2019 Theme: Creating Difference Makers – In Ministry with the Poor
Officiating bishop: Bishop Laurie Haller
AC2019 website: https://ac2019.iaumc.org
Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers: We welcomed the Rev. Rob Cook and the Rev. Eric Mulanda, pastors at Mt. Hope United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan, as keynote speakers to our Teaching Session. They shared the story of how their formerly all-white city church has been transformed. Today, their church is a thriving multi-cultural congregation with Africans from many different countries finding a home at Mt. Hope. Eric shared an inspiring account of getting a bike from his neighbor in Kolwezi, Congo, riding it 232 miles for two days to the country of Zambia, and then riding on a bus for two more days to Africa University in Zimbabwe (1,200 miles) in order to enroll as a student. Eric received his M.Div. degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.
“I’m hoping that we’re going to share with our colleagues Jesus’ way of loving and enriching,” Mulanda said. “God is already doing something, even if we are not seeing it yet.”
“We just need to be willing to embrace the new thing God is doing in our churches, in our communities, and in our world,” Cook said. “To do that, we need to step outside our comfort zones. We need to be open to cross-cultural experiences.” https://ac2019.iaumc.org/2019/06/08/you-can-be-a-part-of-healing-and-reconciliation-in-or- world-teaching-session/
Main actions enacted by the conference:
- Action Item #102: Standing item; Domestic Violence definitions – PASSED with amendment 947 – 14.
- Action Item #201A: Sale of Pictured Rocks UM Camp - PASSED 640 – 310.
- Action Item #506: Resolution: Disapproval of the Traditional Plan - PASSED 684 – 180.
- Modified Language Amendment to modify language for clarity
- Bishop Laurie to add a Decision of Law within 30 days.
Resolutions related to General Conference 2019:
- Disapproval of the Traditional Plan
Resolutions related to General Conference 2020: None
Other resolutions adopted by the conference:
- ACTION ITEM #502: Firearms and Child Safety – APPROVED 608 – 351.
- ACTION ITEM #505: Climate Crisis Emergency – PASSED 599 – 327 with amendment to remove replace “her” with “it.”
- Number of people ordained, commissioned, or received into associate membership, and average age:
- Recognized 6 Course of Study graduates
- Commissioned 1 provisional deacon
- Commissioned 8 provisional elders
- Ordained 5 full elders
- Received 1 full elder from another UMC Conference
Did your clergy session approve any openly gay candidates for ministry? No.
Names of delegates for 2020 General Conference:
Erica Shannon Stueve
Kae E. Tritle
Anne Marie Webb
Five young adult and two youth laity were elected. Of the clergy elected, three are under 35. The Iowa Annual Conference elected to the 2020 General Conference their first clergy woman of color, the Rev. LaTonya Calderon.
Did the conference develop plans or policies for churches that are interested in leaving the denomination? No.
Bishop Laurie Haller called the 2019 Iowa Annual Conference Session Saturday morning before delivering a message of reminder to attendees of all the ways we are spiritually impoverished. In her address, she pressed the congregations to consider what it would take to admit that the things, beliefs and assumptions we hold onto may be just what God is asking us to let go of.
In her Episcopal Address, Bishop Haller queried, “How can we, as Christ followers, reach out to the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised of our world by letting go of everything that prevents us from acknowledging and remembering our own poverty?”
“It’s difficult for you and me to enter God’s kingdom when we’re not willing to give up our wealth, as well as admit our poverty of spirit,” she said. “It’s hard to have treasure in heaven when we refuse to love our neighbor, are reluctant to accept the immigrant, won’t reach out to those who are mentally ill, or are unwilling to believe that God created and loves and calls our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as much as God loves and calls each one of us.”
She told the congregation that her heart breaks when the church cannot love each other enough to stay in connection.
“We seem to be fine with loving diverse groups of people outside the church, but can’t love the LGBTQ community within our church enough to offer full inclusivity,” she said.
“We are poor,” the bishop concluded. “Yet, God, still you love us.
“Remember, you are poor,” she stated. “You do not have the resources to save yourself, fix your problems, or change the world – only God does.”
After the sermon, conference music ministers performed the offertory song Yes, and Amen, and the South Sudanese Congregation performed as the offering was collected for the Ubuntu Retreat Centre Kitchen Fund.
Number of clergy retired: 28
Worship: Average attendance at all weekly worship services has gone from 53,262 in 2013 to 44,453 in 2018, a decline of 8,809 worshippers.
Evangelism: Members received on Profession of Faith through confirmation and other than confirmation has gone from 2,234 in 2013 to 1,885 in 2018. A reduction of 349 members.
Spiritual Formation: This is participants in Sunday School, youth and young adult groups, other adult groups, support groups, and classes short term and long term. There has been a sharp decline since 2016 of 7,654 participants. Since 2013, the drop is 11,039 participants.
Mission Engagement: This is UMVIM teams and persons serving in mission and community ministries. A rather positive highlight for our stats going from 17,932 in 2013 to 27,012 persons in 2018, just a slight decrease from a year ago.
Stewardship: This category of stats includes apportionments paid, district askings, Special Sundays, Advance Specials and more. It was sort of holding steady through 2014-2016 but has declined from $20 million in 2013 to $13 million in 2018, a decrease of $6.7 million.
See the Treasurer’s Report from AC2019.
What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year:
Ministry with the Poor:
- All eight of our districts collaborated to raise money to complete the kitchen at the Ubuntu Retreat Center at Africa University. Our offering at opening worship was over $45,000, surpassing our goal of $40,000. This is amazing and shows the depth of commitment to mission here in Iowa. Theses generous gifts will facilitate the ministry of hospitality at Africa University, one of the premier institutions of higher learning on the African continent. Any Iowa United Methodist who visits Africa University will be thankful for this kitchen!
- In response to our theme, we invited congregations to purchase gift cards for restaurants, gas stations, convenience or grocery stores, or refillable cards. They brought half of the cards to Annual Conference and left the other half at their church, where they could can share them with local food pantries, shelters, or perhaps through support services at the local hospital or even through police or fire departments.
We blessed the cards at the Annual Conference session before Saturday’s lunch break so that they could go out in the world and make a difference.
The 2020 Iowa Annual Conference will be held June 6-8, 2020.