Following the Indiana Annual Conference session, Bishop Mike Coyner met with the new chairpersons of Ministry Orders. Tim Burchill, chair of the Orders of Elders; Jennifer Pollard, chair of the Order of Deacons and Don Ransford, chair of the Fellowship of Local Pastors asked him to write about the new conference emphasizes of ministry clusters, clergy covenant groups and the new districts.

Coyner reported:

Ministry Clusters (four to nine congregations each) have been formed, and the training of Cluster Leaders has begun. There are more than 200 Ministry Clusters around the conference, and nearly every congregation is already established in a Cluster. The purpose of these groups is to cooperate, collaborate and hold one another accountable to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Ministry clusters are to focus on answering two core questions: How are each of our congregations doing in accomplishing our mission and what can we do better and more effectively together to impact our area for Christ than we can do as individual congregations?

Clergy Covenant Groups are for clergy serving under appointment to churches, extension ministries and retirement. All clergy are encouraged to join a group of their own choosing, and the purpose of these groups is to offer opportunities for clergy to connect with one another, to provide avenues for accountability and to offer opportunities to alleviate or minimize isolation, fatigue, anxiety and burnout. In addition, clergy covenant groups provide opportunities for Christian formation, spiritual growth and mutual support for physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

The Chairs of the Orders and Coyner have named three clergy in each of Indiana’s ten new districts to help guide clergy into these Covenant Groups. All of these groups are confidential, and no information from those groups will be shared with bishop or district superintendents. These groups are for the support and mutual care of clergy.

Any clergy who need help finding a covenant group can contact Burchill (Tim@andrew-umc.org), Pollard (Jennifer@ThePromiseChurch.org) or Ransford (dransford@verizon.net) for assistance within each district.

The new Indiana Conference now has one Cabinet, composed of the 18 district superintendents for the current 18 districts. Three of these 18 superintendents (Doug Anderson, Ann Glass, and Marianne Chalstom) are part-time and interim until the end of 2009. As of Jan. 1, the ten new districts will begin and the Cabinet will be composed of the ten district superintendents for those districts.

Five of the current superintendents (Kate Walker, Chip Gast, Ida Easley, Tom True and Bob Ostermeier) will become associate district superintendents for the first six months of 2010, to help with this transition from 18 to 10 districts. Each of these associate superintendents will be assigned to help two of the ten new districts. Beyond July 1, the ten new districts will be structured according to their own choosing – perhaps some will continue to share a full-time associate superintendent, others may choose to have one part-time associate superintendent, and others may choose other forms of staffing.

Each of the ten new districts will have a District Center which will house a district assistant (similar to the current administrative assistants in the 18 districts) to answer questions and help administer the new districts. Those ten district assistant positions are now posted online at www.inumc.org for open application and selection for each new district.

In the meantime, each church and each pastor has only one district superintendent at a time. The current 18 districts are in effect until Dec. 31. However, Coyner has asked the ten new superintendents (Cindy Reynolds, Dave Michael, Craig LaSuer, Frank Beard, Dale Mendenhall, Bert Kite, Judi Purvis, Charlie Wilfong, Brian White and Glenn Howell) to conduct their usual “summer interviews” with full-time clergy in their new districts, so that these superintendents will know their clergy as the Cabinet begins appointment work after Jan. 1.

Coyner says, “We are in transition from the old to new. It’s still a messy year. Thanks to everyone for your patience and cooperation as we go through these transitions.

“It is all about making our connection as United Methodists work more effectively by joining together in ways that strengthen our mission, support one another, and hold one another accountable.”


“It is all about making our connection as United Methodists work more effectively by joining together in ways that strengthen our mission, support one another, and hold one another accountable.”

–Bishop Coyner