Two things seem to be happening at the same time here in Indiana.
First, the Imagine Indiana Design Team is working on an Implementation Plan to bring to the North and South Indiana Conferences in 2008 for a vote on the details of creating a new, unified Indiana Conference in 2009. This work is going well and the result of the overwhelming votes received during our two 2007 annual conferences to move toward a new conference. I am now visiting in all 18 districts to bring updates about this work and to hear your concerns, new ideas, hopes, dreams and fears about this process.
Second, while this official work is moving forward, it seems that something else is happening. People and groups in North and South Indiana are meeting together, working together, getting to know one another and planning events for us to become better acquainted.
Here are some examples:
The United Methodist Women of North and South Indiana are having their Annual Day together on Nov. 3 in Indianapolis. This will be a great day as the UMWs join together for worship, missions planning and celebration. I will be privileged to celebrate Holy Communion with them.
The laity of our two conferences will join together for a "LEAP Event" on Feb. 29 and March 1, 2008. The name "LEAP" is not just because Feb. 29 is leap-year day, LEAP also means "Let's Establish a Priority" and that priority is Evangelism. The Boards of Laity of the North and South Conference, led by our Lay Leaders Kayc Mykrantz and Ike Williams, are planning a great event of sharing and focusing upon the role of laity in evangelism.
The clergy of North and South conferences are joining together for an "Our Life Together" retreat on April 7-8. While clergy from both conferences have had "Our Life Together" days in the past three years, this will be the first time all clergy will come together for such an event. Dr. Greg Jones, Dean of Duke Divinity School, will be the keynote speaker, a whole series of home-grown workshop leaders will offer great opportunities, and there will be a "Fun Night" with food, fellowship and even some goofy games. The theme of the event will be "Living the Wesleyan Way in a New Day" including some serious presentations and worship, but also much of the retreat will be about having fun together and getting to know one another.
In addition to these events, other things are happening that bring us together, too. Our two Outdoor Ministry Teams are working to develop a state-wide plan to use all of our current campgrounds in a unified plan to grow more disciples by reaching larger numbers of children, youth and adults through our camping programs.
Our two Boards of Pensions and Insurance are working together to find a way for all of our clergy, spouses and surviving spouses to be covered fairly and equitably by our pension and insurance programs.
Our two Councils of Finance and Administration have visited one another's meetings to learn from each other and to enhance our ministry of finance and stewardship.
We even had a meeting of all staff members from the North Conference, South Conference and Area offices.
Our two Cabinets had a summer planning retreat together, with excellent consultation by Dr. Kennon Callahan, author of Twelve Keys to an Effective Church. The two Cabinets and many of the two conference staffs went to Mississippi this past January on a joint mission trip that allowed those groups to get to know one another in the midst of providing service to families recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
It is interesting that even as the Imagine Indiana Design Team is working on a detailed plan for a new Indiana, we are already "living into" a new sense of coming together as The United Methodist Church in Indiana. We seem to be discovering that we are already united by Christ for ministry to the whole state, and we seem to be enjoying getting to know one another as we work side-by-side. We are coming together.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world.