Returning from the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida, I had mixed emotions. Following a year of engaging presentations about the Call to Action restructure plan of The United Methodist Church to streamline the general church, the proposal died on the table. I saw and felt the disappointment and confusion of hundreds of delegates, including our own 18-member Indiana delegation, as Call to Action was first stalled in the first week of the conference, resurrected in a hastily written substitute named Plan UMC and finally declared unconstitutional in the final hours of the two-week session by the church’s Judicial Council.
The denomination will continue with business as usual with reductions in staff and budgets of the denomination’s 13 agencies during the next four years. The general church may not have a prescribed future, however the Indiana Conference and its nearly 1,200 congregations has mapped out future steps to growth and vitality with Vital Congregations and its ongoing church development programs.
From the surface, this year’s General Conference seemed similar to the previous General Conference four years ago in Fort Worth, Texas. But, General Conference IS changing. Here are three ways.
- This year about one-third of the delegates (mostly from Africa) found their voice and participated strongly in committee discussion and plenary session debate.
- For the first time a woman bishop from a Central Conference (beyond the United States), Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, will lead the Council of Bishops as president.
- For the first time, the general church’s apportioned budget decreased since the previous quadrennial budget, which was designed to keep more money in annual conferences and local churches than the church’s agencies.
There is projected and anticipated growth in the church and that growth, both numerically and financially, will come from local churches as they continue to be, or strive to be Vital Congregations.
Both General Conference and the Indiana Annual Conference Session in Indianapolis are featured in this issue of Together.
This issue of Together also features Wesley Manor, a United Methodist-related retirement community in Frankfort, Ind. celebrating its 50th anniversary, stories about local church outreach ministries, and viewpoints including Body, Mind and Spirit by Todd Outcalt.
Many Hoosier United Methodists have volunteered time and/or given money to tornado relief and recovery in southern Indiana. You have an opportunity as an individual or team of volunteers to assist our neighbors in the area of Henryville, Pekin, Holton and Daisy Hill. Read more about how you can help in recovery efforts on page one.
I look forward to greeting many of you at the upcoming day of community outreach and annual conference session in Indianapolis June 6-9. In the meantime, take an hour or two and enjoy being challenged and informed in this issue of Together.
Daniel R. Gangler