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New Conference mixes meetings with mission


Photo by Linda Hoopes

Hundreds of Conference members prepare to depart Emons Auditorium at Ball State University to scatter across Muncie in 40 sites for a Day of Mission and Outreach.

More than 2,000 United Methodist conference members from across Indiana representing 1,200 congregations descended upon the Ball State University campus in Muncie June 25-28 for the first Indiana Annual Conference session under the theme of “RETHINK CHURCH.”

The conference partnered with United Methodist Communications in purchasing five billboards, radio spots and live radio remote, a full-page newspaper ad, 10 banners and 1,100 T-shirts to promote the conference’s presence city-wide.

New to the conference session was a Saturday all-conference Day of Outreach and Mission. Dressed in red RETHINK CHURCH T-shirts, more than 1,000 volunteers were sent to ten sites across town with their new districts to work with community leaders in outreach projects.


Muncie’s 14 United Methodist churches hosted sites in five churches and five elementary schools. From these sites, the conference volunteers dispersed to help the City of Muncie clean streets of litter, visit residence in ten nursing homes, work with food pantries, soup kitchens and the Red Cross, swing hammers with Habitat for Humanity, prayer walked streets in 10 neighborhoods and joined Covenant Partners Ministries, an inner-city United Methodist mission, with its community outreach day. Conference members also brought non-perishable foods to give to area pantries. Indiana’s Operation Classroom received 215 boxes of school and health supplies for missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The conference celebrated missions that evening with still pictures and videos of the day’s outreach and received a mission offering of $7,744.


The four-day meeting also included three hour-long educational presentations by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the 15,500-member of Church of the Resurrection (UMC) in Leawood, Kan., who focused on church leadership, ideas for preaching and worship, and strategies for reaching residents who have no church commitment.

The Rev. David Bell of Brighton, Mich., led two hour-long Bible studies on the theme of extravagant generosity. Bell serves as vice-president of stewardship with The United Methodist Foundation of Michigan.


In other business the conference:

  • Restructured the administration of the conference based on a Leadership Table chaired by the bishop;
  • Streamlined the conference from three offices to one conference center and 18 to 10 districts;
  • Announced boundaries and superintendents of the 10 new districts (effective Jan. 1);
  • Announced the location (by Nov.1) of the new conference center on the north-side of Indianapolis and the closing of offices in Bloomington and Marion;
  • Established a special-Sunday offering for Indiana campus ministries;
  • Established a special-Sunday offering for a retired-ministers compassionate fund;
  • Authorized the implementation of a partially funded supplemental health-care insurance plan, separate from HealthFlex, for retired clergy, spouses and surviving spouses based on years of service;
  • Continued HealthFlex plan for clergy and conference employees;
  • Celebrated the chartering of Faithpoint UMC in New Albany District;
  • Introduced a $3.9 million Lilly Endowment funded Well-Lived Life program to assist pastors with indebtedness and congregations with financial planning;
  • Celebrated the retirement of 28 pastors who served a total of 742 years;
  • Celebrated the ordination of 15 elders, 1 deacon, 1 associate member and commissioning of 16 provisional clergy;
  • Remembered the lives of 23 clergy and 37 clergy spouses who died this conference year; and
  • Approved a $15.1 million budget for 2010.

With both former conferences combined, membership stands at 204,527 down 1,872 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 121,591 down 2,467. Sunday school attendance stands at 43,119 down 2,329. The statistics are unofficial and will be audited in July.

Indiana approved only five of the 32 Constitutional Amendments considered by all annual conference globally.

Bishop announces two new associate directors

Bishop Mike Coyner announces the selection and appointment of the Rev. LeKisha Reed of New Orleans, La., as the new Associate Director for Missions and Advocacy for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church effective July 1. Reed is a new face to Indiana as she begins her work with Connectional Ministries Director James Bushfield as an employee of the new conference staff. Coyner also announced the selection of the Rev. Sandy Harlan of Bloomington, Ind. as the new conference Associate Director of Clergy Services effective August 1.


Reed recently served as associate pastor of First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans, a position she served since June 2007. Previously, she served as pastor of the Boyntown UMC in Gretna, La. She also has served a resident student chaplain in Atlanta, Ga., program director for the Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans, and a ministry fellow of The Fund for Theological Education in Atlanta.


Harlan has worked with the South Indiana Conference Board of Ordained Ministry in several capacities during the past 11 years. She first became a member of the board in 1998 when she served as Registrar for the Division of Deacons. In 2005, she became interim staff person to the board incorporating those responsibilities into her half-time portfolio, which at the time included several other conference boards and committees. Shortly thereafter, she became the staff person relating to the board. In 2007, she was named to the full-time position of Director of Ministerial Services and continues to serve in that capacity.

