The New Indiana Conference continues to emerge from Imagine Indiana documents to reality. The annual conference session confirmed a 2010 budget and elected its leaders in June and held its first Leadership Table session this past month. Conference directors and district superintendents now meet on a regular monthly basis under Bishop Mike Coyner’s leadership.
The conference name appears next to the new conference center door at 301 Pennsylvania Parkway on Indianapolis’ north side, and the cross-and-flame with the conference Web site URL inumc.org signage appears high on the outside of the building facing Interstate 465. The carpet has been laid; the paint has dried; computer wires are being pulled; telephone lines will soon be installed; furniture will shortly be moved in as the new Indiana Conference Center approaches completion.
In the meantime, directors continue to hire associate staff members and administrative assistants. Superintendents have located cities to house district offices and are in the process of receiving applications for district staffs. Hundreds of people have labored thousands of hours to bring us, the Hoosier United Methodists, to the approaching reality of a new conference.
Since most of us were too young to be part of the emerging United Methodist Church 40 years ago, we are living through an exciting cultural shift in the church. Conference leaders have spent more than three years working toward a new conference in physical and rational terms. Before year’s end, all of our collective plans will be in place and the doors of the new conference center will open. Then we will come to the beginning of chapter one. We begin all over.
Collectively, we take on a new body in rethinking church. We hope and pray what we are doing becomes transformational. We hope and pray that we will make a difference in Indiana and around the world.
At this point in our journey, we need to remember why Jesus came. If we don’t remember and place the reason for Jesus’ coming in top priority, and if we don’t remember whose we are, then what we have done will become buildings, furniture, cars, offices and people doing without being the body of Christ.
Unless we are transformed in who and what we are and who and what we do, we cannot transform others; lives will not be changed and we will make little difference to the society in which we live. Culturally, we may be the church, but spiritually, we will not be the body of Christ.
My Pastor Anne Rosebrock summed up where we are as a conference, without realizing she was doing so, when she recently preached, “Jesus did not come to be reasonable, but to be miraculous.” She continued by saying, “God offers us a miracle if we will be faithful — trust and believe in God… God is not here to hear our excuses (if we fail), but to embrace us and transform us… We are renewed and restored at the (Communion) table of our God.”
With these words in mind, the question for the new Indiana Conference is not whether we will fail or succeed in all this newness, but rather whether we will be faithful to our calling, be transformed so with the power of the Holy Spirit, God will transform the lives of others through our good works.
January 1 will be a new day in the life of Hoosier United Methodists, but it will not be the day of salvation. The day of salvation and new life is always TODAY, because everyday is a day of forgiveness and salvation.
It’s not by the grace of our planning, our working together and our building a new conference with new offices that we will be transformational. We will be agents of transformation by and through God. The question becomes – will we be open to God through Jesus Christ so that we might be transformed to transform the world?
Daniel R. Gangler