By: Amanda Yanchury
Are we ready for something special in Minnesota? Are we ready to become bold Spirit-leaders? That’s what Bishop Bruce R. Ough asked of the 715 Minnesota Annual Conference members who attended the 159th session of the Minnesota Annual Conference May 29-31, 2013, at the River’s Edge Convention Center in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.
In his inaugural episcopal address to Minnesota United Methodists, Bishop Ough laid out a vision in which churches can become bold leaders in their communities. He recognized that we live in an ever-changing world. “Our adaptive challenge is recognizing that information technology, jobs, cultures, and even the church are all shifting at lightning speed, and we need to passionately and respectfully offer Christ in a Wesleyan way that speaks to our cultural context,” Ough says. Churches must be nimble, innovative, and experimental. We need to learn together and from one another.”
Bishop Ough says we have three imperatives: to reach new people, cultivate spiritual vitality, and to heal a broken world. This means we must “embrace and align our work so we can turn outward and engage the world with a burning desire to offer Christ and have a transforming impact.”
He added that in order to be transformed, bold leaders pray. He introduced the New Life prayer movement and encouraged church leaders to embrace prayer in their churches.
On May 30, guest speaker Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey presented five breakthrough practices of the missional church. Nilson Kibbey encouraged church leaders to serve in ways that no one has before; to love their community or neighborhood (which we can start to do by asking, “Do we know what they need?”); to practice radical hospitality; to commit to a new life prayer initiative; and to commit to building in themselves a lifestyle of a leader.
In legislative session, members voted to divest in stock of General Electric, which provides goods and services to Israel, a country that continues to build settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories—something the United Methodist Church has opposed.
Members also approved a resolution to allow for the election of General Conference 2016 delegates in 2014. This is for the purpose of allowing more time for delegates to caucus, conduct research in order to write legislation, and be in fellowship with delegates from other conferences.
Additionally, members approved legislation that calls for a study guide on marriage, highlighting the various positions United Methodists hold on same-sex unions. The committee that will create the study guide must comprise a youth and young adult, as well as clergy and laity from each of the five regional districts.
Members affirmed a resolution to “be in prayer, discernment, and action” regarding same-sex unions, as well as gun control and matters of community safety.
Members also approved a resolution encouraging Bishop Ough to consider setting the dates for session later in the month of June to allow for increased accessibility by students and others, and for sessions to subsidize childcare for children up to age 10.
Session members also passed a 2014 annual conference budget totaling just over $6.2 million, $11,000 above the 2013 budget and $3,000 below the “ceiling” (the maximum allowed by conference rules). The 2014 budget is at the same level as the 2003 budget. The 2014 budget is organized around our missional areas of Developing Missional Leaders, Equipping Missional Congregations, Extending our Missional Impact, Generating Missional Resources, Aligning Our Work–Leadership of the Annual Conference, and Aligning Our Work–Supporting the Annual Conference.
Continuing their impassioned response to Imagine No Malaria, Minnesotans have now collected more than $2 million of their $2.5 million in pledges, surpassing their original $1.8 million goal.
Additionally, $78,679 was collected for the annual Love Offering for Missions, which raises funds for international, national, and local projects.
Members honored Denman Evangelism Award winners Rev. Paul Marzahn (Crossroads United Methodist Church, Lakeville) and Barbara Wisniewski and Beth Gausman (Elk River UMC); Jeanne Audrey Powers Ecumenism Award winner the Wesley Foundation, and Rev. J. Cody Nielsen as its director; and Rural Churches Award winners Balaton UMC and Grey Eagle UMC; Francis Asbury Award winner Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, chaplain at Hamline University and director of the Wesley Center for Spirituality.
Two people were commissioned for the work of an elder; two people were ordained into full membership—one deacon and one elder. Twenty-seven clergy members retired.
Membership stands at 67,789, down 2,228 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 32,229, down 1,461. Church-school attendance (Sunday morning statistics only) stands at 8,461, up 119.
Amanda Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church