2019 Indiana Annual Conference

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June 12-15, in Indianapolis, Indiana

The 2019 Indiana Annual Conference was held June 12-15 in Indianapolis, with the theme, "From Water to Witness," with Ephesians 4:4-5 as the primary text for the week: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (NIV)

A 23-foot digital waterfall was central on stage as the conference kicked off with a praise and celebration service. Greg Krempel, director of Worship Arts at Covenant United Methodist Church, Fort Wayne, and the worship band opened the evening with “In the River” as attendees waved blue ribbons reinforcing our theme, From Water to Witness.

Krempel penned a new song “One True God” specifically for the event and led members in the anthem.

Throughout the evening, the conference theme verses Ephesians 4:1-7 were read multiple times—each from a different version of the Bible.

An offering was received to be donated to ministries throughout the state fighting the opioid crisis: Lucille Raines and A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope. A collection of lap blankets will be collected throughout the conference to be handed out to new Brianna’s Hope participants at their first meeting as a reminder that the community is always available for them.

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus from St. John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, blessed the conference with his keynote address “Just Cross the Doggone Street!”

Referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was read earlier in the evening, Rasmus said, “The people who need Jesus, the ones who are down on the road, who have been beaten up by the challenges in and around those communities, don’t care about your discipline or your doctrine or your polity. What they really want to know is do you love them?” Throughout his message, Rasmus challenged members to love the person in front of them.

Bishop Julius C. Trimble led the conference in Holy Communion.

Retiree Celebration

Retirees and spouses processed into the Indianapolis Convention Center to upbeat renditions of “Hail Jesus, You’re My King” and “Endless Praise” as they greeted Bishop Trimble and Racelder Grandberry-Trimble. They carried vessels of water they poured into a central baptismal, used during the celebration of ministry service.
Sixty-nine retirees were honored for their nearly 900 years of service as members gathered to celebrate.

The Rev. Kent Millard, president of United Theological Seminary, presented the Distinguished Ministry Award to the Rev. Cindy Reynolds, 2019 retiree and executive assistant to the bishop and director of connectional ministries. 

A representative of the 2019 retiring class, the Rev. Chris Newman-Jacobs brought words of faith, during which she thanked spouses and families, colleagues, and congregations. 

Bishop Trimble, led the passing of the mantle, as 2019 Retiree representative the Rev. Mark Fenstermacher symbolically laid a stole on the shoulders of the Rev. Kate Muhlbaier, representative of the 2019 ordination class.
Bishop Trimble opened the afternoon plenary session by encouraging members to turn to their neighbor and offer a fist bump, saying, “The Lord be with you,” and then respond, “And also with you.” 

During her address, Grandberry-Trimble read portions of 1 Corinthians 13 and challenged the conference to “take this ‘L word’ [love] in 2019 and beyond.” She closed, “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

Cathy Burris, representing the coordinating council, moved—in light of Doris Clark’s passing—that the conference approve the coordinating council’s affirmation of David Johns as conference lay leader beginning Feb. 1. The conference affirmed the decision (97%).

The council on finance and administration report was presented by the Rev. Lore Blinn Gibson, conference superintendent serving the Northwest District, and the Rev. Chris Lantz, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, LaGrange. The Revs. Blinn Gibson and Lantz shared an illustration on what happens when we give.

The illustration demonstrated that of 100 pennies, 88 of those pennies go back to our local churches. The remaining 12 pennies break down to support the remaining efforts of our church – 2 cents supports ministry within our 10 districts, 4 cents supports the work of our general church, what is often referred to as apportionments and the final 6 pennies supports our annual conference core ministries and administrative oversight. A vote on the 2020 proposed budget was taken on Saturday and approved (96%). 

Cathy Burris, president of United Methodist Women, reported that the organization is celebrating 150 years in mission. A video was shared about their history and impact over the years.


The Rev. Ed Fisher, chair, presented the report from the committee on nominations. The Rev. Fisher unveiled a new ministry interests inventory form. He instructed members to add two names to the report of the committee on nominations: Cindy Schrader and Kendall Macri, both are serving on the church development team.

