Sometimes it seems we think of “Annual Conference” like the musical “Brigadoon” about a mythical village which appeared once a year out of the mist to exist for only one day. Sometimes I hear “Annual Conference” used to describe our Annual Session in a way which misses the truth that our Indiana Conference is an organic entity which exists year-round and meets once a year in a special Session to celebrate, make decisions, ordain new clergy, retire older clergy, and plan for the future. The term “Annual Conference” is part of the problem, because it seems to imply only a once-a-year meeting, but our Indiana Annual Conference continues after the annual meeting is concluded.

This year’s session reminded us that we have unfinished business. Here are some of the ways our Indiana Conference will continue its work in the next few months:

  1. Budget for 2014 – The decisions made at Annual Conference added about $500,000 in expenses to our 2014 budget, so now the Conference Board of Pensions and Insurance and the Conference Council on Finance and Administration will be working to balance that budget, and the Leadership Table of the conference will meet Saturday, October 26, to consider their proposals. If all goes well (and our conference staff believes there are good proposals to be considered), then we will once again have a balanced budget for 2014 for approval by our Leadership Table – without having to call a Special Session of the Annual Conference.
  2. Retiree Health insurance – It was surely clear to everyone that we need to continue to seek fair and just solutions for providing our retired clergy, spouses and surviving spouses with an adequate health insurance subsidy in the future. I will be reactivating our Task Force on Retired Clergy Health Benefits to explore those options, and I hope they can have a proposal ready for consideration well ahead of next year’s Session. That will allow much more careful and complete considerations of any new proposals. I don’t know yet what that group may propose, but many of you have written or spoken to me to suggest a needs-based system which is certainly one option that the Task Force can consider.
  3. Clergy gathering – Our Conference Board of Ordained Ministry Chairperson, the Rev. Anne Rosebrock, and I have agreed to call all of our Indiana clergy together again this year (we had a similar gathering last year of just the Elders, but this year it will include Elders, Deacons and Local Pastors – both active and retired) on Tuesday, November 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a location in central Indiana. Watch for more details about the location and full agenda. The purpose of this gathering will be to “strengthen our clergy covenant” by worship, mutual encouragement and discussion of issues facing our Indiana Conference including retired clergy benefits.
  4. Africa University Campaign Rallies – This fall we will have Rallies in each of the ten districts to launch the Africa University Campaign adopted at our Conference Session. You are welcome to attend whichever one of these Rallies that fits your schedule and geography. The Rallies will be a time to start collecting and dedicating our pledges to support the adopted goal of $1.6 million to endow a professorship in Agriculture and Natural Resources and to endow more student scholarships for Africa University’s 20th anniversary.
  5. Cluster Charge Conferences – This fall will continue the Cluster Charge Conferences adopted as a part of the Imagine Indiana plan. The Cabinet has adopted a policy that requires each charge to be represented by at least its pastor and five laypeople. That policy is to address the fact that a few churches this past year only sent their pastor and/or spouse and no other lay members. Certainly we must have an adequate group of laity present to truly represent each pastoral charge – especially to vote on things like setting the pastor’s compensation. Meanwhile the Cabinet continues to review these Cluster Charge Conferences, and they are willing to provide alternatives where needed for the sake of an individual congregation.
  6. Obviously all of these activities are in addition to the faithful on-going ministries of more than 1,150 congregations which comprise the Indiana Conference. We are committed to engage together in our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” – here in Indiana and around the world.

The next Session of the Indiana Annual Conference will be next spring, at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Until that meeting, the Indiana Conference exists, ministers and serves in a variety of ways through its congregations, clusters, districts and conference-wide events.

Truly the story of the Indiana Conference is “to be continued…”

From Bishop Michael J. Coyner,
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
“Leading vibrant congregations
to make disciples of Jesus Christ”

“… our Indiana Conference is an organic entity…”