Pastor of largest UMC encourages Hoosiers to ‘Rethink Church’

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding and current lead pastor of the Church of the Resurrection (UMC) in suburban Kansas City, presented three sessions on “Effective Church Leadership,” “Ideas for Preaching and Worship” and “Strategies for Reaching the Unchurched” during the opening day of the Indiana Annual Conference. The Church of the Resurrection is the largest UM congregation in the United States with 15,500 members.

Effective leadership

Hamilton kicked off his June 25 sessions by offering a revival for spiritual renewal for laity and clergy, saying that on average there are about 10 percent of both who are feeling burned out, which then effects their ministries and leadership.

“I believe we have a future with hope, but not with out change.” Now is the time to address various areas of the church that have not worked well and work on ways to change for the future.

Five ways for effective church leadership include:

  • Setting the tone of the organization,
  • Clarifying and championing the mission and vision,
  • Holding the organization accountable to its mission,
  • Owning ultimate responsibility for the organization’s mission,
  • Preparing the organization for the future by leading for change.

“The mission drives everything,” said Hamilton. “The problem is we don’t like change. We like the status quo. This is a problem for every generation.”

Effective church leadership also includes five important principles:

  • It’s all about people.
  • Healthy organizations have a clear mission, vision and plan.
  • Change, innovate, improve or die.
  • Understand the discipleship pyramid.
  • Discernment by nausea.

“Leaders help take the path less traveled.”

Strategies for reaching the non-religious

Each church in developing various strategies for evangelism and outreach needs to wrestle and answer the following questions:

  • Why do people need Jesus Christ? “The fundamental needs in our human heart are spiritual needs. We yearn for unconditional love, need hope and more. All of these things are orchestrated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  • Why do people need the church? “The church belongs to Jesus Christ.”
  • Why do people need your church? People need the help of our local congregations in finding the love of Jesus.

“Non-religious young adults are really interested in changing the world. That’s what Rethink Church is all about...

Youth rally at Union Chapel

Youth from across the Indiana Conference and the Muncie District participated in a fun evening of fellowship, worship and sharing on Saturday night June 27.

The Rev. Mark Beeson of Granger Community United Methodist Church near South Bend provided the message to more than 150 youth at the event.

“You try to stay true. You try to stay on path. It’s too easy to get off track,” said Beeson. “Then you’ve got to pay close attention to who you let close to you.”

Beeson shared experiences throughout his life where he learned from others who were teachers, colleagues and friends and how their influence guided and helped him. He called upon the youth to let Jesus have a strong influence in their lives and to be cleansed by God’s love.

Bell encourages culture of extravagant generosity

The Rev. David Bell, of Brighton, Mich., serves as vice-president of stewardship with The United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. Bell consults independently through Design for Ministry. He began a June 26 Bible study highlighting the widow’s mite story found in Mark 12.

“My understanding of Christian stewardship is that it’s not only money, but everything we have is a gift of God,” said Bell.

There are more passages about money that Jesus taught his disciples and people than other topics.

“There is this tension that exists in our culture,” said Bell. “The result is that the average American lives well beyond their economic means.”

Bell shared information that most people are among the ordinary wealthy and our wants have been replaced with needs. “This idea of scarcity is pervasive across all economic lives,” said Bell. “People of less means give more.”

Bell continued, “Faith and money are linked together. You can’t separate those two. Contentment comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. The longer the church is silent, how can the world hear? Contentment brings joy and peace into our lives.”

Bell provided six concepts for conference members:

  • Provide a Biblical/theological context,
  • Ask with a sense of anticipation,
  • Practice ethical/financial management,
  • Personally thank the giver,
  • Remind them of the mission to change lives, and
  • Create a joyful atmosphere of extravagant generosity.

In addition Bell will be presenting programs throughout Indiana during the fall and winter.

Photo by Linda Hoopes

Faithpoint UMC was chartered as a new church by the conference on June 26. Pictured in the presentation are (from left) are the Rev. Mark Gough, the Rev. George Wasson, Donna Wilfong, Jessi Wilfong and the Rev. Charles Wilfong, superintendent of the New Albany District. 

Indiana Annual Conference approves only five proposed constitutional amendments

Only five of the 32 proposed amendments to the United Methodist Church Constitution were approved by the Indiana Conference votes received Friday, June 26, at Muncie. A total of 1,257 ballots were cast, according to Conference Secretary Carolyn Johnson. All of the votes will be added to the individual votes from all the annual conferences.