The Rev. Paul Wagner presented the consent calendar, which included items that have no fiscal implications and that do not need to be referred to any teams or boards for discussion. He moved that the board, agency and committee reports listed on the conference website under the heading “Consent Calendar” be accepted and added to the record of this conference session.

The Rev. Chris Gadlage, pastor of St Marks United Methodist Church in Decatur, made a motion to remove the rules and structure from the consent calendar. The motion passed (71%). The consent calendar was adopted (96%), with the exception of the removed rules and structure.

The Rev. Teri Crouse, president of the conference, presented a report from the conference board of trustees.

Crouse reported that in 2018, 10 closed or abandoned church properties were sold or disbursed in Indiana totaling $361, 350. Proceeds from these sales are used to fund new district and ministry initiatives and local church ministries.

The board of trustees also distributed $486,900 in proceeds from the Shera Farm fund. Shera Farm fund beneficiaries include Operation Classroom and Taiama Enterprise Academies.

Crouse also reported that due to adverse marketing conditions in the 2018 4th quarter, the conference investment portfolio experienced a net earnings loss. As a result, the board will not be distributing funds in 2019. Crouse remarked that year-to-date returns in 2019 show funds have recouped the losses of 2018 and are now generating an additional return.

In the close of her report, Crouse presented modifications made during the 2019 Special Called General Conference in February regarding three conditions for disaffiliation, ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council:

• The disaffiliation resolution be approved by a 2/3 majority of the professing members of the local church present and voting at a properly called church conference;

• The terms and conditions of the agreement between the exiting church and the annual conference be established by the conference board of trustees; and

• The disaffiliation agreement (of the exiting church) be ratified by a majority of the members of the annual conference present and voting.

Representatives from the conference trustees, council on finance and administration, and the cabinet have considered the legislation. The final process for a church wishing to disaffiliate from the Indiana Conference will be ratified later this summer.

The conference accepted the report as presented via a vote of raised hands. 

The Rev. Kimberly Reisman, chair of the Indiana delegation, offered a report on behalf of the delegation to the 2019 General Conference.

The Judicial Council made the following ruling regarding the petitions passed by GC2019. Petitions in the Traditional Plan were found to be constitutional and will take effect Jan. 1, 2020: An expansion of the definition of a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” to include persons in same-sex marriages or civil unions. The prohibition of bishops from consecrating bishops or commissioning or ordaining “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” Minimum penalties for church trials regarding officiating at a same-sex wedding. Prohibiting district committees on ordained ministry and boards of ordained ministry from recommending persons who do not meet all disciplinary requirements.

A separate petition, that was not part of the Traditional Plan, regarding local church disaffiliation from an annual conference was also approved at General Conference. The Judicial Council ruled that this separate petition was constitutional. This process includes a 2/3 majority vote by the church conference, an agreement between the church and the conference trustees, and a ratification vote by the annual conference. This legislation takes effect immediately.

Sullivan Curtis opened the emerging leaders report. He introduced a video promoting their upcoming back to school rally, which will be held on Aug. 3. Jalen Lawson, a Black College Fund Ambassador and recent graduate of Bennett College, thanked the conference for supporting the Black College Fund, which has helped pay for her education.

“I don’t want the Indiana Conference to be comfortable. I don’t want you to feel like you’ve checked off the box because you’ve heard from a youth member,” said Molly Bickle. She offered a passionate monologue, challenging the conference to “sink or swim.” Bickle also introduced a young voices challenge for members “to hear and love the young voices around you.”

A processional, led by emerging leaders, kicked off the celebration of ministry service on Thursday night. Bishop Trimble led the service. Four children were baptized and welcomed as new brothers and sisters in Christ.

