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2016 Great Plains Conference

 

Officiating bishop: Scott J. Jones

Guest speakers:

  • Retired Melkite Catholic Church Archbishop Elias Chacour of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee
  • George Howard, deputy general secretary for United Methodist Board of Global Ministries

Memorable points or quotes by speakers:

Chacour:

  • “We are citizens of Israel. We never protest against the existence of Israel. We protest against the qualities of that existence. We want to be full citizens. We want to be sharing the building up of this country with the Jews.”
  • “When I sign my books -- I've signed hundreds of thousands -- I sign it, ‘God does not kill’ and sign my name in Arabic. And God is love. All the rest is commentary.”

Howard:

  • “Just like in John Wesley’s time, we’re called to build new United Methodist movements. You put the movement in place, then build systems and structures around it,” he added, not vice versa.
  • A new initiative, the first in 10 years, includes the Central African Republic, Howard said. Although bureaucratic hurdles have kept The United Methodist Church from becoming established in Vietnam, GBGM may succeed because the country’s leaders want United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, services available there. “Please pray for Vietnam,” Howard said.

Main actions enacted by the conference:

The annual conference celebrated the ministry of Bishop Scott Jones in Kansas and, then, Nebraska. After 12 years in Kansas and four serving Nebraska, he likely is moving on to a new appointment after the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

The celebration included a sort-of roast during the Thursday afternoon plenary session and a reception in his honor Thursday night.

We elected a new treasurer, Scott Brewer, who will take over after the retirement in July 2017 for the Rev. Gary Beach.

We also passed a resolution seeking to move the complaint process involving the Rev. Cynthia Meyer from the Committee on Investigation back to the bishop’s office.

Resolutions adopted by the conference:

  • As stated earlier, we passed a resolution seeking to move the complaint process involving the Rev. Cynthia Meyer from the Committee on Investigation back to the bishop’s office. The “affirmation resolution” encourages counsel for the Church and for Rev. Meyer to consult and move the case to a decision by the bishop’s office in an effort to avoid a church trial. The motion passed on a raised-hand vote by a large margin.
  • We overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging all pastors to educate congregations about the UMC’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty. The Kansas legislature is grappling with death-penalty issues, and Nebraska will have a referendum vote on the subject in November.
  • We established a Great Plains Conference disabilities awareness Sunday and to form the Committee on Disabilities Concerns, to be operated under our Mercy and Justice ministries.
  • We passed the Great Plains Poverty Initiative, which developed a grant system funded with $60,000 from our missional opportunities fund to reimburse churches and other faith communities for efforts associated with eradicating poverty in their areas. It also sets up a one-year committee to administer the funds and to make a report at the 2017 annual conference session to report progress and consider renewal of the program.
  • We passed a resolution celebrating the laity. It calls for Great Plains churches to actively participate in Laity Sunday and to provide recognition of lay servants and lay speakers.

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 commissioned 33 interns who will work in six ministry areas for 10 weeks this summer.
  • We heard from Archbishop Chacour, who challenged attendees to analyze why they think the way they do and to consider nontraditional stances on issues. He used the conflict in Israel between Jews and Palestinians as an example.
  • We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Order of Deacons with a presentation that examined the many forms of ministry that deacons participate in and how people can get involved in those ministries.
  • The annual conference celebrated raising more than $700,000 to refurbish Camp Comeca, a camp near Cozad, Nebraska. Camping ministry has proven to be an effective tool for training and sustaining youth in the Great Plains.
  • Our United Methodist Men’s group gathered to raise just less than $10,000 for scholarships for Great Plains seminary students.

Church Growth

  • We heard from George Howard from GBGM about models for church growth, particularly in Africa. He challenged attendees to look at what was happening in Africa and to find ways to put those thoughts to use in the United States.
  • We heard from delegations from both Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Both shared how they had seen growth in the church in their respective countries.

Ministry with the Poor

  • We passed the Great Plains Poverty Initiative (as mentioned above), which established $60,000 in grants to reimburse faith communities for work to eradicate poverty.

Global Health

  • One of our special offerings during annual conference was earmarked for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. It raised $6,656.24.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age:

  • Ordained: 20
  • Commissioned: 5
  • Associate Members: 1
  • Average age: 37.5 years old

Number of people retired: 37

Membership stands at 215,223 down 3,913 from the previous year.

Worship attendance (average) stands at 91,205, down 2,278 from the previous year.

Church school attendance stands at 25,686, down 27,285.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 4,045, down from 2014 total of 4,076.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 48,389, down from 2014 total of 51,274.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 66,783, up from 2014 total of 55,897.

--Todd Seifert, director of communications, Great Plains Conference