A streamlined virtual annual conference session for the Wisconsin Conference was held Oct. 24. GNTV was the host provider. The Clergy Session was held virtually on Oct. 1, where 20 retirees were recognized, five persons were approved for commissioning as provisional members, one was approved for ordination as a deacon, three were approved for ordination as elders and one was affirmed for ordination as an elder as a courtesy for the North Katanga Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Laity Session was held virtually on Oct. 8.
Most of the annual conference reports were pre-recorded, with Bishop Hee Soo Jung presiding live from the conference center. Approximately 600 lay and clergy members were in attendance. The annual conference session was also livestreamed on YouTube. Additional reports and materials which were not presented specifically during the virtual annual conference session were posted on the conference website for people to watch and read ahead of time.
Bishop Hee Soo Jung established the conference theme “In Ministry with All the World” and the new quadrennial focus for the Wisconsin Conference: “Radical Inclusion and Racial Justice.” Multi-lingual worship, short videos shown during vote collation times and conference reports reflected these themes.
Action Items approved included:
- Holding a virtual annual conference session;
- Session rules and procedures;
- Election of Conference Treasurer Sarah Sneider and Conference Secretary the Rev. Kevin Rice Myers;
- Nine consent action items;
- Resolutions from the Joint Board of Pensions, Insurance and Equitable Compensation establishing the 2021 minimum salary and past service annuity rate;
- Approval, after some conversation and debate, of the portion of the disaffiliation agreement establishing the formula to be used to determine the unfunded pension obligations of a disaffiliating local church in the Wisconsin Conference; and
The 2021 Annual Conference proposed budget of $6,308,190, a decrease of 1% from the 2020 budget.
Brief video reports were presented by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the General Board of Church and Society, Conference Camping ministries, the Hispanic Emergence team, Spiritual Formation team, Archives and History recognizing clergy years of service, Conference Campus Ministries, introduction of the 2020 class of those being ordained and commissioned, Wisconsin partnership in mission with the Bolivia Conference and celebration of Africa University.
The General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation reported on their activity since their election at the 2019 Annual Conference Session. They introduced the Rev. Dan Schwerin as a candidate for the episcopacy, which was affirmed by the conference by a “virtual raising of hands.”
In response to the actions of the February 2019 General Conference and to Judicial Council rulings in April 2019, Bishop Jung created a task force to envision a “Wisconsin Way Forward,” a Wisconsin option to the calls for separation on both the traditional and progressive sides of our theological spectrum. At the 2019 Wisconsin Annual Conference Session, a resolution was approved requiring that the Wisconsin Conference explore and develop assessment and training for leadership in the conference around the issues of inclusion and racism. The Wisconsin Option Task Force expanded its focus to include the issues of radical inclusion and racial justice as part of their responsibility. This task force presented a report on their conversations and study. Reports were also presented by the Wisconsin Conference Black Methodists for Church Renewal and the Anti-Racism Task Force about the training they have sponsored and future actions they have planned in support of the 2019 resolution.
A report from the Conference Committee on Episcopacy included a recognition of Bishop Hee Soo Jung’s eight years serving as the episcopal leader of the Wisconsin Annual Conference and affirming his continuing presence as the bishop. He was presented with a gift of a green bishop’s stole.
The Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation reported that they have given $310,000 in grants to 391 Wisconsin United Methodist churches (71% of the churches in the conference) to help them adapt to the technology needs of leading worship and being a virtual church during this time of pandemic physical distancing.
The New Ministries Strategy Board report celebrated three new church starts in 2020 and twenty-two new church starts in the past five years. Three legacy churches were discontinued.
Traditionally at annual conference, lay and clergy members and their churches participate in an “InGathering” where items donated for various mission projects around the world are collected in a semi-truck at the annual conference meeting site. This year’s InGathering was collected at various drop-off sites across the conference. 2,534 pounds of goods were donated to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.
Conference statistics: Membership: 54,093; Worship attendance: 26,301; Church school attendance: 7,325; Adult and young adult Christian formation participation: 12,878.
— The Rev. Sue D’Alessio
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