David Johns, conference lay leader, and the Rev. Russ Abel, chair of board of ordained ministry, presented nine persons to be commissioned into ministry in Christ’s Holy Church:

• Annettra Jones
• Teresa Branham Poole
• Julia Pritchett
• Kelly Sellers
• Susan Shambaugh
• Keith A. Turner
• Hannah Wehmeyer
• Tiffany Williams
• Donald Zlaty

The Rev. Brian White, chair of order of elders, presented 13 persons to be ordained into the Order of Elder:

• Ronald Bell
• Ronald Branson
• Jeremiah Gibbs
• Evan Guse
• Thomas Harzula, Jr.
• Isaac Hopper
• Kathryn Muhlbaier
• Seth Neckers
• Lance Newton
• Jason Rice
• Nikki Brown Rice
• Michelle White
• Allison Yankey

The Rev. Julie Macy, chair of order of deacons, presented three persons to be ordained into the order of deacon:

• Ashlea Barnett
• Melissa Fisher
• Angelo Mante

In his sermon, “Go, Wash in the Pool of Siloam,” Bishop Trimble encouraged those being commissioned and ordained that they would “do well to take the example of Leslie Bledsoe to wake up every morning and say, ‘What is my assignment today?’ She doesn’t tell God about the size of her mountain. She speaks to her mountain about the size of her God.”

An invitation to offering and christian ministry was offered as the conference sang the hymn, “Here I am, Lord.” Several came forward, answering God’s call.

During the recessional, those ordained dipped cups into the baptismal font and carried out water that was placed there earlier in the day by retirees.

The conference secretary, Becky Huff-Cook, announced the number of persons in attendance totaled 1,743.

The Rule and Structure Amendment was adopted (69.9%) and the Consent Calendar was approved (91.5%).

The conference remembered the ministry and legacy of Doris Clark, who served as the conference lay leader from 2014 until her death in January 2019. During the laity address, Johns shared the board of laity’s 2019-2020 goals. 

Manet Shettle, president of The United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, Inc. (UMFI), reported that in 2018, UMFI partnered with 200+ local churches, boards and agencies.

In 2018, the foundation received over $249,000 in gifts from 28 different donors. It is through these donors and the hundreds before them that UMFI was able to distribute over $567,000 in grants to 23 ministries in Indiana this year.

As part of the covenant agreement between UMFI and the conference, Shettle submitted a motion to affirm the slate for the board of directors of UMFI. The conference approved the motion (98%).

Mark Dicken, retired elder, amended the process to announce ballot results as soon as they were available. This was approved by the bishop.

2020 General Conference delegates


Russ Abel
Aleze Fulbright
Lisa Schubert Nowling
Ronnie Bell
Rob Fuquay
Jill Howard
Duane Carlisle
Larry Whitehead


Chris Hancock
Ian Hall
Shirley Dominick
Leah Padgett
Michael Womack
John Lomperis
Shannon Priddy
Amy Land

2020 Jurisdictional Conference delegates


Chris Nunley
Greg Pimlott
Adriane Curtis
Matt Landry
Derek Weber
Marti Lundy
Chris Tiedeman
• Daniel Cho


Kim Arnott
John Shive
Brett Loyd
Kenneth Einselen
Robert Muhlbaier
Mary Fridlund
Nancy Stauffer
Albert Hidalgo

Alternates to Jurisdictional Conference


Chiyona Bourne
• Meg Lassiat
Dennis Adams


Carolyn Johnson
Marcus Jennings
Nathan Lundy

Susan Spaulding, chair of the board of pension and health benefits, and Ian Hall, director of administration & financial services, presented information about the new Wespath Heath Exchange program. They explained why they reviewed the existing health system, options they considered, and benefits of transitioning to HealthFlex Exchange. They also proposed a new opt-out policy for clergy wanting to waive their insurance rights.

In summary, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits made the following recommendations, all of which were passed via a vote of hands:

• That the conference transition from the current HealthFlex healthcare options and programs to the HealthFlex Exchange healthcare options and programs, both provided by Wespath, for its active clergy, lay staff, and their dependents.

• That effective January 1, 2020, the conference allow a waiver option to the mandatory participation of full-time eligible clergy and lay staff under the circumstances listed above. Proof of other healthcare coverage will be required by the participant.

