By: Christa Meland
Wondering how to condense two full days of worship, discerning, and celebrating into a succinct report you can bring back to members of your congregation? Here are some highlights to consider sharing:
Theme: Drawing on Psalm 23 and John 10:10-11, the theme was “Jesus: Healer.” We are a people and a world in need of healing beyond our doing. God invites us to come sit by still waters, and to allow God to restore our soul. At this annual conference, we explored some ways in which we have seen or experienced God’s healing, and ways in which we are providing hope and healing to a hurting world.
Bishop’s Episcopal Address: In his Episcopal Address to the Minnesota Conference, Bishop David Bard reminded us of the biblical story of Jesus healing a boy possessed by a demon (Mark 9:14-29). In this story, the pain and suffering are real, and so is the healing. If we’re to let such stories speak to us, we need to grapple with their challenges in the context of lives where healing doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen the way we may want it to. Perhaps for us as a conference, he said, our way into the future is to follow Jesus on a healing journey where our souls are made large, our hearts capacious, our minds expansive, where we can hold together creatively spaciousness and direction, clarity and complexity, and where cure is care and being steeped in the love of God as we know it in Jesus, the grace of God, God’s dream and desire for the world.
Looking back and ahead: Attendees spent time celebrating some of the things our conference has accomplished over the past year, and attendees shared with each other their own hopes and dreams and which step God is calling them to take in living and offering the abundant life movement to all. Many of their hopes and dreams, which they entered into an app and were shown on-screen, focused on love, connection, unity, being bold, diversity, inclusion, and growth.
Milestones in ministry: Attendees participated in the Service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination at which 19 clergy were recognized for milestones in ministry. They also remembered 22 clergy and spouses who have died within the past year. At the end of the two days, attendees also recognized and gave thanks for 18 retiring clergy who have together contributed 496 years of faithful service.
Diversity and inclusion legislation: Annual Conference members overwhelmingly approved four pieces of legislation focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). One charges to the conference to contract with an outside auditor who has experience in DEI work to perform an equity audit of human resources at the conference level in order to increase equity in hiring practices, employee compensation and procedures, and employee recruiting and retention at the conference level. Another charges the Cabinet to prioritize the recruitment of candidates of color and LGBTQIA+ candidates for open positions in order to create a more diverse conference leadership team. And a third stipulates that the conference’s part-time racial justice organizer position will be made into a full-time, director-level position on the Extended Cabinet by January 2023. Meanwhile, voting members approved by a margin of 339-36 a piece of legislation that calls for the Minnesota Conference to hold a storytelling space before the 2026 Annual Conference that would allow Minnesota United Methodists to tell stories that resulted from the Book of Discipline policy stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
Discontinuing and disaffiliating churches: Attendees voted to ratify the terms of disaffiliation agreements made between the conference Board of Trustees and three local churches that have discerned that their path goes a different direction from the Minnesota Annual Conference. In 2019, an amendment was added to the United Methodist Book of Discipline allowing churches to disaffiliate through December 2023 over disagreement about human sexuality. “We have sharp disagreements about the shape of ministry, but we can trust one another to God’s grace,” Bishop David Bard said after the disaffiliation votes. Meanwhile, attendees gave thanks for the ministries and legacies of faith of five churches that have closed over the past year.
Sermon by Rev. Bruce Kronen: Rev. Bruce Kronen, who serves Pilgrim UMC in Plymouth and was randomly selected as this year’s conference preacher, talked about some of the times he’s been privileged to watch Jesus’ healing and recounted a story in which a family’s vehicle flipped over on a vacation after the dad fell asleep at the wheel; an 18-month-old child was trapped under the vehicle for 45 minutes, and still lived. That baby, he revealed, was his daughter. “Jesus can heal us in ways we don’t even understand we need healing,” Kronen told those gathered. The question, as Jesus asked in John 5:6, is: Do we want to be whole? “May all of us come with an answer to that question…with a humble, open heart that says, ‘Yes, Lord. Have your way with me,’” he said.
Love Offering: Conference members, on behalf of their churches, also gave $27,206 to the 2022 Love Offering, which will address food insecurity by supporting three Minnesota United Methodist food ministries, and assist those in need in our nation and world by supporting Red Bird Missionary Conference in Appalachia and Volunteers in Mission trips. You may continue to donate throughout 2022.
Wrap-up video: 3-min. version / 6-min. version
Photos: May 24 (day one) / May 25 (day two)
Videos: Throughout annual conference, attendees watched videos that highlighted ways that churches and individuals are providing hope and healing to a hurting world:
• Hope and Healing: A Look Back: A brief look at what we’ve accomplished together over the past year.
• 2022 Missional Report: Seven clergy reflect on the past year, share stories of their congregations and ministry, and look ahead with hope and anticipation.
• Leaving a Legacy, Feeding Families: An impactful food distribution started by Spirit River Community in Isanti now lives on through Coon Rapids UMC.
• Hope for Tomorrow: The members of the Minnesota Conference's 2022 Clergy Leadership Academy share what an abundant life in Christ movement looks like and their hopes and dreams for the conference.
• 2022 Retirement Class Reflections: The 2022 class of retiring clergy share their reflections from their years of ministry and look ahead to what’s next.
Do you want to create your own printed summary or PowerPoint presentation? Here are some additional resources you can download to assist. (See the rest of this email for many more!)
• Conference theme logo
• PowerPoint template
• Bishop's breakthrough prayer card
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church