From the Bishop

We're "going green" at our first session of the new Indiana Annual Conference. That's "green" in the sense of growing some new traditions, and "green" in the sense of ecology and stewardship.

I recently attended a very enthusiastic meeting of the Sessions Committee, which is the group responsible for planning our Annual Conference June 25-28 at Ball State University in Muncie. I think it is fair to say that this first session will be truly "new" and, as someone in the group said, "This is not your grandparent's annual conference."

Our first AC will be more of a weekend session to promote lay participation. It will open with a teaching day on Thursday led by Dr. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest UM congregation in the United States. He will inspire us to "take the church beyond the walls." Later that Thursday afternoon, we will have a brief business time, followed by separate Laity and Clergy Sessions on Thursday evening.

On Friday and Saturday, we will begin conference with a Bible study led by Dr. David Bell, a noted teacher in stewardship, who will help us learn about Extravagant Generosity, one of the "Five Fruitful Practices" we are using as United Methodists (the others are Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, and Risk-Taking Mission and Service).

Friday will be the day we do most of our "business" as a Conference, including electing new committees and officers, adopting a budget, voting on 32 constitutional amendments approved by General Conference, and celebrating our UM institutions and connections. Friday evening will be our Service of Remembering and Resurrection as a memorial to our clergy and spouses who have died during the past year. We also will celebrate our community through Holy Communion.

Saturday will focus on missions and outreach. After a morning Bible Study led by Dr. Bell, further reports and business, we will divide into our 10 new districts, travel to 10 churches across Muncie for box lunches and receive instructions about various projects so that we can reach out to the Muncie community. These projects will include a variety for different gifts and physical abilities, including praying, walking the streets to place door hangers with information about the UMC, visiting nursing homes, and some physical labor projects, too.

We encourage everyone to come to the Saturday morning session dressed in casual clothes, wearing "church shirts" to let people know we are United Methodists, and prepared to do some risk-taking mission. For those who don't have "church shirts," United Methodist Communications will provide, on a first-come-first-serve basis, a few hundred T-shirts bearing the RETHINK CHURCH theme.

Following Saturday's mission activities, we will be transported back to the Ball State campus in plenty of time to clean-up, eat dinner and then gather for a spirited Saturday night worship service to celebrate our mission. I will be preaching on "Open Doors Swing Both Ways."

Sunday morning will be our Ordination and Commissioning Service as we celebrate ministry by commissioning and ordaining new clergy. We will close that service with the reading of appointments and sending all of us home to ministry. This will be a great Annual Conference and a great start to our new Indiana Conference.

Now here's the "green" part. The committee wants to cut down on the incredible paper and printing costs (and waste) of Annual Conference. Here are some of their ideas:

  1. Your pre-conference printed materials and packets at Annual Conference will include instructions you need and only parts of the reports which require action (voting) at Annual Conference. All other reports (many of which are interesting but routine) will be posted on the new conference Web site. This will actually provide more space for those reports and more photos, but not produce lots of paper which is costly and wasteful.

  2. We will not be distributing lots of printed materials from groups at Annual Conference. Instead there will be a list of all those groups, where you can visit their display tables, and a list of all their Web sites. We will encourage you to visit their display tables, talk to representatives and they may hand out a few materials. Hopefully, you will "go green" and read materials on their Web sites.

  3. The appointment list distributed on Sunday morning at the Ordination Service will be very simple and reduced. It will list the church/es and the pastor/s appointed, but without address, phone numbers, years of service, e-mail addresses and other information. Just the basic fact that "Pastor John Wesley" is appointed to "Epworth Church in England." An electronic version with all the other information will be coming to the pastors and churches shortly after the Annual Conference Session. Going to this simplified appointment list will in itself save nearly $10,000 in printing costs and thousands of pages of paper.

The Sessions Committee is considering other ways that we can "go green" at Annual Conference, too, but even these few small steps will save much money and many trees. If you have other ideas about "going green" at Annual Conference, send them to Jim Bushfield, our Director of Connectional Ministries based in Bloomington. Thank you.

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