• That the past service rate for pre-1982 service be set at $749 per service year in 2020, which represents a 2.5% increase. And that the report, sections A through I, be approved as presented in the written report.

Bishop Trimble began his address “From Water to Witness – I Dare You to Believe” with a video portraying the value of every person. “There’s nothing you can do—or anyone else can do—to change your sacred worth in Jesus Christ. That has always been settled!” he said.

He prompted the conference to read Acts 8:26-40 in unison. He followed up with, “If you preach or worship in a small town, the Bible says we need to proclaim the Gospel in every little town…big town…all towns!”

The Rev. Jennifer Lewis presented the new annual conference venue. A search team which was formed in the Fall of 2017 and comprised of both laity and clergy from all over the state.
They looked for potential locations that could meet the needs of our conference that would also reduce the cost for members and the conference. After much deliberation, the 2020 Annual Conference will be held at Indiana Wesleyan University, June 11-13, in Marion, Indiana.


Andy Kinsey, Petition Resolution Committee, presented the following petitions to the Conference for discussion and vote.

Petition #1: Cottrell Petition
The conference voted to support sending the petition to General Conference (60%).

Petition #2: Gadlage Petition #2
The conference voted to support sending the petition to General Conference (58.6%).

Petition #3: Gadlage Petition #3
After the author of the petition spoke in favor, the conference voted (86%) to end debate. They then voted to support sending the petition to General Conference (62.8%).

Petition #4: Gadlage Petition #4
The conference voted to support sending the petition to General Conference (90%).

The Rev. Ed Fisher, chair, moved that the conference nomination committee report be accepted as presented. The conference approved (96%).

A video was shown about the IMPACT program. The IMPACT process, designed especially for smaller congregations, helps churches become more effective and fruitful. Milt Ashby, Faith United Methodist Church, said “Sometimes small churches feel discouraged about what’s happening, and IMPACT can help you identify what your problems are and give you solutions.” He shared how—after participating in the IMPACT program—his church went from 0 to 18 children on an average Sunday.

During the celebration of life service, the Rev. Karen Koelsch, pastor of Covenant United Methodist Church, Fort Wayne shared her message “The Jesus Road.”

She shared how, when lost on the backroads of Indiana, she would look for water towers to help her find her way. “Who do you remember that have been water towers for you? Who have been the people that pointed you to Christ, especially in those moments when you’ve been lost?”

Loved ones stood as the names of 56 deceased clergy and spouses were read and honored for their lives and legacies.

Bishop Trimble led members in the partaking of Holy Communion. The bread and cup sat on a white cloth that family and friends signed with words of remembrance. It served as a reminder that we are connected forever to loved ones, though they may have passed on to heaven. “As you receive the body and blood of Christ, be reminded that those who have gone before us cheer us on and are interceding on our behalf,” Bishop Trimble said.

The Rev. Kristine Marshall, pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church, was recognized for her artistry, as she painted a portrayal of this year’s theme, From Water to Witness. She presented her work, which was comprised of three, 4×8 feet sheets of foam. (The medium was chosen in an attempt to be financially responsible.) After the session, the painting will be hung in the Lucille Raines residence.

The Rev. David Neckers, conference superintendent appointed to the Northeast District and dean of the appointive cabinet, began the extended cabinet address by issuing farewell and blessings to the Rev. Cindy Reynolds, who is retiring as executive sssistant to the bishop and director of connectional ministries and Jim Bushfield, conference superintendent appointed to the Central District.

He announced the following transitions:

Larry Whitehead as executive assistant to the bishop and director of connectional ministries. The Rev. Saneta Maiko, conference superintendent appointed to the North District. Aleze Fulbright, conference superintendent appointed to the Central District. The Rev. Russ Abel, conference superintendent appointed to the East District.

