The Indiana annual conferences have spoken, and they have approved moving another step forward in the "Imagine Indiana" process by significant votes of approval - 78 percent in North and 67 percent in South. My only worry about the Imagine Indiana process this year was that one conference might vote "yes" and the other vote "no" or that the votes might be indecisive, something like a 51 percent approval.

I am relieved by the positive votes, but before we start moving on with this process, allow me to reflect upon where we are.

First, I thank all of those who became involved with the "Imagine Indiana Planning Team" and with any of the 14 Discernment Teams. More than 300 people were involved in those processes, and that broad level of participation has already been helpful and will continue to be helpful as the next team makes use of the results of all that work. I appreciate the dedicated, prayer efforts that went into the Imagine Indiana Planning Team report that was approved by both conferences.

Second, I thank all of those who raised concerns or who opposed the proposal. In our United Methodist Church, we want and need such dissent, for it helps improve the wisdom of the body. We do not live under the tyranny of the majority, rather we live within a covenant community where everyone's voice matters.

Third, I thank God for being in this process. Perhaps this has been the most prayer-supported process in the history of Indiana United Methodism. Every team, every individual and both conferences devoted many hours to praying for God's guidance. Have we received and heard all of God's guidance for us? Probably not yet, but our openness to God has certainly blessed the process.

Now it is time to move forward. I will be naming an Imagine Indiana Implementation Team, a small group to coordinate the work of bringing an Implementation Plan to the 2008 sessions of the North and South Indiana conferences. That Team will coordinate the work and once again will work through many other teams, including many of the current committee structures in both conferences. Please pray for that Implementation Team as they do their work this year.

I believe it is my task to be a "cheer leader" for the process and to help the Implementation Team bring forward a viable plan. To that end, I am planning to have a District Day in all 18 districts this fall, a time for me to meet with clergy and laity, to share the process of Imagine Indiana, to hear concerns and to encourage us as we move forward. Please watch for announcements of these District Days, and please encourage many laity to attend, not just those who are already on conference committees.

In the meantime, please keep on "Imagining Indiana" - not just how our United Methodist Church might create a new conference by 2009, but also keep dreaming the kind of Indiana that God imagines and how we can become a part of that movement of God.

The late Bishop David Lawson once offered the following words which can guide us: "The Christian Movement has always leaned forward looking for what is around the next curve in the road, asking what new response God is seeking from the church."

I invite you to continue Imagining Indiana and help all of us to lean forward.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
Making a Difference in Indiana …
and around the world.