The 29th session of the Dakotas Annual Conference was held June 9-11, 2022, at the Bismarck Event Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was an in-person event after two years of virtual and hybrid annual conferences. More than 450 United Methodists from North and South Dakota conducted business and experienced inspiring worship and meaningful learning.
Bishop Laurie Haller is on medical leave with a concussion after a fall, so two other bishops, Deborah Kiesey and Bruce R. Ough, were welcomed back to preside. Drawing on Psalm 23 and John 10:10-11, the theme "Jesus: Healer" was explored by attendees through worship, learning and business.
Ough delivered the episcopal address with a provocative question. "Are we too wounded, too broken, too bruised, too trampled upon to be revived?" For Ough, this is more than rhetoric. In addition to societal problems of racism, violence and dysfunctional politics, the Dakotas Conference is dealing with the glaring United Methodist issues of separation, disaffiliation and broken relationships. Together these present potentially catastrophic threats to our mission, health and well-being.
This year's teaching sessions at the Dakotas Annual Conference included brief presentations on three areas of ministry: discipleship, consensus building and rural ministry. Experts on these subjects offered their thoughts in a format like the popular TED Talk videos. The Rev Ben Ingebretson suggested a three-step path of discipleship: Know-Do-Be. Allen Stanton spoke on rural communities' challenges and opportunities in the Dakotas. Ann Crews Melton, executive director of the Consensus Council, opened her session on consensus building by referencing the friendship of John Wesley and George Whitfield, which endured despite profound disagreements.
Dakotas United Methodists have been living the incarnational love of Jesus Christ, working to bring healing to a hurting world. Even as we seek to offer that grace to others, we know we need the Good Shepherd — the Great Physician — to offer that continual healing to us. More than 500 people viewed the 2021-2022 Missional Report as part of the opening plenary session. View the 2021-2022 Missional Report.
Voting members approved all pieces of legislation before them, including everything on the consent calendar. Legislation approved included Item 1.2., an Inter-Methodist Standing Committee; Item 1.3, changes to the lay equalization formula; and Item 1.4, recommendations for the process for local churches leaving The United Methodist Church. New this year was voting with electronic devices. Option Technologies provided each voting member of the body with a push-button device. Voting on each motion took place for 30 seconds, with results displayed instantly.
Specific legislation approved:
- 2023 budget: The 2023 budget was approved, including apportionments and direct billing, totaling $6,419,729. The 2023 budget represents a 7.2 5% decrease from 2022.
- Legislative Item 1.2: This resolution passed and calls for establishing a new standing committee, created by the Common Table, to navigate Inter-Methodist Relations.
- Legislative item 1.3 Changes to lay equalization: Legislative item 1.3 passed. The legislation delineates changes to the lay equalization formula so that the last paragraph of p. 183 of the 2021 Conference Journal includes language related to apportioned giving.
- Legislative item 1.4: Legislative item 1.4 passed. The legislation recommends modifications to the disaffiliation process for local churches leaving the United Methodist Church.
- 2022 Consent Calendar: The 2022 Consent Calendar includes the Cabinet Report, equitable compensation schedule, housing allowances, action items for the Board of Pensions, and recognition of reports received was approved with corrections and 2.3 Housing Allowance for Clergy, Staff, and District Superintendents lifted and amended.
A presentation of the updated Disaffiliation Process was received, and time was spent in plenary sessions fielding questions. Access details and the specific legislation.
"In the challenges of life, we are called by the Holy Spirit to live our call as one body of Christ," said Kiesey as she delivered the message, "Our Calling," at the 2022 Celebration of Life in Ministry Service. During the service, persons were remembered, recognized, and celebrated as they entered a new stage and commitment to ministry. "Despite everything that's happening within our church, let's celebrate these women and these men who've answered the call God has placed on their hearts," said Bishop Deb. "Thanks be to God for this group of dedicated leaders!" Read more and watch the service.
Statistically, in the Dakotas Conference: Membership stands at 35,451, down 618 from the previous year. Weekly worship attendance stands at 12,782, up 10%. Online worship attendance is down 30%. Church school attendance stands at 5,625, up by 161. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021: 680, up by .07%. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2021: 5,500, down from 2020 by 1,209. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2021 was 5,547 people.
—Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference
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