He also announced the following churches, which concluded that it was time to disband:

• Northwest District – Clymers United Methodist Church 
• Northwest District – Sante Fe United Methodist Church
• North Central District – Arcadia Trinity United Methodist Church 
• North Central District – Kokomo Trinity United Methodist Church
• Central District – Church of the Savior
• South District – Fredricksburg United Methodist Church
• South District – Milltown United Methodist Church
• South District – Crandall United Methodist Church

“It is because of these churches’ faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to them, that Jesus’ witness continues today and into the future,” said Neckers. In response, members responded by singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

The extended cabinet brought a motion to the floor that Bishop Trimble appoint a blue-ribbon task team to report back to the 2020 Annual Conference recommendations for missional alignment of the Indiana Conference. The Conference supported the motion (88%).

Neckers then offered a few reflections on the 2019 General Conference. The extended cabinet reinforced their commitment to the conference’s Wildly Important Goal (WIG), that by 2020 100% of our churches and pastors will be engaged in life-giving changes for Jesus Christ in their mission field.

The Rev. Darren Cushman, pastor of North Church, Indianapolis, made a motion to conduct a poll within the conference regarding issues of sexuality without debate or discussion. In response, Mark Dicken, retired clergy, spoke to refer the poll to the extended cabinet in order to gain and determine a better sense of the entire state, not just the room. The conference supported the referral of the poll to the extended cabinet (80%).

The Rev. Lisa Schubert Nowling, Muncie College Avenue, and Tiffany Duke, laity, made a motion that the conference place a 1-year moratorium beginning January 1, 2020, “on all church trials investigations, charges against clergy or related actions based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.” Bishop Trimble ruled it out of order.

Petition #5: Hunt #5
Three members spoke in favor of the petition, and three members spoke against. The conference voted against the petition (51%).

Petition #6: Hunt #6
Jay Wood offered an amendment, to leave in some stricken language from the petition that would allow it to read: “We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. We deplore all forms of the commerce, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all.” The Conference supported the amendment (74%).

A member suggested a second amendment to the Petition #6, adding in the phrase, “The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.” The conference voted to end the debate (85%) after a call for question then passed the amendment (71%). Petition #6 – amended passed (52%).

Petition #7: Hunt #7
The conference did not support the petition (51%).

The Rodney Frieden, pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church, and Ian Hall, director of administration and finance, reported that our General Church and Jurisdictional commitments last year totaled $5,343,758.

$162,872,000 represents stewardship in action within the local church. This giving then translated to $12,186,000 provided to the Indiana Conference through the Tithe Plus giving model.

They acknowledged and celebrated some of the impact of the conference throughout the last year:
• 2,409 baptisms
• 2,875 professions of faith
• 2,748 campers
• 400 fresh expressions

The total income budget of the Indiana Annual Conference has been set at $12,835,000. In 2020, General Church and Jurisdictional apportionments represent $5,423,423 or 42% of the budget. Consequently, $7,406,982 or 58% of the budget will be utilized by the Indiana Annual Conference.

Hall moved that the 2020 Annual Conference budget be approved.

The Greg Pimlott, pastor of Main Street United Methodist Church, made a motion that the conference give priority to annual conference ministries before it fulfills its apportionment to the General Fund. Bishop took this as an advisory motion to CF&A. It passed via vote of hands.

The conference approved the 2020 Annual Conference budget (96%).

Mark Dicken, retired clergy, proposed a resolution to defer and delay investigations, trials, and decisions regarding homosexuality for the next 12 months. Bishop Trimble ruled it out of order.

Mark Dicken challenged the ruling of the chair. The conference voted to support the ruling of the chair (63%).

Bishop Trimble performed the giving and receiving of appointments. All districts were correct as presented, with the exception of one addition to the North District.

The Rev. Saneta Maiko and the Rev. Russ Abel were recognized and appointed as conference superintendents.

The annual conference session committee has set Sunday, June 23, as Annual Conference Sunday. 

The 2020 Indiana Annual Conference will be held June 11-13, 2020, at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.

$7,671.40 was raised for the Missional Offering, and 1,100 blankets were collected to be donated to A Better Life—Brianna’s Hope.
— Serena Acker, communications officer

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