Those receiving the required two-thirds or above votes in Indiana included proposed amendments:


Conflict of Interest – 1071 affirmative votes


Gender – 1113 affirmative votes
IX. Jurisdictional Conference Membership – 1040 affirmative votes
XIX. Voting Eligibility – 1087 affirmative votes

Bermuda – 1127 affirmative votes

All of these proposed amendments were passed in Indiana with an 82 percent or above approval. No other proposed amendments received more than 52 percent of the vote. None of the Global Nature of the Church proposed amendments received a two-thirds majority vote in Indiana. A complete tally and short description is available here.

All constitutional amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the total number of voting members of all conferences worldwide. The Council of Bishops is expected to announce the results during its spring meeting.

Conference reaches out to Muncie, world


 Photo by Linda Hoopes

Two conference volunteers walk on of ten neighborhoods assigned to prayer walkers.

Following a Saturday June 27 afternoon of sweat and aching muscles, 1,500 conference members and guests celebrated the outreach and mission of the church not only across Muncie, but around the world.

Day of the outreach leader, Karen Powell, pastor of Riverside UMC in Muncie, proclaimed, “Jesus has left the building. Bathing a city in prayer, it’s not easy to share in the name of Christ. We have a God who has a big imagination.”

Muncie District Superintendent Dale Mendenhall expressed the project team’s thanks to all who lead and participated in the four-hour event that witnessed and worked to Muncie in more than 40 locations across the city.

As he preached to the conference, Bishop Mike Coyner began by saying, “You have already preached the sermon this afternoon.

A Together photo

Two volunteers pick up trash in a parking lot across from High Street UMC in downtown Muncie one of ten neighborhoods where litter was collected.

After reading Romans 12:9-21, he said the church has proclaimed open hearts, open minds and open doors across the country and the cross-and-flame logo of the church has gained in market recognition by 40 percent.

“But the secret is that open doors swing in both directions – not just welcoming people into the church and certainly not just inviting people who look like us to help pay the bills. No those open doors swing open to welcome all in the name of Jesus.

“And those open doors swing outward as we go to serve in Jesus’ name.”

Conference approves the creation of ten-district structure

 The map of the ten new Indiana Conference districts that will begin operating on January 1. It’s available here.
On behalf of the conference Transition Team, Chair Cindy Reynolds, brought seven recommendations to the conference June 26 to implement a new district structure. They included Recommendation 4 which was a major shift from last year’s five bi-district resource centers with two districts and superintendents proposal to a ten district configuration including a superintendent, associate superintendent, district assistant plus partnering with conference-supported connectional ministries and church development. The reason for the change was a fear of adding another layer of structure and increasing the complexity of a bi-district structure.

Other recommendations included:

  • District lines including cluster configurations which have been drawn by the bishop and cabinet,
  • Support of the directors of connectional ministries and church development,
  • Support of the rules and structure report already adopted,
  • Asking the bishop to name an ongoing Transition Team,
  • Enabling the ten district structures to be formed, and
  • Discontinuing the current Transition Team.

After discussion and concerns about district funding, the conference approved the recommendation to form a ten-district resource center structure.

Bishop approves four employees to continue with conference

 Ed Fenstemacher
Ed Fenstermacher, associate director of church development and revitalization of the former North Indiana Conference based in Marion, Ind.

He is a graduate of John Glenn High School in Walkerton and Taylor University where he was granted a B.D. Degree in secondary education English.

In his new position which began July 1, he will develop and implement the conference strategic plan for church development, with a focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Ruth Ellen Needler, assistant administrator for office and conference services of the former North Indiana Conference based in Marion, Ind., is a native of Sweetser, Ind., five miles west of Muncie, and a 1977 graduate of Oak Hill High School. She was employed by the North Indiana Conference right after graduation and for the past 32 years has worked in various areas of the conference service center. For the past seven years, she has held her present position.

In her new position which became effective July 1, she provides oversight of office services, including supervision of the support staff pool and conference services, including support needs of the annual conference session.

Ed Metzler, current Secretary to the Bishop, will continue to work with Coyner as secretary. He began working as a freelancer with the Hoosier United Methodist conference newspaper in 1994 and has served nine years full-time in the area office and has served two bishops.

Erma Metzler, current Communications Assistant, will continue serving with Communication Director Dan Gangler. She has served 14 years as communication assistant to two directors of communication.