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2017 Dakotas Annual Conference


Over 560 members of the Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota to “Encounter the Spirit: Live Expectantly!”

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Area, presided and encouraged the Dakotas Annual Conference to live expectantly by claiming and putting into practice the dynamics that led to vitality, growth, and missional passion in the primitive church. “Our journey toward vitality is producing much kingdom fruit,” Bishop Ough said. “There are many signs our congregations are growing in our capacity to love God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world.”

The Rev. Junius Dotson, top executive of Discipleship Ministries was the guest speaker. “Deep within us is a desire for purpose,” Dotson said. Many churches have lost focus because they are building roads to nowhere. We have mistaken activity for accomplishment.” To counteract this mistake, churches need to focus on the key mission—the “why” of their work. Drawing from Simon Sinek’s popular “Start with Why,” Dotson reminded the conference that disciple-making is the reason churches exist.

Sheila Dailie, chair of the Common Table and several presenters reported on the progress that has been made and highlighted the 2016-2017 Missional Report. They reported that 36,000 United Methodists in 250 churches are creating a culture of call, multiplying disciples, connecting with neighbors and understanding God’s abundant giving. The Dakotas Conference is experiencing growth in worship attendance for the sixth year and is home to Embrace Church, the fastest-growing United Methodist Church in the country.

Several business items came before the body. The members approved a resolution in support of changes to the Articles of Incorporation for Tree of Life Ministry.

The body also voted on the constitutional amendments from General Conference 2016.

Rule changes were approved that allow for: The Generating Missional Resources group to function as a taskforce, called as needed by the bishop, not as a link. A 60-day application period clergy short-term leave was also approved.

Kristen Krogman was elected conference secretary for the remainder of the 2017-2020 quadrennial, filling a vacancy after the current conference secretary resigned.

Laity elected new conference leadership, due to shifts of the current leadership to clergy, for this quadrennial including: Jane Hincks, co-conference lay leader and Annie Carlson was elected co-district lay leader for the Northwest District.

New names of the four districts of the Dakotas Conference were approved. The four district names will be Northeast (formerly Eastern Sunrise), Northwest (formerly Sakakawea), Southeast (formerly Glacial Lakes) and Southwest (formerly Prairie Hills).

The 2018 budget was approved at the amount of $4,418,773 was approved, a slight increase of 1.3 percent compared to the 2017 budget total of $4,361,252. There is a 5.4 percent decrease in the cost to the churches for pensions and insurance in the 2018 budget.  The overall budget for 2018 will see an expected decrease of 1.5 percent or $108,546.

In moments of celebration and remembrance, members:

  • Rejoiced at the ordination of six elders and the commissioning of four provisional elders and one association member (average age 46 years).  
  • Gave thanks for the 245 total years of service of nine clergy members who retire July 1.
  • Lit candles, remembering the three clergy and five clergy spouses who died during the past year as part of the Celebration of Life in Ministry Service.
  • Recognized, in the opening plenary session, Scott Jenson, director at Storm Mountain Center for his 17 years of ministry. In special offerings, collected $46,000 for The Kids Count Miracle Offering, to help fund grants to local churches for school partnerships and send kids to camp.
  • Also collected $3,226 for the ministerial student aid fund. In a new tradition, recognized the 19 clergy who are entering their first appointments to churches this year.

Statistically, in the Dakotas Conference: Membership stands at 35,717, down 269 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 22,605, up 1.7 percent. Church school attendance stands at 5,625, up by 161. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016:  832, up from 2015 by 4.3 percent. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016:  8,101, down from 2015 by 36. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016:  6, 325 up from 2015 by 2.8 percent. Dakotas Conference churches served 5,000 people with ministries of outreach, justice and mercy.

Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference