Joint Annual Conference canceled; MN to have virtual gathering

April 29, 2020

By: Cindy Gregorson

This news will probably not come as a surprise given the current COVID-19 situation: The Dakotas and Minnesota Cabinets and respective Sessions Teams have made the decision to cancel the joint Dakotas-Minnesota Annual Conference, scheduled for June 10-12, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The May 28 Minnesota Clergy Session has also been canceled and will be conducted virtually at a later date yet to be determined.

As we consider the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” it’s evident that it will be some months before it is safe for large gatherings to take place. This reality is disappointing given that this event was to be a unique occasion to gather as an episcopal area for celebration of our shared ministry over the past eight years. It unfortunately does not seem practical to postpone this joint gathering in hopes we can gather later this year given the uncertainties around the timeline for the virus and the potential for multiple waves, and subsequent restrictions, before there is a vaccine. So the decision was made to cancel our joint event, and for each annual conference to determine how to do its own essential business that requires annual conference action.

So what does that mean for the Minnesota Annual Conference Session? At this point, our plan is to meet virtually for one day in mid- to late-August. In order to do this, we will substantially pare down our session to focus on what is essential. We are still confirming a date and will let you know as soon as the pieces are in place to the point where we can announce one. Because of the scale and complexity of this event, we are contracting with a vendor that will help us manage the technical pieces and ensure things go smoothly—and we will spend the coming months preparing a much shorter, yet still engaging, efficient, and uplifting, online experience around our theme “Be the Light: Live Hope!” and our gospel imperative to heal a broken world.

Meanwhile, we are in conversation with those to be commissioned and ordained to explore how we can do that in safe and creative ways.

If we are able to gather in the fall, we might consider having some pop-up district gatherings, to keep numbers smaller, at which we can engage in dialogue together. Flexibility and being able to pivot as circumstances change will shape our Annual Conference Session planning and delivery, just as they have shaped local churches’ planning and delivery of worship and other gatherings during this season.

Here are the answers to some questions you might be asking:

I already registered and paid for Annual Conference Session and/or the Clergy Session. How do I get a refund? 

  • If you registered but have not yet paid, no action is necessary.
  • If you paid by check, we have been holding your check in anticipation of the possibility of a cancellation. Your physical check will be returned to the address on the check in the second part of May.
  • If you paid by credit card, a refund will be issued to your card in the first half of May.

What should I do about my hotel reservation in Sioux Falls?
You will need to call the hotel directly to cancel. There will be no cancellation fee if you cancel by May 31.
I am supposed to go to a new appointment or retire July 1. What happens now that Annual Conference Session is not until August?
You still move, and you still can retire! Appointment changes will still be effective July 1, 2020. Moving companies (including the one we use, Mayflower) are considered essential businesses and do plan to move our clergy in June.
I have been approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) for a change of relationship, such as licensing, leave of absence, commissioning, or ordination. When do those take effect?
All relationship changes, with the exception of commissioning and ordination, will go into effect on the effective date of the approval by the BOOM and Cabinet. They will be considered interim appointment changes until clergy session meets and can ratify them. Commissioning and ordination requires clergy session approval, as well as the laying on hands by the bishop. So while the BOOM approval stands until that can occur, those individuals will continue in their current status until we determine how to make that happen given our current restrictions on meeting in-person.
What do I need to know or do about this virtual Annual Conference Session?
We are still in the design phase. What we know at this point is that there will be limited interaction given that there will be hundreds of participants, but we will be able to conduct essential business. The best way you can prepare for this virtual event is to make sure that, if you are a member to Annual Conference, you have device with a strong Internet connection that can do videoconferencing. A dial-in option will be available for those without Internet access, but it will result in a more limited experience as you will not be able to see the presenters and materials on-screen. 

What else do I need to know now?
We will send more information as details are finalized. Expect that there will be virtual pre-conference gatherings about legislation so you can be informed and have the opportunity to ask questions in advance of the actual session. 

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058