By Ann Whiting
Michigan United Methodists will not be joining together in one new conference in 2009. After discussion and debate April 5 at the Lansing Center, Detroit Conference members approved the proposed merger; West Michigan Conference members defeated it by13 votes.
The vote on the Plan of Organization for the Great Lakes Conference was as follows: Detroit: Yes, 651; No 266; 2 abstentions; West Michigan: Yes, 363; No 376; 2 abstentions.
According to The United Methodist Book of Discipline and rules for the special session, each conference, voting separately, had to adopt the Plan of Organization for the merger to take effect.
Michigan Area Transition Team (MATT) co-chair Paul Thomas, told the Advocate: "We were asked to serve and put a plan together to bring to this special session and we did just that. I hope the conferences will realize that change is upon us and realize we need to move forward." He said MATT's work is done and that team has been disbanded.
Opposition from West Michigan appeared to center around portions of the Plan of Organization, not resistance to becoming one conference. Two major sticking points for those who spoke against the plan, both at the special session, and a "holy conferencing" session the night before the vote at East Lansing: University UMC, were lack of inclusive representation on boards and agencies in favor of so called "functional" agencies; loss of conference ministry consultants who worked directly with local churches; and decreased financial support for camping, campus ministry and missions in general.
This information and analysis was provided by The Michigan Christian Advocate. For more, log on to www.mcadvocate.org.