Bishop Julius Trimble opened the 2021 Indiana Annual Conference with a welcome "in the name of Jesus."
"We gather in the name of Jesus to do our work as we worship together, learn from one another and discern a path for our ministry together as we seek to be the peacemakers for Christ in the world," said Trimble, bishop of the Indiana Conference, at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.
It was the first fully-digital annual conference in the conference's history.
"Even though we are not physically together, we believe God connects us through the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is here in our midst," Trimble said.
The Rev. Annettra Jones Stephens challenged the conference to dismantle racism with her devotion, based on the book of Nehemiah. "Nehemiah sat down, wept, mourned, fasted, prayed without ceasing to God," she said, prompting the conference to respond similarly as we react to the injustices in our world.
"Come! Let us dismantle racism and build bridges to beloved community!" she exclaimed. She encouraged members of the conference to sign the INUMC Covenant to Dismantle Racism.
Chris Mahon, conference secretary, presented the first ballot, including the following three motions, which were voted on collectively:
Motion: I move that the voting bar, or legal limits, of the conference be designated as members registered and connected through the ZOOM webinar.
The motion passed (99.5%).
Motion: I move that all votes and decisions made during this virtual conference shall be legal and binding.
The motion passed (98.8%).
Motion: I move that the reports and documents appropriately posted be received as the official documents presented and are ready for action and that the conference program as posted online at https://www.inumc.org/annual-conference/schedule/ shall constitute the official agenda of the conference.
The motion passed (99.1%).
Mahon then brought the following motion: I move that at the conference session we address only the items on the agenda we have approved.
The motion passed (83.2%).
Rules and Structure
The Rev. Paul Wagner presented the following motion: I move that the Rules and Structure Document be accepted and then added to the record of this conference session.
A point of order was raised by the Rev. Chris Gadlage, proposing that Resolution #4 – Amerson, be addressed at the time of approving the rules. Wagner explained that the resolution would be dealt with separately because it had no bearing on how this conference session would operate.
Wagner re-presented the motion: I move that the Rules and Structure Document be accepted and then added to the record of this conference session.
The motion passed (79.7%).
Wagner presented the motion: I move 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 motion passed (97.6%).
The Rev. Larry Whitehead, executive assistant to the bishop, made the following motion: I move to affirm Bishop Trimble's nomination of Sarah Jenkins and that she be elected conference chancellor, effective June 11, 2021.
The motion passed (96.5%).
The Rev. Ed Fisher, chair of the nominating committee, presented the following motion: I move that the nominating committee report be adopted.
The motion passed (95.7%).
The Rev. Glenn Howell shared with the conference about the importance of generosity. "Giving has its root in our spiritual relationship with Christ," he said. He challenged the conference to adopt a culture of generosity by keeping giving spiritual, paying attention, and saying "Well done" to those who give.
Lay Leader Address
David Johns, conference lay leader, introduced the recipients of this year's missional offering, the three Indiana United Methodist-related children's homes. "These homes are about changing lives. Real people with real stories. Important work. Work that we can help with and should," he said.
Johns also offered an update from the Board of Laity and challenged the conference to live as peacemakers, referencing the conference theme. "Surely, as sisters and brothers in Christ, we can find a way to deal with our differing opinions and beliefs in a positive and constructive way," he said.
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, Inc.
Manet Shettle shared that UMFI awarded over $726,000 in grants and scholarships in 2020 and listed members of their board.
Motion: I move to affirm the incoming slate of board members for the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, Inc.
The motion passed (99.8%).
Children Matter Most
The Conference then heard from the Rev. Jennifer Huff, chair of the Children Matter Most initiative, Angelo Mante and Sara Daniels and the work they are doing to minister to children in their communities. "Children Matter Most is not a mantra," Huff said. "It is the heart of churches and leaders who know children must have opportunities to know they are loved and cared for in their neighborhoods and schools."
Committee on Finance and Administration
The Rev. Rodney Frieden and Ian Hall, director of finance and administration, shared details about the financial state of the conference. After income and expenditures in 2020, there was a budget surplus of $207,000. Frieden explained that the 2022 budget was compiled with the following formula: INUMC Conference Needs + UMC Apportionment = Budget.
