AC 2017 Daily

Recap from June 10, 2017

2017 Annual Conference Session wraps up in Grand Island

Conference votes to keep health allowance

Clergy in the Great Plains Conference voted Saturday morning to maintain its system of providing a health insurance stipend.

The conference’s Pension and Health Benefits team had proposed a group health plan, through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas, as an alternative.

Both plans would cost churches the same amount, $15,850, said the Rev. Gary Beach, treasurer and director of administrative services.

A motion from the floor suggesting that full-time clergy contribute 1 percent of their base compensation into a pool for assistance for financially challenged pastors to pay their premiums was referred to the Pension and Health Benefits team after discussion on the floor.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said the discussion was fueled by the uncertainty of the national health care status.

“Let’s leave some space for the creative spirit of God to find a way forward,” he said.

2020 GC delegation to be elected in 2019

A proposal to elect delegates to the 2020 General Conference in 2018, rather than 2019, was defeated on the floor Saturday morning.

The motion, introduced by the Rev. Andrew Conard of First United Methodist Church of El Dorado, Kansas, would have elected delegates a year earlier for what he said would be a smoother transition from the 2016 Great Plains delegation to the 2020 General Conference. The newly elected delegates would have been observers during the special session in 2019 in St. Louis to discuss human sexuality issues.

The Rev. Mark Holland, pastor of Trinity UMC in Kansas City, Kansas, and a 2016 delegate, argued against the motion.

“There’s potential for dramatic change ahead at the next General Conference,” Holland said. “There’s a lot on the table for this.”

Three resolutions approved

After some spirited discussion, three resolutions promoting human rights issues passed on the floor of the conference Saturday morning.

The approved resolutions:

  • The right to peacefully address injustice, including boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
  • Welcoming migrants into our midst, calling for concern for neighbors, co-workers and friends who have been separated from their loved ones or are living in fear of their families being torn apart because of challenges with the nation's immigration system.
  • A covenant partnership between the Great Plains and the Nigeria conferences, including promotion of the Jalingo orphanage in the African country.

Although introduced as one motion, the conference floor voted by a 427-396 margin to separate the three for individual voting.

Conference votes on constitutional amendments

Clergy and lay members to annual conference will  have to wait for results from a single ballot taken on the floor.

Like conferences around the world, the Great Plains voted on five proposed constitution amendments. The results will be made public once all of the annual conferences have voted.

The proposed amendments:

  • Adding language on gender justice, comparable to its rights on racial justice.
  • Adding “gender” (meaning male and female) to the constitution to affirm and protect the United Methodist Church’s commitment to gender equity throughout the worldwide connection.
  • Firming language that delegates be elected by their annual conferences rather than being appointed by their bishops.
  • Calling for episcopal elections in the central conferences to take place in the regular sessions of the conferences.
  • Changing language that was ruled unconstitutional that held individual members accountable for decisions by the Council of Bishops.

Conference beats 89 percent on mission shares

“This conference is moving in a really good direction,” the Rev. Gary Beach, retiring treasurer and director of administrative services, said of individual churches’ contribution to mission shares.

The conference’s mission share payout rate was 89.48 percent, the largest in the history of the Great Plains Conference, which was formed in 2014.

The Gateway District had a record high of 98.73 percent, edging out Blue River with 97.61 percent and Prairie Rivers with 95.07 percent.

Beach said the Great Plains was the envy of other conferences, who covet a mission share as high as those in Nebraska and Kansas.

“I am so blessed to be a part of that,” he added.

One final limerick

Dr. Dirk Hutchinson didn’t get to announce his final limerick on the microphone, but gave it to us to share:

Annual Conference is now finally done
Bishop Saenz has survived his first one
Between dividing the question
And a substitute motion
We hope that he thinks this is still fun.

See you next year

The Rev. Nan Kaye-Skinner, pastor of Trinity UMC in Lincoln and conference secretary, announced that next year’s annual conference session will be June 13-16, at the Century II convention center in Wichita.

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