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2017 Iowa Annual Conference


With the theme “Creating Difference Makers,” the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference met June 10-12 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

Bishop Laurie Haller resident bishop, presided over her first annual conference, where 674 clergy and 796 lay members gathered at the center.

“Have you fruit?” she asked the conference crowd. “Then make a difference!

She shared the goal for the next conference year for every district, every church and every United Methodist in Iowa to be a difference maker.

  • A new mission and vision statement were approved at the 2017 gathering.
  • The mission statement: To inspire, equip and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • The new vision of the Iowa Annual Conference: God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities and fire-filled people. The tag line is “Hope Made Real!”

“Why does the Iowa Annual Conference have strategic priorities and our new vision and mission statements? So, they can be our runway for bearing fruit and becoming difference makers,” said the bishop during her episcopal address.

The Rev. Faith Fowler, founder and executive director of Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, Michigan, was the guest speaker at the plenary teaching session on June 10. Haller introduced her as “the ultimate difference maker.”

“I don’t know if we have the prescription to change everything. But all of us can a difference,” said Fowler.

She shared the story of encountering an 11-year-old prostitute, brought to her attention by another adult prostitute who seemingly expressed concern about the competition. The woman would later tell her that she saw herself in the young girl, and that she’d thought if anyone could save her, the church could.

"Sometimes we forget the power and the purpose of the church. We are called to make a difference, sometimes sacrificially,” she concluded.

Retired Bishop Deb Kiesey was the guest speaker at the retirement celebration.

She told the retirees that when they had given their lives to the work of Christ, when they said “yes” to “this amazing, scary, wonderful, frustrating, miraculous and incredibly fulfilling call to ministry, whether you know it or not, your lives and your faithfulness have made a difference.” 

The ecumenical representative for the service of ordering of ministry was the Rev. Bill Spangler-Dunning, regional minister and president of the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest.

Spangler-Dunning shared in his remarks how his no-nonsense grandmother helped to teach him the meaning of ministry while keeping him in line during the challenging teenage years. “We are imperfect, we make mistakes,” he told those gathered for the service of ordering. “But if we can find that balance between challenge and heart, we will change the world.”

The Rev. Brian Milford, president and CEO of the United Methodist Publishing House, was the preacher at the Service of Remembering.

When speaking about those who have passed, he said, “Their legacy was not their own doing, but rather a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. What we also call love.”

Annual Conference session attendees had the opportunity to take part in a Peacemaking Circles Training introduction on the final morning, June 12,. The training was facilitated by attorney and justice advocate Fred Van Liew, a consultant for the Des Moines Pastoral Care and Counseling Center.

Peacemaking Circle Training focuses on people getting to know each other and developing relationships. It involves creating a space that allows trust, vulnerability and honesty to happen, and where speaking time is equalized and there is a focus on listening. 

Van Liew said that then when people move to the place where conflict resolution is possible, “Wonderful things happen.”

Main actions enacted by the conference:

  • The Healthy Conference Vision Report was received and adopted by attendees of the Annual Conference Session, which included the new mission, vision and Wildly Important Goal for the Iowa Annual Conference. 

The report stated their vision is that Iowa is working towards becoming a Healthy Conference by focusing on three values: developing spiritual leaders who model a community that loves, learns and leads together; creating environments that foster transformation; and establishing processes that bear fruit. 

The new mission of the Iowa Annual Conference is to inspire, equip and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ. The new vision of the Iowa Annual Conference: God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people. And the Wildly Important Goal states: All United Methodist churches in Iowa will have a process of intentionally forming disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by the year 2020.

  • Maggie Biggs presented the treasurer’s report and the 2018 working budget. Biggs was officially approved as conference treasurer by a voice vote in advance of her the presentation.

Biggs then discussed the 2018 working budget. This year, CFA recommends a working budget totaling $14,794,211, which is an increase of 4.39 percent or $622,000.

Annual Conference Session attendees adopted the 2018 budget in a 671 to 96 vote.

  • The executive committee of the Iowa Conference Board of Ordained Ministry brought before the clergy session on June 10 a statement saying “sexual orientation or gender identity” will not be criteria to “deny any candidate’s ability to live up to our United Methodist standards for fitness” for ministry. The committee also cited a footnote to paragraph 310 of the Book of Discipline which states, in part, “The United Methodist Church has moved away from prohibitions of specific acts, for such prohibitions can be endless.” Their statement was offered to remind “all present that per the Book of Discipline that the primary purpose of the Board of Ordained Ministry is ‘to examine applicants and assess their fitness to ministry.’”   

Action Items and Resolutions adopted by the conference:

Sixty-eight action items were adopted to the consent calendar.

Five General Conference constitutional amendments were voted on, with the results released to General Conference only (#101-105).

Among those approved was #201 which simplified and separated the Rules of Order and the Plan of Organization into two separate documents. It was adopted with a 92 percent approval. 

Action Items concerning environmental conservancy were approved: #301 best practices for soil reduction, #302 converting least productive lands into wetlands, prairies and/or forests, #303 responsible consumption of natural resources. Additional environmental action items approved were concerning oil spill response, energy conservation, public transportation and global climate change.

Additionally, action Item #308 Christian behavior toward LGBTQ persons was approved, which said, in part, that the Iowa Annual Conference affirms that it is the duty of all Christians to demonstrate Christian love for all persons and that it strongly condemns and opposes all kinds of hate, physical violence, threats of violence and name-calling as un-Christian and wrong.

Action Items in support of poor and marginalized were approved. #310 which supports low income housing, #311 support of the DREAM act supporting undocumented immigrant students attending public colleges and universities in Iowa, #321 support for Native Americans and #322 advocating with state government leaders for increased funds for services, institutes, and residency programs focused on psychiatric services for the mentally ill.


Sixteen people were ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership.

  • Course of Study Graduates: 2
  • Transferring from another AC: 3
  • Commissioned as Elder: 3
  • Ordained as Elder: 8

Twenty-eight clergy persons retired.

The oldest member of the Iowa Annual Conference who attended was 96-years-old, the youngest was 16-years-old.

Membership stands at 158,056, down 2 percent from 2015.

Worship attendance stands at an average of 47,691 weekly, down 3 percent from 2015.

Church school attendance stands at 13,594, down 4 percent from 2015.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 was 1,948, up 1 percent from 2015.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 was 3,638, down 1 percent from 2015.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016 was 27,691, up 9 percent from 2015.

Liz Winders, associate director of communications, Iowa Conference