After lunch, the Rev. Larry Whitehead reconvened the conference session by presenting Trimble for his episcopal address, "Awesome and Amazing." Trimble shared several examples of how God has been at work in the conference in the last year, from church plants and Fresh Expressions to virtual Bible studies and baptisms. He declared, "Thank you, God, for signs of Pentecost and prayer power, for constant sightings and signs of Jesus and justice."
Pensions and Health Benefits
Susan Spaulding announced that for 2022, the church contribution toward clergy healthcare costs increased by 1% (compared to 6% previously).
Spaulding made the following motion: That the past service rate for pre-1982 service be set at $787 per service year in 2022 – a 2.5% increase and that the report, in its entirety, be approved as presented in the written report.
The motion passed (98.5%).
Board of Trustees
The Rev. Teri Crouse, chair of the conference board of trustees and president of the conference, presented the following summary of its annual report:
– Fifteen discontinued or abandoned church and conference properties were sold for $422,150.
– The Shara Trust's gross earnings for 2020 were $562,926.73.
– Nine churches disaffiliated from the conference.
Crouse made the motion: I move theconference ratify the disaffiliation of the churches listed in our report.
The motion passed (94.8%).
Crouse then made the motion: The Board of Trustees moves the conference accept their report as presented.
The motion passed (99.2%).
The first resolution was submitted by Emily Krach on behalf of the Children Matter Most team, which is a call to immediate and sustained action on behalf of children. In part it reads:
"BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the people of the United Methodist Church of Indiana, will work and walk according to God's purposes for the lives of the children and their families in our communities. We will intervene where children encounter harm, seek healing that brings community and offer love that leads to fullness of life. We will advocate for the children of Indiana that they may be given every opportunity to thrive and become disciples of Jesus Christ."
Resolution #1 was adopted (98.3%).
The second resolution, submitted by Zachary Manton, is about having the conference more actively support adoption and foster care. In part it reads:
"So let it be resolved that the Indiana Annual Conference … do the following:
1. Express our commitment to seek mercy for children in foster care
2. Call on each family to pray for guidance on how to help children in foster care and those who are eligible for adoption
3. Encourage our pastors to preach on God's concern for those children
4. Commend churches that are equipping families called to foster and/or adoption through available resources
5. Encourage United Methodist Churches in Indiana to set aside a special Sunday each year to focus on our own adoption in Christ and our burden to help children in foster care
6. Pray that God creates a culture of adoption in churches and families across the connection that is not driven by flesh, race, economics or culture but by Spirit, unity and peace
7. And finally, that we pray for an outpouring of the Spirit so that our churches will proclaim in word and deed that "Jesus loves the little children …"
Resolution #2 was adopted (96.9%).
Resolution #3 – Williams
The third resolution is Jacob Williams' regarding an aspiration for delegates. It is meant to give optional guidance to general and jurisdictional conference delegates. In part it reads:
"Therefore, we resolve and respectfully request that the members of the Indiana General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegations abstain … from the making of charges or complaints against other persons of our connection. Furthermore, we call on members of these delegations to refrain from inciting or offering material assistance to others in filing similar charges, particularly when the purpose of these charges has been clearly stated as an attempt to further damage and undermine our adjudicatory system and deliberative processes."
One speech was given for the resolution and one against.
Mike Womack made a motion to amend Resolution #3, deleting lines 22-36, replacing them with two new paragraphs.
Two speeches were offered for the amendment, and two were offered against.
Motion: to amend Resolution #3. The motion did not pass (52.8%).
Motion: to table Resolution #3. The motion did not pass (72.3%).
Another speech was given in favor of the resolution.
A point of order was made by Lenora Collins, questioning whether or not it is legal to suspend the law of the Book of Discipline. Bishop clarified that this resolution is a non-binding, aspirational request for the delegation, which has nothing to do with our Discipline.
Cindy Alte made a motion to amend the resolution, adding to line 33 "as those charges and complaints relate to same gender weddings or LGBTQA+."
Motion: to amend Resolution #3. The motion passed (55.9%).
It was determined that Resolution #3 would be revisited at a later time.
