INDIANAPOLIS – This past fall, Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner visited all 10 districts across Indiana for “District Days,” which included a welcome-back reception for him sponsored by the Committee on Episcopacy. During those receptions, Coyner shared his hopes for these next four years and asked for responses. Those responses came to his office through index cards and other messages from across the state.
Coyner reports, “I have worked with a small team from the Committee on Episcopacy (Larry Marhanka, Kayc Mykrantz, Diane Purnell and Julie Pimlott) to review each of those cards and suggestions, and together they have gleaned the following results:
- There was positive response to the three priorities Coyner shared: Leadership, Mission partnerships, and Vital Congregations.
- Several people noted additional concerns which need to be addressed or clarified. They included:
- Confusion about the difference between the “mission” of the church and “missions.” There seemed to be great support for both concepts, but a lack of clarity for how they relate.
- Confusion about the difference between “vital congregations” and “fruitful congregations.” People seemed to be confused between the FCJ (Fruitful Congregation Journey) and the Vital Congregations andVital Signs (goals and reports) emphasis.
- Concern about Coyner’s focus upon Leadership was too narrowly defined to be “younger and newer leaders” and too focused upon “clergy leaders.” There is a desire for our conference to devote moreattention to Leadership Development at all levels, and include both laity and clergy.
- Desire for “evangelism” or “reaching new people” to be more explicit. Some felt that “vital congregations” or even “fruitful congregations” does not clearly name our “main thing” of evangelism andreaching people for Christ.
- Many responders indicated we need to rethink “Clusters” and perhaps allow those that are working to continue, but allowing those which are not working to dissolve or find new ways of being connected. Many people desire to be “more connectional.” Ssome clergy even asked for more regular district meetings of clergy, and many expressed a concern that small churches feel left out of FCJ and otherprograms. On the other hand, most people affirmed teaching more often about our Wesleyan heritage, values and style of being United Methodist. Still others asked for more “mentoring” or “coaching” from the connection and its leaders.
- Several people expressed concern that the new conference is still developing, and they don’t yet feel a “closeness” or that they know one another. Some people included their concern that districts are too large.
- There was much affirmation for Coyner being reassigned to Indiana to a third (four-year) term and much hope that we, as a conference, can continue moving forward into the Imagine Indiana plan. There also was some healthy cynicism that all we have done is to merge, reduce structure and eliminate some favorite old conference programs.
- Finally, it seems almost everyone wants our United Methodist Church to be more out-reaching, vital, faithfully witnessing, and reaching others. Coyner said he sensed from most of the comments much hope, trust in his leadership and a desire for us to move forward as the Indiana Conference. After reading the report, Coyner said, “I welcome any additional feedback you want to add to the list above. As I continue to shape my plans for my own time usage and focus, these responses will guide me. I will continue to report to you how I am trying to implement these ideas. I thank you for your continued prayerful support and trust. God bless you. And may God help all of us to guide and lead the Indiana Conference into a faithful future.”
According to Coyner, these suggestions and evaluations will be used to help guide the Indiana Conference during the current four years (2013-2016).