By Daniel R. Gangler

The North Indiana and South Indiana annual conferences approved a plan to unite the two conferences into one new Indiana Annual Conference.

Bishop Mike Coyner announced the results of votes by each annual conference during the closing session of the South Indiana legislative gathering June 7 at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington.

South Indiana members voted 616-185 on June 6 to unite with the North Indiana Conference. North Indiana members, meeting May 30 in West Lafayette, voted 730-192 for the merger.

The votes conclude 62 years of Methodist and United Methodist annual conference sessions at Indiana University. The former Northwest Methodist Conference met in Lobe Playhouse at Purdue since the mid-1950s. The first North Indiana Annual Conference session of the new United Methodist Church met in 1968 in Emens Auditorium at Ball State University and from 1969 until this year at Purdue University in the Elliott Hall of Music.

Upon the unity vote results, Coyner said, "I am delighted that the two conferences approved the Imagine Indiana plan by such large margins. This means that we are moving forward in creating a new conference which will be streamlined in administration, local church focused in providing resources and passionate in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We all know that this is not the end of the process, but another important step along the way as we learn together how best to serve God here in Indiana and around the world."

Coyner has called a special session of both conferences Oct. 4 from 1-4 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to finalize amendments, elect committees and begin plans for the first combined Indiana Annual Conference session, scheduled for June 25-28, 2009, at Ball State University in Muncie.

During 2009 the two conferences will align themselves to be one conference under the new plan on Jan. 1, 2010.

Uniting conferences

The uniting of the two conferences is designed to streamline administration of the Indiana Area to bring resources closer to congregations for their support.

Features of the new annual conference, which was two years in design, include:

  • Forming clergy into covenant groups and all 1,200 congregations into ministry clusters for the support of and accountability;
  • Dissolving the 18 districts aand establishing five resource centers to support 10 districts; and
  • Creating a new conference structure and new conference center in Indianapolis.

The only major amendments to the 50-page unity document added youth and young adults to the discussion-making process of the statewide church and added more staff in youth and young adult ministries to the five resource centers across the state.

Transition team

Coyner announced July 2 the 14 members of the Imagine Indiana Transition Team. It includes:

  • Al Brothers, NIC layman of Leo;
  • Herb Buwalda, NIC large church pastor of South Bend;
  • Beverly Calender-Anderson, SIC layperson of Bloomington;
  • Jim Coy, SIC layperson of Evansville;
  • Brian Durand, SIC youth minister of Indianapolis;
  • Ida Easley, Rushville DS of Rushville;
  • Bert Kite, SIC clergy of large church of Carmel;
  • Ashley Moreland, NIC young adult of Fort Wayne;
  • Kayc Mykrantz, NIC Lay Leader of Logansport;
  • David V.W. Owen, Exec. Assistant to Bishop;
  • Kaye Patton, NIC clergy of medium church of Marion;
  • Cindy Reynolds, Warsaw DS of Warsaw;
  • Roger Summers, NIC layman, attorney of Fort Wayne; and
  • Ike Williams, SIC Lay Leader of Carmel.

The team will be staffed as needed by both conference treasurers Brent Williams of NIC and Jennifer Gallagher of SIC, plus Directors of Conference Ministries Mark Gough of NIC and Jim Bushfield of SIC.

Coyner, said the Transition Team is scheduled to meet July 10 first with the former Design Team followed by its first meeting as a new team. The new Transition Team will pass along the dreams, hopes, plans and unfinished business that the will carry forward. He said, "No staff will be on the Transition Team, because of possible conflict of interest, but staff will be asked to support the work of the Transition Team at later times."