June 6-8, in Bismarck, North Dakota
More than 500 members of the Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota to “Dare to Reach! Love Boldly!”
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Area, presided. Drawing on John 4:1-26, the theme of the 2019 annual conference session was “Dare to Reach: Love Boldly!” the conference explored ways in which Jesus calls us people to step out of their comfort zone and reach those around them with the love of God in ways beyond imagination. The conference attendees were encouraged to gather their collective story of how God's love quenches their thirst and explore ways to invite everyone to drink from the well, so that their thirst may be quenched. Those attending were encouraged to practice an evangelistic spirit while seeking to live out the mission—"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19).
In his 2019 Episcopal Address, Bishop Ough talked about how, there is more work to do. In order to fulfill this year’s theme of “Dare to Reach, Love Boldly,” the bishop pointed the annual conference to the story of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman told in John 4. Ough noted the paradox that with each encounter with God, our thirst for God is at once quenched and heightened. He encouraged those present to return daily to conversation with Jesus, asking him to fill our cups so that we can share with others, just as the Samaritan woman shared her encounter with Jesus with her neighbors. Read more here
Faithful evangelism is not a matter of technical skill, but of reflection, awareness, and formation. This view of evangelism is inviting, according to Dr. Mark Teasdale, who addressed the Dakotas Conference with “Evangelism for Non-evangelists” in two teaching sessions on June 7. “Evangelism is not about best practices or getting the right formula,” Teasdale said. “It is primarily about formation—being formed as those in the Good News who therefore flow out with the Good News.” Read more here
The Dakotas Conference is living out this year's annual conference theme — “Dare to Reach! Love Boldly!” In four separate sessions, annual conference attendees learned about how the conference and churches dare, reach, love, and are bold. Read more
- Daring to raise up the next generation of leaders, revitalizing congregations and collaborating to help pastoral leaders serve while obtaining needed education through the Kairos program.
- Participants found out how the conference and congregations are reaching the next person for Jesus by launching new sites, restarting churches, starting new service, and starting new churches.
- Attendees explored the various ways love is present throughout the conference by supporting our clergy through the Higher Ground Initiative, helping our youth and young adults grow in their faith through youth mission trips, and DakYouth.
- Those present found out the bold ways the conference and congregations are raising up the next generation of clergy leaders through scholarships, and the Samuel internship. Everyone who attended heard about the bold goal to multiply at three percent—starting seven new worshiping communities each year, like Additionally, how the conference is boldly equipping clergy with financial literacy skills and debt-relief through the Lilly grant.
Members of the 2019 annual conference session addressed several legislative items including:
- LGBTQ resolution—Richard Wahlstrom, a member of Canyon Lake United Methodist Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, brought forth a resolution to eliminate discriminatory language, restrictions, and penalties in the Book of Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. Members of the 26th session of the Dakotas Annual Conference affirmed the resolution by a vote of 220 to 136. Read the resolution here.
- 2020 Budget—The 2020 budget was approved for a total of $4,295,234 apportioned funds for conference ministries and $2,845,965 for clergy pensions and health. Jodi Cataldo, who serves as member of the Luke 10 ministry team, made a motion that requested that the Conference Council on Finance and Administration develop a plan to move towards a 10 percent request for apportioned funds by 2023. The current rate for apportioning funds for ministry is 16 percent. The motion failed.
- Annual conference sites for 2021 to 2024—The members of the annual conference accepted a proposal from the Sessions Committee to hold annual conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for 2021-2024. Annual conference will be held in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 2021 and 2023. The Dakotas Conference will be in session at, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 2022 and 2024.
- Delegates for the 2020 General Conference were elected. General Conference will be held, May 5-15,2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. General Conference delegates elected are: Rev. Rebecca Trefz, clergy delegate, Kara Togel, lay delegate, Rev. Sara Nelson, clergy reserve delegate, and Beata Ferris, lay reserve delegate.
- Members of the 26th Session of the Dakotas Annual Conference elected delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana in July of 2020. Clergy delegates are: The Revs. Rebecca Trefz, Sara Nelson, as well as the Rev. Ray Baker, first reserve; the Rev. Roger Spahr, second reserve, and the Rev. Jenny Hallenbeck Orr, third reserve. Lay delegates are: Kara Togel, Beata Ferris, as well as Jane Hincks, first reserve, Jodi Cataldo, second reserve, and Tanner Carlson, third reserve.
The Rev. Mary Anne Korsch and Char Ough, members of the 2020 General Conference host committee, lead a dedication and blessing of purple scarves. For the past eight months, members of more than 190 churches across the Dakotas-Minnesota Area have been creating beautiful, handmade purple scarves that will be given to General Conference 2020 participants as a gesture of welcome. This initiative, called the Lydia Project (after Lydia in Acts 16), aims to provide warm hospitality to all who join in the work of legislation, fellowship, and worship when our global connection meets in Minneapolis in May 2020.
In special offerings, collected $42,000 for the 2019 Miracle Offering— “Love Boldly #fillthegap.” Funds will be equally divided between the Endowment Fund for Theological Education in the Central Conferences, a Dakotas United Methodist Foundation Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students planning to prepare for pastoral ministry, and individuals training to be licensed local pastors in the Dakotas. Also collected $2,200 for the ministerial student aid fund and $3,200 to support 177 youth and adults headed to Kansas City for mission work and Youth 2019.
On June 7, hundreds of United Methodists gathered to remember 13 friends and colleagues who have died over the past year, honor six retiring clergy, and celebrate three elders being ordained, the ordination of three deacons, three elders being commissioned as a provisional members, and 13 newly licensed local pastors. Read more here
Statistically, in the Dakotas Conference: Membership stands at 36,879, up 239, less than a 1 percent increase, from the previous year. Average weekly worship attendance stands at 19,705, down 2 percent. Church school attendance stands at 6,399, down by 151. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018: 1,625, an increase of less than one percent. The number of adults and young adults in small groups for 2018 was 16,465, down from 2017. The number of persons served by our community ministries of outreach, justice and mercy continues to grow, with an 29% increase to 251,031in 2018, from 193,954 persons in 2017.
—Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference