INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indiana Annual Conference session ended at Muncie in June there were three items of business still undone. Conference members referred them to the Conference’s Leadership Table, the decision making body of the annual conference, which carries on the business of the conference between annual sessions. The Leadership Table with 15 voting members and conference staff members met for 35 minutes by conference call, and in person, at the Indiana Conference Center on Wednesday, July 6. They debated and approved all three items. Bishop Mike Coyner, chaired the session.

In a nearly unanimous vote, members approved Petition 3, a petition to General Conference (GC) about the transfer of members to The United Methodist Church. The petition requests GC to amend the language in paragraph 225 of the Book of Discipline from “shall” to “may.”

If approved by GC, the sentence would read: “A member in good standing in any Christian denomination who has been baptized and who desires to unite with the United Methodist Church and is willing to profess loyalty to the United Methodist Church may be received as either a baptized or a professing member…” This wording gives a pastor the option of whether or not to receive into membership a person wanting to transfer his or her membership. The resolution also requests a loyalty phrase, which is italic.

The second petition, listed as Petition 4, was actually a resolution from the Indiana Conference Social Justice Advocacy Team members. They want to endorse the “Drop the I-Word Campaign” of the church’s General Commission on Religion and Race asking public media to stop referring to undocumented immigrants to the U.S. as “illegal.” The resolution asks the Indiana Annual Conference to communicate that “no child of God is ‘illegal,’ strongly encourages all entities of the UMC “to expand awareness within the church and communities the negative racial impacts of calling people ‘illegal,’” affirm the rights of all persons regardless of nationality or legal status and calls on “United Methodists to strongly denounce xenophobic and racial language used to describe human beings.” The resolution was approved by a vote of 11 members yes and 4 no.

The Leadership Table also approved, with one dissenting vote, the Director of Connectional Ministries request to add a new staff member to the conference staff as an Associate Director for Leadership Development. The new position would divide the responsibilities of the current associate director of youth, young adult and campus ministries. The other position would be renamed Associate Director of Student Ministry.

The Rev. Jim Bushfield, director of connectional ministries, explained to members that funds for this new position are currently in both the 2011 and 2012 conference budgets. Some of the funds budgeted for the 2011 budget have been used to employ a part-time employee working with connectional ministries whose position lasted until July 1. The rest of the 2011 funds would be free for employing a new staff person as an associate director.

Bushfield said such a position for leadership development was part of the vision in the Imagine Indiana document which launched the new conference structure, but was never implemented due to the priority of launching the new conference. The new position would give a high priority to encouraging leaders for the next generation with a focus on developing both lay and clergy leadership for the local church.