday and Sunday, where she discussed the Third Great Awakening and what it looks like to “fail forward.” She said that failure is not our enemy, but our friend. “This is a time of a rapid culture shift where pioneering is required.” She explained that the new awakening is Eucharistic; small communities of faith are where this will happen. She said that we need to make space for the apostolic innovators. Heath explained, “The bad news is that change calls into question who has the power, who gets to preside, who gets to wear the stole. There is a very special role for people who now have power and influence. These people love God, have been faithful, will continue to be faithful the rest of their lives. Make sure that the people in the old system are being cared for in the new structure. They’re providing resources for the apostolic innovators.”

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe delivered an inspiring sermon at the service where six people were ordained elders, five people were commissioned for the work of an elder, and 12 people were licensed as local pastors. Henry-Crowe cited Genesis 12:1 and encouraged the clergy to not be distracted by the location of their ministry, but rather to focus on the people they can affect with their ministry. “There will be sites and sightings,” she said. “Vibrant places attract people, but that’s not the real question. The question is, what will the sightings be? What will you let yourself see? Children living in poverty next door to the church? People suffering with addiction? Ministry will not be as much about the place as what you will let yourself see.”

Dr. Olusimbo Ige presented a moving Imagine No Malaria progress report. On a personal note, she told the conference that she and her husband both came down with malaria a week after their honeymoon. But “we didn’t die” because we had access to medicine and health facilities. “Some people die because they don’t have medical support, but some are living thanks to The United Methodist Church,” she said. Ige ended her presentation by thanking the Wisconsin Conference. “You have given a child hope, a family hope, a mother hope that they will be able to live,” she said.

Mark Miller provided amazing music throughout the weekend and led a special worship on Sunday evening, open to the public. Miller explored worship resources that revived and inspired attendees through plentiful songs and abundant advice, but also said that it is important to recognize the healing role that music can play in worship. “When we come to worship, we’re there to give thanks, but also to recognize that we’re all broken and suffering,” he said. “We need to acknowledge brokenness and suffering before healing can take place. Music breaks us open; music has a way of accessing those places where we can say, ‘We’re vulnerable; heal me God.’”

Transitioning to a new conference structure

As of July 1, 2015, the Wisconsin Conference has transitioned from eight districts and four superintendents to five districts and five district superintendents, as voted at annual conference 2014. Bishop Jung discussed this transition in his State of the Church Address. “This isn’t simply the adding of one district superintendent. This is another step that moves us forward as we pursue our Kingdom vision together. This change that you have supported will enhance our shared ministry; yes to get the job done of being the church in our communities, but also to nurture our spirits and strengthen our connections. Your bishop and superintendents, directors and all Conference staff are committed to lead and serve, act and love through their professionalism and gifts demonstrating shared values in supervision ministries, common vision, and God’s kingdom goals as they reach out to all of our congregations and the great wide world.”

The Rev. Sam Royappa, dean of the cabinet, said that change and transition has been the major theme of meetings over the last year, and that the cabinet is working closely with Bishop Jung to facilitate change in a way that honors the three missional reasons for change: effectiveness or fruitfulness, intentional leadership presence, and creative ministries across the conference. “As a cabinet, we act missionally, while thinking institutionally,” he said during the cabinet address on Saturday.

Don Greer, coordinator of circuit ministries, also gave an update on changes coming to the circuit structure of the Wisconsin Conference, partially as a result of the new districts, but also as a culmination of a two-year journey to visit every Wisconsin church alongside Bishop Jung. During their visits with each church, Greer asked the congregation members about what was and was not working with their ministry. The result of this research is Circuit 2.0, a plan that implements many changes — including new, smaller circuits that are contained within new district lines, and a new numbering system that is consecutive within the district rather than the entire state. “We are Imagining Wisconsin Anew in such a way that we reach new people and new ministry,” Greer said. “The circuit ministry is focused on revitalization.”