The Rev. Shannon Stringer, director of leadership development, presented on behalf of the extended cabinet. Praise was given to clergy, retirees and laity for how they led and adapted and ministered during the pandemic this past year. "We cannot promise you that (the extended cabinet) will lead forward with perfection. But we can promise that we are working to keep our focus the best ways to resource our INUMC congregations and their people."
The Rev. Lore Blinn Gibson, dean of the appointive cabinet, presented the following churches that closed their doors in the past year:
Central: Amo, Morris Street
East: Morning Side, St Paul
North: Lambs Chapel, Milford, South Bend Epworth, South Bend Monson Community, TeeGarden
North Central: Lebanon Otterbein
Northwest: Boswell, Fulton County Pleasant Hill
South: West Point
Southeast: Dupont, Moores Hill
West: Graysville, Hymera Bethel, Knightsville, Koleen, Marco, Patricksburg
Because time allowed, Resolution #3 was revisited. A speech was offered against the resolution.
A motion was made to call the question, ending the debate and proceeding to the vote. The motion passed (95.8%).
Motion: approval of Resolution #3 as amended. The motion passed (56.9%).
Mahon shared some closing business:
– A reminder of the Celebration of Life worship service at 7:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern time
– A reminder to reconvene tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern time
Trimble offered a closing prayer
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Family members of those being remembered collectively read scriptures before Rev. Mary Beth Morgan gave a sermon entitled "Blessed are They, Blessed are We."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," Morgan quoted from Matthew. "For to be able to mourn, one may have also experienced what it is to love, have deep connection and care."
The conference then honored the lives of 38 clergy and 40 spouses who have joined the church triumphant in the last year. The video of the Celebration of Life service can be viewed here.
Day 2: "Blessed are the Peacemakers"
The Rev. Angelo Mante, deacon and executive director of the Alive Community Outreach in Fort Wayne, Indiana, opened day 2 of the conference session. His devotion began with Cynthia Gardner sharing the story of losing her son to gun violence.
Mante encouraged the conference to embody six qualities of peacemakers, taken from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s six principles of non-violence. "The more we're bombarded with this reality of violence all around us, the easier it is for us to feel hopeless and powerless," he said. "Which is why I don't think we could have chosen a more timely theme for annual conference this year: ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers.'"
The three United Methodist universities in Indiana (University of Evansville, DePauw University and University of Indianapolis) shared video greetings.
Heavenearth Church launched in 2018 "with six months of listening," said the Rev. Ross Stackhouse. They initiated community partnerships, then launched tiny churches, meeting people where they are and "helping them experience freedom from their burdens and helping them know Jesus and practice his way so our community is transformed for generations to come," he said.
The Rev. Glenn Howell encouraged the conference to plant seeds of generosity. "One seed becomes something we can't get our arms around or see the top of," he said, referencing the size of sequoia trees which come from small seeds.
"Peacemaking is about building bridges, and we must create those bridges between generations," said emerging leader Sullivan Curtis. Several emerging leaders shared their experiences meeting with older adults and how those relationships have impacted their faith journeys.
The Rev. Larry Whitehead, executive assistant to the bishop, shared that the following recipients of the missional offering have received the following donations (to date):
– Children Matter Most $820
– Emerging Leaders $440
– Indiana Children's Homes $1,635
Resolution #4 – Amerson
The fourth resolution, submitted by William Amerson, is regarding equalizing lay and clergy membership to annual conference. Its intent is to restore fairness and proportionality in allocations between districts by replacing part of the language in our rules section D.2.d. This would base equalization numbers on church membership instead of actual charge conference affiliation of retired and extension clergy.
The new language would read … "The number of additional lay members of annual conference needed from each district shall be proportional to the total membership of the local churches in each district as a percentage of the total membership of all of the local churches in the annual conference."
Two speeches were offered against the resolution and one in favor.
Robert Kapaku posed a question: Is there a precedent that other conferences follow regarding retired clergy and proportional membership?
The Rev. Paul Wagner responded, "We're allowed to set a formula as we choose. I'm not aware of other conference's positions on this matter."
A speech was offered against, and two were offered for the resolution. The author of the resolution also spoke to the resolution.
The Rev. Aleze Fulbright, conference superintendent for the Central District, asked for a point of personal privilege. She clarified that the Central District is comprised of six counties, including many rural, smaller church congregations, as well as urban, larger ones.
