2023 legislation round-up

June 01, 2023
Each table filled out ballots for key legislative items. / Photos by David Haines

By: Christa Meland

At the 2023 Minnesota Annual Conference Session May 31-June 1 in St. Cloud, hundreds of voting members in attendance approved all pieces of legislation before them (access all legislation, including everything on the consent calendar that was approved). Here’s a look at key items, along with some of the discussion that preceded each vote:
Banning the sale, transfer, and manufacture of assault-style weapons: By a vote of 356-31, members approved a resolution directing the Minnesota Annual Conference to send letters to the members of the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Governor, the U.S. President and Vice President, and the Minnesota members of U.S. Congress, indicating the conference’s position on the sale of assault-style weapons and devices to increase the speed of firing, and urging lawmakers to pass laws banning sales, transfers, and manufacturing of assault-style weapons and devices to change guns to assault-style guns.

Many people spoke in favor of the legislation. “I have two sons and my youngest, when he was in preschool, used to play active shooter drills with his race cars,” said Rev. Carrie Binnie, who serves Minnetonka UMC. “Every single morning on his way to school, he texts my husband and me and he sends the words ‘I hope I don't get shot today.’ This breaks my heart. If it’s time for the church to speak, let us start here.”
Addressing Israeli detention of children: By a vote of 372-20, members approved a resolution directing the Minnesota Conference secretary to petition the 2024 General Conference to adopt a resolution calling upon the U.S. government to ratify the Rights of the Child as put forth by the U.N. Convention and to take seriously the ratification of legislation that seeks to prohibit Israel from using U.S. taxpayer dollars on the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
Several people spoke in favor of the resolution. “The Apostle Paul, on more than one occasion, exhorted us to be compassionate and useful…In other words, place the oxygen mask first over the faces of your most vulnerable,” said Rev. John Darlington, who is retired and serves on the Palestine-Israel Justice Project ministry team. “Do this for the children who are Christian, Muslim, in Jewish in the Holy Land—so that at long last, the children who are the very future of the body of Christ in the land where Jesus lived and without whom we wouldn't even be—so that they can teach their children the art of the oxygen mask.”

Becky Boland, a certified lay minister at Hamline UMC in St. Paul, spoke in favor of the ban of assault-style weapons.

Voicing support of creating a U.S. Regional Conference: By a hand vote, members overwhelmingly approved a resolution voicing the Minnesota Annual Conference’s support of the intent of the Christmas Covenant and Connectional Table legislation, including the creation of Regional Conferences in Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S., respectively. The Minnesota Conference urges the Council of Bishops to expedite the process of enacting the legislation and to appoint a 20-25 member interim committee to develop and propose the structure and organization of a US Regional Conference to the 2024 General Conference.
“I believe that if we become regionalized when the whole church or the whole denomination is generalized, it will give space for traditions to be embraced by each country,” said Rev. Riva Tabelisma, outgoing pastor of Christ UMC in Maplewood and its Bayaniham Fellowship. She noted for example, that LGBTQ+ inclusion is a huge issue in the U.S. while same-gender marriages aren’t even legal in the Philippines, where she was born and raised. “I think that supporting the regionalism…will help countries like the Philippines realize that we will be given more flexibility here in the United States to do the missions that we can do without being forced to be in that framework of the Book of Discipline.”

Supporting the Removal of Discriminatory Policies: By a hand vote, members overwhelmingly approved a resolution voicing the Minnesota Annual Conference’s support of the removal of all discriminatory policies and harmful language related to sexual orientation from the Book of Discipline and urges General Conference delegates to adopt nine specific petitions that would remove such language.
“Serving at New City Church has been a deep and abiding blessing for me in the last six years, and that is not in spite of but because of the queer community that gathers there every Sunday and other days of the week and is embodying the kingdom of God,” said Rev. Dana Neuhauser. “We have people there who are called by God and still told that they don’t belong in other places…and to maintain the words on paper that say that there are many of us who do not belong and could be brought up on charges at any time…that is something that goes against our witness in the world.”
Envelopes containing ballots are being collected so that votes can be tallied.

2024 Apportioned Budget: Members overwhelmingly approved, by a hand vote, a 2024 apportioned budget totaling $5,480,000, with an uncollectible contingency of $375,000 for a total apportioned budget of $5,855,000. This budget is flat as compared to the 2023 approved budget and within budget ceiling guidelines.
Rev. Gary Taylor, who serves Cascade UMC in Deerwood and Emily UMC, urged all churches to give 100 percent of their requested apportionments so that we do not need an uncollectible contingency—and Dave Nuckols, a lay member of Minnetonka UMC, encouraged church leaders to lift up to their congregations the value of the connectional ministries we support. Meanwhile, Rev. Jeanine Alexander, who serves First UMC (the Coppertop) in Duluth, reminded those gathered that $1.2 million of the apportioned budget is coming from reserves.
After the vote, Bishop Lanette Plambeck gave her appreciation for the connectional giving within the Minnesota Conference. “My thank you to you and your congregations for the stewardship that you have modeled,” she said. “My thank you for the way that you are not only leading in local church mission and ministry, but how that is extending across the greater connection, and my thank you to your faithfulness and how we do life together.”
Discontinuance of West Concord UMC: Members voted to formally approve the discontinuance of one church that has closed over the past year. The ministries and legacy of West Concord UMC, which was in existence from 1884-2022, were lifted up, and Rev. Michelle Hargrave, River Valley District superintendent, gave a prayer of thanksgiving for this congregation over its decades of service.

Disaffiliations: By a hand vote, members ratified the terms of disaffiliation agreements made between the conference Board of Trustees and 14 local churches that have discerned that their path goes a different direction from the Minnesota Annual Conference: Akeley UMC, Central UMC (Verndale), First UMC (Ortonville), First UMC (Raymond), First UMC (Windom), Hawick UMC, Hewitt UMC, Korean Evangelical UMC (Hopkins), Money Creek UMC (Houston), Olivet UMC (Robbinsdale), Salem UMC (Pipestone), Sebeka UMC, Verndale UMC, and Villard UMC. “I want you to keep in your hearts and prayers those 14 congregations that as they separate from The United Methodist Church and ministries here in the annual conference, that they may indeed move forward, living out their faith in faithful ways, and being a beacon of light and hope for all souls in this world,” Bishop Lanette Plambeck said after the vote. “It is a bittersweet time when we take action such as this. But we know at the end of the day, we all belong to God.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404


(612) 870-0058