Celebrating giving to Imagine No Malaria

In a presentation on Saturday, Bishop Jung praised the progress our conference has made toward our goal of raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria. “There are so many exciting transitions happening in the Wisconsin Conference. From Imagining Wisconsin Anew to redistricting, and so much more — we are glad that Imagine No Malaria has been a big part of this year too.” He said that in the midst of change, “we came together as a conference and have already raised over $650,000 toward our $1 million goal. That’s over 65,000 lives saved in just this year alone. As we look toward the second year of the campaign, we reflect and celebrate the ways that churches and individuals all across the state have come together to support Imagine No Malaria this year.”

That evening, a silent and live auction for Imagine No Malaria was held which raised $15,780. Henry Yoap and Mary Beth Scow served as the auctioneers for the live auction and encouraged everyone to reach out with their heart and money. Silent and live auction items were donated by many Wisconsin churches and generous individuals and businesses, including quilts, vacation packages, handmade keepsakes and woodworking items, and sports memorabilia and experiences.

Lifting up new church starts

During his presentation on Sunday, Gary Holmes, chair of the conference strategy board, said, “We are excited about our future, and that future begins today! Imagining Wisconsin Anew has led to a concise and strategic plan to accomplish our mission — to reach the unchurched, young and diverse populations.” Our plan is to create dynamic faith communities that reflect spiritual intensity, missional alignment, and cultural openness, he said. It is not a plan for keeping our church doors open, as much as it is a plan to help us move out of our doors into the world for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By July, Holmes said, we are launching the Institute of Congregational Development as a means of developing leadership and gaining direction for new faith communities going forward. He reported that we have 20 spots out of 30 filled for the Institute of Congregational Development, and hope to fill the 10 left soon.

Enrique Gonzalez, director of congregational development, reported that there are three new church starts that began in 2014, including Urban Poiema in Milwaukee, a new Korean church in Madison, and The Vine in New Richmond.

In his State of the Church Address, Bishop Jung echoed his excitement for the new faith communities in Wisconsin. “We are experiencing success in Milwaukee with Urban Poiema and with our new Korean ministry in Madison; new Hispanic communities are being launched in Monroe, Sheboygan, Fox Valley areas, and the Vine new faith community nested in New Richmond. I am so excited that our system changes are already being made visible in creating and joining a new cultural climate for new church planting for new people, diverse people, and young creative people in so many and varied places in Wisconsin. They join a long list of successful new church and new faith ventures, and I pray are only the beginning of a wave of new faith reaching some of the 65-plus percent of people in most of our communities who are unconnected to a faith community, or have never connected.”

Voting on Action Items

Twenty-one Conference action items were voted on for implementation in the coming year. Some of the approved items included the Budget; a continued Covenant Affiliation with three Health & Welfare Ministries; a Rainbow Covenant Program to encourage mission giving; a motion to require the Council on Finance and Administration, the Discipleship Leadership Council and the Bishop with the Cabinet to provide quarterly updates regarding any strategy to change apportionment funding priorities; a resolution Holding Israel Accountable for Its Actions in Palestine; and more. Click here for information about the Action Items. 

Preparing for General Conference

Delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences were elected during the 2014 Annual Conference session. The conference voted on endorsing petitions to the 2016 General Conference. Lay delegates provided a wealth of information about General and Jurisdictional Conferences to those in attendance at Friday’s laity session with presentations, open floor questions, and a skit that discussed the upcoming quadrennial events.

Giving generously

Annual Conference members gave generously to Ingathering, special offerings, and Imagine No Malaria during conference:

  • Opening Worship (offering for Thailand Methodist Theological Seminary): $1,783.50
  • Ordination and Commissioning (offering for Clergy in Transition): $2,352.79
  • Ingathering: $6,345.55
  • Imagine No Malaria auction: $15,780
  • Imagine No Malaria church and individual donations brought to/made at annual conference: $32,925.08

2013 Stats:

  • Membership: 71,343
  • Worship attendance: 34,877
  • Church school attendance: 9,636  
  •  Submitted by Michele Virnig and Amanda Rehrauer