A motion was made to call the question. It passed (89%).
Motion: approval of Resolution #4. It did not pass (52.3%).
Ed Fenstermacher, associate director of church development, shared some of the tools that they offer churches, including small ones. "You can do it, and we aim to help," he said.
Committee on Finance and Administration
The Rev. Rodney Frieden, chair of the committee on finance and administration, and Hall, director of finance and administration, presented the 2022 budget for approval.
Motion: to approve the 2022 Annual Conference budget as presented.
The Rev. Brian Beeks requested an amendment to the motion: that the $100,000 in the reserve fund be removed from 2022 budget.
Hall advised, "If we remove the reserve fund, I suggest that we move that into the surplus, totaling $133,000 which would be around 1.2%."
Frieden explained further, "Having a reserve fund is based on the rule that if we close the year with money in the surplus, 50% is automatically transferred to the general church as additional payment."
Hall described the reserve fund as an insurance policy. "Creating a reserve fund with three months' worth of funds in it provides extra financial security for organizations of our size. There's no talk of accessing it. That's the worst-case scenario."
Motion: that the $100,000 reserve fund line item be removed from the 2022 budget (money will be converted to surplus).
The motion did not pass (63.2%).
The Rev. Chris Gadlage posed a question: "Are there limitations for how the line of credit can be accessed or used?"
Frieden responded, saying "It's limited by bishop's request and the approval of CFA. We have a large amount of cash flow on a monthly basis, and it doesn't always come in as quickly as it goes out. It's an insurance policy to ensure the day-to-day operations of the conference."
Motion: approval of the 2022 budget.
The motion passes (94.4%).
Bishop recognized the excellent work of Hall, who is leaving his role after 20 years of service to the conference. "We are indebted to Mr. Hall for his great leadership, his unwavering faith and his continual support of the mission of the church. We wish him well," he said.
Frieden made a motion: the election of Heidi Harding as the treasurer of the conference.
The motion passed (97.9%).
Mahon shared some closing business:
– A reminder of the Celebration of Ministry worship service at 3:00 p.m Eastern U.S time.
– Trimble has set the dates for the 2022 Annual Conference Session as June 9-11, 2022, at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.
Trimble concluded the conference session with, "I continue to be hopeful for the future of the church. I am confident in the mission of Jesus in the world. I am committed to the ministry that we are called to do together."
CELEBRATION OF MINISTRY
Sacrament of Baptism
Two children were baptized:
– Jack Allen Newton, child of the Rev. Lance and Rachelle Newton
– Sullivan Lloyd Clear, child of Pastors Kerry and Heidi Clear
Thirty retirees were honored for 737 years of combined faithful service to the conference. The Rev. David Neckers, conference superintendent in the Northeast District, addressed the conference representing the retiring class. "We are not dead," he reminded his colleagues. "You don't retire from being a disciple of Jesus Christ … for we still have work to do."
Presentation of Persons to be Commissioned and Ordained
Six persons were commissioned as provisional members. Three persons were commissioned for the work of elder.
The Rev. Lore Blinn Gibson, conference superintendent in the Northwest District, offered a message, "A Crazy Calling." She speculated how absurd the Israelites must have thought God was in Joshua 3 as He called them to step into the flooded Jordan. "Think about how crazy that must have sounded." Speaking to those being ordained and commissioned, she said, "In the midst of this crazy calling, it's not going to get less crazy. But that's okay because we have a God who rolls back the water."
Celebrating 25 Years of the Order of Deacons
"We are grateful for the faithful compassion and prophetic ministry that you share with us," Trimble said, honoring deacons for their 25 years of faithful service in the conference.
Celebrating the Appointment of New Conference Superintendents
– The Rev. In Suk Peebles, conference superintendent in the Southeast District
– The Rev. Marti Lundy, conference superintendent in the North District
INUMC By the Numbers (2020)
-Membership stands at 165,487, down 4% from the previous year
-Worship attendance stands at 57,658, down 31%
-Church school attendance stands at 19,561, down 27%
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 were 1,314, down from 2019 by 55%
-Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020 were 2,808, down from 2019 by 27%
-Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020 were 36,104, down from 2019 by 31%
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