There is nothing magical about the flip of the calendar to a new year, but it does provide an opportunity for each of us to reflect upon the past and to focus upon the future as we open our lives to God’s direction. I am no predictor of the future, but I do anticipate that 2012 will bring the following:
The Indiana Conference will continue to focus upon Vital Congregations. Since the forming of the new Indiana Conference following our Imagine Indiana plan, we have streamlined our structure, reduced our overhead administrative costs, and refocused our district and conference staff toward strengthening the ministry of our nearly 1,200 congregations.
As a part of that effort, we have nearly 100 congregations involved in the Fruitful Congregations Journey, led by our Church Development staff. We are not finished with that process, but now we are strengthened in our efforts by a similar move across our whole denomination called Vital Congregations.
So this year 2012 will bring a continued and growing focus upon helping each United Methodist congregation in Indiana achieve goals it has adopted to strengthen its ministry.
The Indiana Conference will continue to focus upon improving our
stewardship, financial leadership and level of tithing. We have
made great strides in this area, strengthened by our Rejuvenate program, which was funded by a generous grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Hundreds of pastors and lay leaders have attended workshops and training events, and more than 200 pastoral families have been helped with their educational debts and freed to teach and lead their congregations in stewardship.
Now the Rejuvenate program has been moved into the new United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, Inc. which will allow that ministry to be on-going. 2012 will be a year in which these efforts on stewardship continue to bear fruit.
The Indiana Conference will continue to expand its Impact 2812 Outdoor Ministries. Now that the former North and former South Conference camping programs have combined, they will be bringing to the 2012 Session of the Indiana Conference a plan for continuing development of our camping sites across the state and thus provide even more opportunities to bring young people to Christ and the church.
The Indiana Conference will continue and expand its commitment to mission. We are seeing more and more of that mission and outreach happening through the clusters of our churches across the state (like the new shelter for homeless started by the South Bend city cluster), but we also will continue and expand our connectional mission efforts. 2012 will be the 20th anniversary of Africa University, and we are nearing the 25th anniversary of Operation Classroom next year. These and other mission efforts will continue and expand, and the Indiana Conference will continue to lead our North Central Jurisdiction in mission involvement.
The Indiana Conference will increase its corporate impact on the State of Indiana, through our presence in all 92 counties, our advocacy to the state government, our congregations which are filled with influential lay people, and the first-ever meeting of our Annual Conference Session in the capital city of Indianapolis this coming June. I can’t predict the impact of our efforts, but I believe our lively presence in downtown Indianapolis will give us a unique platform to witness to our state.
One small part of that effort will be the Prayer Breakfast that I am sponsoring with Governor Mitch Daniels on the Saturday morning of Annual Conference. It will be a great event with an open invitation to all who want to gather and pray for our State of Indiana.
Call to Action
While it is more difficult to anticipate, I believe that the General Conference of our UMC (which meets this spring in Tampa, Fla.) will approve most of the Call to Action Plan for streamlining structure and refocusing our UMC upon making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Perhaps some of the plans from the Call to Action will be amended or phased-in during the next quadrennium, but clearly there is a movement growing in our denomination to make some of the changes we have already begun making in the Indiana Conference.
General Church budget
The General Conference also will adopt a reduced budget for the next four years, not due to a decrease in giving (that giving remains strong), but to redirect our resources toward strengthening our congregations. The proposed budget is currently a six percent decrease, but there may be proposals to reduce and redirect those funds even more dramatically.
The General Conference will likely retain our current stance on the controversial issue of homosexuality, but I anticipate that General Conference will add a statement acknowledging the truth we already know, that Christians of good conscience disagree about this issue. Such a statement would help to heal some of the pain in many parts of our church.
North Central Jurisdiction
Our North Central Jurisdiction will meet in July, and for the first time in many, many years, there will be no new bishops elected. Instead, the North Central Jurisdiction will reduce our Episcopal Areas from ten to nine, and the remaining nine of us active bishops will be assigned accordingly. As a part of that assignment process, I believe (or at least hope) that I will be reassigned to the Indiana Area for a third and final four-year term before I retire in 2016.
Despite our best efforts to anticipate, plan, and even predict, God will surprise us in 2012 in ways that will bless and challenge us, but through any and all changes, God will be with us and show us the way.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world.”