By Daniel R. Gangler

INDIANAPOLIS - Under the leadership of Bishop Mike Coyner, the Imagine Indiana Planning Team's work continued Sept. 28 to bring images into reality as its 12 members pursued a plan which will unite the North Indiana and South Indiana United Methodist annual conferences.

One of those reality points is amendments to the Imagine Indiana plan of union that will come before both annual conferences next spring. If such amendments are received for approval to move forward toward unity, a special session of both annual conferences will need to be held jointly to ratify an agreed-upon plan. The team has reserved the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis for Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008 as the location of the special sessions, if needed.

During its five-hour meeting, the Imagine Indiana Planning Team members continued to listen and compile information as they begin to finalize parts of the plan. Coyner, who had met with three districts, reported that his meetings with pastors and lay leaders have been a positive experience. He said the most positive comments were about the clustering of churches as outlined in the proposal approved at both annual conferences in June.

"People continue to ask for details on plans we're still finalizing," he said.

Coyner spoke very positively about his meeting with 15 of the 18 district office administrative assistants on Sept. 21. He said they very much see their positions as ministry. When asked what is needed in a new conference, they said, a common data base, training and coming together among other issues.

In sub-groups of committees which are meeting across Indiana, team members felt they need more feedback groups, especially as the team reports plans about the new conference. Some concerns have been raised about where the new Indiana Annual Conference sessions will be held.

The planning team has reserved Emens Auditorium for the first session of the new Indiana Conference Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28, 2009 on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie. The auditorium seats 3,300 people, Ball State also has a smaller 660-seat auditorium, food courts, catering services, break-out rooms, residence hall rooms, and at least six hotels within ten minutes of the campus.

Among other items, the team continues to:

  • Work with a connectional table model for administration;

  • Discuss the responsibility of congregations in order to meet the needs of congregations;

  • Design a conference staff to help congregations discovery their passions and carry out that passion;

  • Work on the philosophical and theological aspects of a new conference;

  • Discuss organizing congregations into clusters, pastors into peer groups and establishing voluntary affinity groups which could be local or statewide.

  • Work on equalizing pension and health care benefit programs;

  • Research ways to fund a new conference beyond a connectional tithe; and

  • Pray for God's leading in the work of creating something new.

Principles the team plans to use to continue its work are: localized ministry, centralized administration and globalized mission. A plan of union has not yet been drafted.

During this month and next, districts will continue to meet with Bishop Coyner as he continues to listen. Next scheduled meetings of the planning team are Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec. 14-15. The team's report needs to be written in early 2008 so more listening can occur as the team finalized its report for the North Indiana Annual Conference meeting May 29-31 at West Lafayette and the South Indiana Annual Conference meeting June 5-7 in Bloomington.

In the meantime, suggestions and comments for the Imagine Indiana Planning Team can be e-mailed to ImagineIndiana@inareaumc.org or Imagine Indiana Planning Team, 1100 W. 42nd St., Suite 210, Indianapolis, IN 46234. For more information, log on to www.inareaumc.org