When I met today with our Chairs of the Ministry Orders (Tim Burchill is Chair of the Order of Elders, Jennifer Pollard is Chair of the Order of Deacons, and Don Ransford is Chair of the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members), we talked about all of the new things happening in our new Indiana Conference. Lots of new “lingo” and lots of new emphases – so they suggested that I write and clarify what these are about. Here goes:

MINISTRY CLUSTERS of local congregations have been formed, and the training of Cluster Leaders has begun. We have about 200 such Ministry Clusters around the conference, and nearly every local church is already established in a Cluster. The purpose of these Ministry Cluster groups, as noted in the Imagine Indiana Plan, is as follows:

Every congregation will be a part of a ministry cluster of 4 to 9 congregations to cooperate, collaborate, and hold one another accountable to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Ministry clusters are to focus on answering two core questions: 1) “How are each of our congregations doing in accomplishing our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” and 2) “What can we do better and more effectively together to impact our area for Christ than we can do as individual congregations?”

CLERGY COVENANT GROUPS are for clergy serving under appointment to churches or extension ministries or retirement. All clergy are encouraged to join a Clergy Covenant Group of their own choosing, and the purpose of these groups, again as stated in the Imagine Indiana Plan, is as follows:

The purpose of clergy covenant groups is to offer opportunities for clergy to connect with one another, to provide avenues for accountability, and to offer opportunities to alleviate or minimize isolation, fatigue, anxiety, and burnout. In addition, clergy covenant groups provide opportunities for Christian formation, spiritual growth, and mutual support for physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

The Chairs of the Orders and I have named 3 clergy in each of our ten new districts (a total of 30) to help guide our clergy into these Covenant Groups. All Clergy Covenant Groups are confidential, and no information from those groups will be shared with me or with the District Superintendents. These Clergy Covenant Groups are for the support and mutual care of our clergy. Any clergy who need help finding a covenant group can contact Tim, Jennifer, or Don -- and they will refer you to help within your district. Their e-mails are:

Tim@andrew-umc.org

Jennifer@ThePromiseChurch.org

dransford@verizon.net

CABINETS – the new Indiana Conference now has one Cabinet, composed of the 18 District Superintendents for the current 18 districts. Three of these 18 persons are part-time and interim (Doug Anderson, Ann Glass, and Marianne Chalstom) until the end of 2009. As of January 1, 2010, we will move into the 10 District model, and the Cabinet will be composed of the 10 District Superintendents for those 10 districts. Five (5) of the current District Superintendents (Kate Walker, Chip Gast, Ida Easley, Tom True, and Bob Ostermeier) will become Associate District Superintendents for the first six months of 2010, to help with this transition from 18 to 10 districts. Each of these Associate DSes will be assigned to help 2 of the 10 new districts. Beyond July 1, 2010, the 10 new districts will be structured according to their own choosing – perhaps some will continue to share a full-time Associate DS, others may choose to have one part-time Associate DS, and others may choose other forms of staffing. Each of the 10 new districts will have a District Center which will house a District Assistant (similar to the current Administrative Assistants in the 18 districts) to answer questions and help administer the new districts. Those 10 District Assistant positions will be posted later this fall for open application and selection for each new district.

In the meantime, each church and each pastor has only one District Superintendent at a time. The current 18 districts are in effect until December 31, 2009. However, I have asked the 10 new District Superintendents (Cindy Reynolds, Dave Michael, Craig LaSuer, Frank Beard, Dale Mendenhall, Bert Kite, Judi Purvis, Charlie Wilfong, Brian White, and Glenn Howell) to conduct their usual “summer interviews” with the full-time clergy in their new districts, so that these 10 DSes will know their clergy as we begin appointment work after January 1st. Even so, all clergy should know that their current DS (one of the 18) is your DS until the end of 2009.

Why all of this change? We are in transition from the old to new. It is still a “messy” year. Thanks to everyone for your patience and cooperation as we go through these transitions.

What is it all about? It is all about making our connection as United Methodists work more effectively by joining together in ways that strengthen our mission, support one another, and hold one another accountable.