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2016 Dakotas Annual Conference


Over 600 members and visitors of the Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church gathered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to experience “Living Generously, Unleashing God’s Gifts.”  Bishop Bruce R. Ough presided.

Bishop Ough encouraged United Methodists in the Dakotas to be more intentional in their manure spreading—metaphorically speaking. In his episcopal address, Ough reflected on the model of living generously set forth by Jesus in (Luke 13:6-9). In this parable, a gardener lobbies for the life of a fig tree that has not borne fruit in three years. He offers to spread manure on the soil in hopes that, with one more year, the tree will bear fruit. “Go live in generous abandon. And unleash a mighty, magnificent torrent of God’s grace and mercy upon God’s world.”

The Rev. Jim Harnish, author and theologian, led two teaching sessions at this year’s conference.  Harnish identified generous living as the issue that will most clearly define who we are as followers of Christ. “Salvation is never just about money,” Harnish said. “But it is never about anything less than money.” The mission of the church, he reminds us, is not to raise money or pay apportionments. It is to make disciples.

The Dakotas Conference is living out the three scriptural imperatives: to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people and heal a broken world. That’s the message that Sheila Dailie, incoming chair of the Common Table, gave to members of the 23rd conference. The message was part of the opening plenary session as the Common Table reported on the progress that has been made and highlighted the following accomplishments in 2015-2016 Missional Report : 

  • In 2015, 95.4 percent of the Dakotas Conference churches gave towards the 16 percent apportionment requested.  This represents an increase from 2014.
  • New church starts--First African in Fargo, North Dakota and Embrace Church expanding to a fifth campus in Lakeland, Minnesota.
  • Beresford Zion United Methodist Church is reaching out to the families in the community through a daycare and preschool program.
  • Highmore, Harold and Blunt United Methodist churches raised over $9,000 to send 30 kids to camp in 2015 and $14,000 to send 40 kids to camp in 2016
  • Spirit Lake Ministry Center and churches like Aberdeen North Highland are reaching out through distribution of over 6,500 Shoebox Christmas gifts.
  • Eleven young adult ministry grants promoting outreach ministry like Madison United Methodist Church’s outreach ministry to college and high school youth.
  • The third cohort of churches involved in the MCCI process bringing the total number of churches to 15. The beginning of Journey Renewal process with 6 charges and 9 churches.
  • Scholarship dollars distributed by the Board of Ordained Ministry reached over $80,000 for 2015-2016.
  • Over $16,000 distributed to 22 churches for churches to extend mission impact and connection in their communities.

The conference celebrated the generous giving of individuals and churches to Thrive: Strength for Today, Hope for Tomorrow, a capital campaign. Over $3.5 million has been pledged to date with more commitments to still come in.

Members to the 23rd session approved a resolution that the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church sign on as a coalition partner with South Dakotans for Responsible Lending and join in advocating to cap payday, car title, and installment loans at an annual interest rate of 36 percent.

The site for annual conference for the next four years was approved as follows: 2017 Bismarck, 2018 Sioux Falls, 2019 Bismarck, 2020 Sioux Falls. In 2017, the conference will spend close to $727,000 on new churches, revitalization, and leadership development.

Rule changes were approved that allow for: peer clergy ministry groups instead of mandated ministry teams, an area director of camp and retreat ministry, an area council for camp and retreat ministry, co-conference lay leaders and co-district lay leaders.

Conference officers were elected for the next four years: Christopher Hanson, conference secretary, Jeff Pospisil, conference treasurer, JoAnn Schlimgen, conference statistician, Nancy Oviatt, conference chancellor for South Dakota, Tom Ottmar, conference and chancellor for North Dakota.

Laity elected to leadership for this quadrenium are: Quaya Ackerman, co-conference lay leader, Myrna Hill, co-conference lay leader, Don Fox and Steve Schlasner, Eastern Sunrise District co-lay leaders, Nancy Hallenbeck and Val Melmer, Glacial Lakes District co-lay leaders, Julia Jones and Richard Wahlstrom, Prairie Hills co-lay leaders, Janck Hincks and Barb Owens, Sakakawea District co-lay leaders.

The 2017 budget amount of $4,361,252 was approved at a slight decrease of -0.05 percent compared to the 2016 budget total of $4,365,000. 

Kathleen Gail Chesey, Clay Michael Lundberg and Margaret Lorene Stempson were ordained as elders. Melissa Marie Gall was commissioned for the work of a deacon. Nicole Marie Anderson was commissioned for the work of an elder.  The average age of those ordained is 38.  The average age of those commissioned is 28.

Membership stands at 36,011, down 179 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 22,270, up 417 or 1.9 percent. Church school attendance stands at 5,464, down 349. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 were 638, down from 788 in 2014. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 was 8,065, up from 8,026 in 2014. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 was 4,670, up from 4,417 in 2014.


—Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference