Are you getting ready for Conference? By that question, I mean getting ready for the 3rd Annual Session (meeting) of the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church which will be held June 8-11 on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie. Those who are responsible to plan and coordinate this meeting have been working hard for many months, and in fact another group is already working hard on plans for our 4th annual Session which will be held June 7-9, 2012 in Indianapolis.
I find that much of my time these days is spent in getting ready for several Conferences. My good friend and colleague, Bishop Lindsey Davis, has asked me to preside for the Red Bird Missionary Conference in late April. Lindsey is the bishop of the Kentucky Conference which includes being responsible for the Red Bird Missionary Conference, and he will be having some medical procedures which make him unavailable to lead that Red Bird Conference, so I am pleased to preside for him. From there I will be going on to our Council of Bishops meeting at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia (near the place where John Wesley served as a pastor in the Georgia colony in the 1700’s). Much of our time at that Council meeting will be spent on preparations for the 2012 General Conference, including hearing reports from the Leadership Summit video conference held yesterday with leaders all around the world (a group of more than 50 of our Indiana lay and clergy leaders participated). From there I go to the joint meeting of the Connectional Table of our UMC and the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). I am a member of GCFA, and we will be working on the budget for our denomination for the quadrennium of 2013-2016. I actually chair the GCFA budget process team, so I need your prayers as I attempt to lead that complicated process.
Soon after returning from those responsibilities, I will be involved in our Conference Briefings in all 10 districts during the month of May as we help our people here in Indiana prepare for our Annual Conference in June. A list of those 10 Briefings is posted on our INUMC.org website, and I really want to encourage all clergy and lay members of Annual Conference to attend whichever briefing is most convenient for you (you do not have to attend the one if your own district). Those briefings will help us to know the issues coming to Annual Conference, and those briefings will also provide an opportunity for helpful discussion of those issues. The new Indiana Conference Annual Session is large enough (with over 2,000 attending and voting) that it is not as easy to have discussions there in June, so these Conference Briefings in May will provide other venues for that kind of discussion and answering of questions.
All of the above paragraphs sound like a lot of preparation for Conference, but I want to lift up an even more important aspect of our preparations: PRAYER. It is very important for the people called United Methodists to approach all of our various Conferences (Annual Conferences, Jurisdictional Conferences, and General Conferences) in a prayerful manner. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is more important HOW we make our decisions at Conference than it is WHAT decisions we make. If we make our decisions, including electing delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference, in a prayerful manner – then I trust that the results of those decisions will be the right ones. The most important thing, from my perspective, is that we make our decisions as a prayerful church. Whenever we meet as a local congregation, in Cluster Charge Conferences, at Annual Conference, and beyond, we need to have all of our decisions surrounded by prayer.
So, let me ask you to start now, if you have not already, to PRAY for the upcoming 3rd Session of the Indiana Annual Conference. Pray that we all will be open to God’s Spirit to guide us in our deliberations, our decisions, our voting, our worship, and our entire gathering and witness to the surrounding community. We have two months to prepare … by praying.
If we do that, then we will be ready for Conference.