From the Bishop

The Special Session of the North and South Indiana Conferences to create the new Indiana Conference on the fourth of October was a great and memorable day in the history of United Methodism in Indiana. The day was filled with a sense of worship, celebration and a blessing by God's Spirit. I personally felt a sense of satisfaction and joy as I participated in that session.

Now what? Now the real work begins. Like any good plan or any important goal, the real work comes after the adoption of the Imagine Indiana plan. We are not finished becoming a new Indiana Conference, we are just getting started.

During this whole process of North and South Conferences considering becoming a new conference, we have often used the imagery of a marriage. Like any good marriage, the wedding ceremony does not finish the process; it just blesses and initiates the process. The words of blessing by the pastor, and even the spoken vows by the bride and groom do not complete the marriage, they only begin the marriage. So it is with this new Indiana Conference. We have formally agreed to be a new conference, and now we need to make it happen.

What will happen in the next few months? Here is a brief list of where we will go from here:

  1. The newly selected and elected Directors will work together as a leadership team and begin selecting the rest of the conference staff to lead our new conference. I am hopeful that this process can be completed by this coming July 1 although I am sure we will continue to need the additional work of many of our current staffs throughout much of 2009.
  2. The two Cabinets will continue working to develop the Ministry Clusters of congregations, and we have plans for a series of "Tip Offs" for these Clusters in February and March 2009. I will be coming to all of the districts to meet with the pastors and lay leader to guide the process of each congregation selecting other congregations with whom they wish to form a Ministry Cluster.
  3. The chairpersons of our Clergy Orders are already working to launch the Clergy Covenant Groups in spring 2009. They want to begin by surveying our clergy to find out which covenant groups are already working well, and then to help the rest of our clergy to form their covenant groups. The "Our Life Together" retreat for all clergy April 20-21 will be held once again at St. Luke's UMC in Indianapolis. It will be a time of special focus on Clergy Covenant groups.
  4. The new Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) and the new Trustees will be working to incorporate the new Indiana Conference and to move forward with the legal, property and financial issues that will be needed to implement the Imagine Indiana plan. Part of their work will be focused upon securing a new conference office - either leased or purchased - in the greater Indianapolis area.
  5. The other interim committees (Human Resources, Nominations, Rules and Sessions) will be working between now and the first Annual Conference session of the new Indiana Conference next year to make plans for the new conference.
  6. The Cabinets and I will continue to work on finalizing district lines, using the currently proposed 10 District map and tweaking that map by Ministry Cluster choices made by all of our congregations. That final map will be prepared for the Annual Conference Session in June 2009. The new districts will be launched by July 1, 2010.
  7. We will hold our first session of the new Indiana Conference next June 25-28 at Ball State University. We plan to begin Thursday with a "Teaching Day" led by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, the dynamic pastor of Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City, one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the United States. The Annual Conference will include many important business sessions and also will include times of worship, a Saturday afternoon of outreach and mission to the Muncie area, and our Ordination Service on Sunday morning to commission and ordain new clergy, and to appoint all clergy for the coming year.

Transition Team members will continue to monitor and supervise all of these processes of transitioning from two conferences into one new conference. I am grateful for their faithful commitment to this task.

There is much to be done. We have only just begun. And it was a great beginning. Let us all pray that God will continue to bless and guide our efforts as the new Indiana Conference to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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