Our two Annual Conference Sessions in Indiana are coming in the next two weeks. North Conference meets at Purdue University May 30-June 2, and South Conference meets at Indiana University on June 5-9. Both conference gatherings will be electing delegates to the General Conference of 2008 and the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of 2008, as well as voting upon petitions to the General Conference. Both conferences will be approving clergy to be commissioned, ordained, or retired. Both conferences will be approving budgets for 2008, and both conferences will be voting on the proposals about Imagine Indiana. And at both Conferences we will be announcing and “fixing” the appointments of all clergy for the coming year.

Two years ago, I wrote the following comments about the upcoming Annual Conference gatherings:

“Annual Conference is a unique Methodist animal. Other denominations have annual meetings, but Annual Conference is really a distinctively Methodist phenomenon. It is partly a family reunion as we get a chance to see old friends and to memorialize those who have passed during this last year; it is partly a political convention or business meeting as we deal with budgets and reports; it is certainly a worship time almost like the old camp meetings of early Methodism…

“The term Conference really means two things: it is a time of conferring with one another, but it is also a time of inviting God to confer upon us a renewed sense of purpose for the ministry and mission of our church. In the best sense of the word, Conference is always more than just a meeting – it is a gathering which is potentially transformative and empowering in nature. Certainly we can make Conference into just another boring church meeting, but that is not the purpose of Conference. At its best, Conference is a time when the collective church gathers to receive from God our direction for the coming year.”

All of the above explains why proxy votes are not allowed at Annual Conference – because unless a person is present for the conferencing about an issue, one cannot truly sense God’s will and direction. “Conferencing” is the way we open ourselves to God through our time spent with one another. I look forward to the two Annual Conference gatherings, and I pray for God’s guidance as we confer together and as we receive God’s power conferred upon us. Come, let us conference together.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner