AC 2018 Daily

Recap from June 14, 2018

Welcome to Wichita, Kansas, and the 2018 Great Plains United Methodist Conference Session!

Each day there will be a special edition of "GPconnect." You can expect to receive GPconnect Daily today through Saturday. Below you can find information on what attendees can expect during AC 2018, along with announcements and featured stories.

Watch the live streaming of the session at and on our Facebook page. See the official schedule to help make your viewing plans. View photos on our AC Flickr album, as we will update it daily. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to view additional photos and stay current with everything AC 2018. Don't forget to use hashtag #GPUMC and #GPAC18. Have a great week.

Bishop urges conviction, hopes to ‘stay the course’

United Methodists face an uncertain year ahead, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said Thursday morning, but need to stay the course through events that test the denomination.

“We will keep on adventuring, pressing on as a missionary church in a post-Christian culture focused on the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” the bishop said in his episcopacy address at the opening of the Great Plains Annual Conference.

Citing Todd Bolsinger’s book “Canoeing the Mountains,” about the personal struggles facing the Lewis and Clark expedition, Bishop Saenz said the church must “be convicted, be calm, stay connected and stay the course” through the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference in February devoted to human sexuality concerns in the denomination.

“We will stay calm in our spirit amid the storms,” Bishop Saenz said.

The bishop cited a dozen churches in Kansas and Nebraska that reshaped themselves for the future, took on new ministries and reached out to serve others in the community.

He praised the collection of more than 6,500 UMCOR flood buckets across the conference last fall, as well as $850,000 raised to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. He also praised congregations that helped contribute Christmas gifts to more than 20,000 families this past holiday season, and brought worshippers to Great Plains Churches for Easter numbering 147,000 – far outpacing the average of 82,000.

The bishop also congratulated the conference for an increase of 314 baptisms and professions of faith in 2017 over the previous year.

Great Plains’ first lay leader passes torch to successor

The Great Plains Conference’s first lay leader stepped aside from her role during the laity address Thursday morning, introducing her successor and praising the work done by individuals in the churches.

Courtney Fowler has been the conference lay leader since the Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West conferences merged in 2014.

“It has honestly been one of the greatest joys of my life,” she told laity.

Fowler’s husband took a new job a year ago in Virginia, she said, and she has been commuting back and forth between there and her home in Manhattan, Kansas, but she is keeping her membership in home church, College Avenue UMC.

With tears in her eyes, Fowler thanked associate lay leader Oliver Green for his friendship and support through the years, presenting him with a bolo tie made by her father, a pastor in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Fowler’s successor, Lisa Maupin, has been an associate lay leader for the conference. A self-proclaimed “Metho-nerd,” Maupin was raised in a rural church in western Nebraska and currently lives in Lincoln, where she is an event planner for the University of Nebraska.

“I love the United Methodist Church,” she said. “I’m passionate about who we are as a denomination and who we are as a global church.”

Maupin also said she was passionate about the laity of the church.

“We are the lifeblood of our congregations, the lifeblood of our communities,” she said.

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the conference, explained disaster relief ministries, and how vital lay members are in keeping it active.

“Our ministry is about proclaiming Christ through our actions,” said Tapley, who has more than 250 trained and certified volunteers, and 25 people who faithfully answer the call for help.

Tapley said disaster relief ministries need three types of people – prayers, players (those active on the ground) and payers (those who can contribute financially).

Since a Texas church shooting last year, Tapley said, the Great Plains has given 150 active shooter training classes both in the two-state region and beyond – 43 of those to other denominations.

The Great Plains Disaster Relief ministries has not had to ask for financial assistance from UMCOR, and is the envy of others in the South Central Jurisdiction.

“Y’all are awesome,” Tapley said.

Kansas laywoman receives Newman Award

An El Dorado, Kansas, laywoman who introduced new service and social justice opportunities is the recipient of this year’s Angie Newman Award.

Valecia Scribner, director of discipleship at El Dorado First UMC, designed and launched an innovative weekly service opportunity for children, called FirstKids Serve, in which elementary students engage in projects of mercy and justice beyond the walls of the congregation, associate conference lay leader Theresa May told the laity session.

Thrive Butler, an anti-poverty initiative, is another ministry that Valencia helped launch, May said (El Dorado is located in Butler County).

“This initiative helps bridge gaps among community organizations and leaders and is making a difference in the lives of people in the community,” May said. “Poverty simulations, Bridges Out of Poverty training, funding opportunities, Getting Ahead class graduates in February and the Matched Teams ministries all are improving the status of those living in poverty.”

The Angie Newman Award honors a laywoman of the Great Plains Conference whose contribution to the church and the community is an example of the spirit of Newman. The ministry of the recipient should demonstrate commitment, compassion and a sense of justice for all people, especially women, youth and children.

Micah Corps internship celebrates 10 years at mission partnership lunch

The celebration of the 10th anniversary of Micah Corps internships became the emphasis of Thursday's Mission luncheon. The young people reinforced the meaning of Micah 6:8 do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. We were reminded of some of the ways we as people of faith can live what the Lord requires of us. Four areas this summer's group is working on are environment, immigration, poverty and food insecurity, and peace and nonviolence. Bishop Saenz brought greetings and shared his concerns for immigrants now crossing the border.

Two former Micah Corps interns shared a bit of how important this program has been in their lives. Carter Oberheu thanked the group for sponsoring this ministry. He was not sure about going to Omaha without any idea what he was getting himself into. Carter then shared how Micah Corps has led him to his present career path. The next former participant to share was Amla Agyabeng, who came from Ghana in 2010 as an exchange student. She became involved in Micah Corps when she returned as a college student. Ama was also not sure about going to Omaha. She is now a pharmacy student at Omaha's Creighton University and works in a pharmacy. Ama lives in the United States legally, and must go through so much red tape. Her concern is for those she works with who have difficulty with language and are in fear of deportation.

The Rev. Carol Windrum spoke about the uniqueness of Micah Corps. Young folk use the model of walking humbly in prayer. This humble prayer listening leads to the justice actions. In these times of polarization those actions must be shared with loving kindness. By standing for justice as followers of Christ, these Micah Corps interns are doing what the Lord requires.

Reports, celebrations fill Thursday afternoon schedule

Thursday afternoon at the Great Plains Annual Conference included many updates from various departments in the conference:

  • The Rev. Michael Beck from Florida introduced the conference to Fresh Expressions, an international movement of missionary disciples exploring new kinds of churches along with existing congregations. The Great Plains Conference is scheduled to begin work in Fresh Expressions this fall, and Beck will give a presentation on the program during workshops Friday morning.
  • Two Kansas churches received the One Matters Award from Discipleship Ministries for growing number of baptisms and professions of faith. Sublette United Methodist Church received the award for adapting to “new economic and cultural realities,” according to Dr. Doug Ruffle from Discipleship Ministries. Douglass UMC received the award for incorporating a contemporary Christian song weekly into its traditional service, which grew to a full-fledged Christian concert in the south central Kansas community.
  • Course of Study graduates were honored by the Board of Ordained Ministry. They are Bonnie Brock, Lindsey Clarke, Bill Driver, Mark Fillmore, Leslye Haller, Les Rye, Kyle Scheideman and Laura Stubblefield.
  • The Great Plains Conference staff who will not be making the move from the Wichita and Lincoln office to Topeka were recognized. They are Regina Bergman, Lincoln, administrative assistant; Toby Carver, Wichita, technology coordinator; Mary Conrad, Wichita, campus ministry and new church development accountant; Roxie Delisi, Lincoln, administrative assistant; Lydia Harbutz, Wichita, administrative assistant; Shane Hinderliter, Wichita, local church youth ministry coordinator; Liz Lippoldt, Wichita, records steward; TruDee Little, Wichita, lead administrative assistant; Ann Manske, Wichita, receptionist; and Rachel Moser, Lincoln, communications coordinator.
  • Loyd Hamrick, chair of the conference Board of Trustees, said the sale of the Wichita office closes tomorrow, June 15, 2018. The Lincoln and Topeka offices are awaiting closing dates. The sale of the bishop’s residence in Wichita is scheduled for Friday morning. The total from sales of the properties is $4,775,822, Hamrick said.
  • Eleven churches were recognized for reaching their 150th anniversaries this year. They are, from Kansas: Yates Center, Edwardsville, Kansas City Grinter Chapel, Oswego, Enterprise, Sabetha and Derby Madison Avenue. From Nebraska: Clatonia Salem, West Point Trinity, Ashland and Weeping Water.
  • Scott Brewer, treasurer and director of administrative services, reported that 90.1 percent of the churches in the conference had reached their mission share for the year, one of the highest percentages in the nation.

Great Plains Conference honors 37 retirees

The Great Plains 2018 retirees are Maureen Appenfeller, Paul Blanchard, Laura Burnett, Bruce Davis, Eldon Davis, Jack Dutton Jr., Eldon Fablinger, Roberta "Robbie" Fall, Janice Farrell, Gary Ganger, David Geisler, Sharlan Graber, Richard Haden, Scott Hannon, Stephen Holmes, Jeannine Jensen, Murry Johnston, Robert Kuhn, Karen Lampe, David Lux, Jim Mardock, Mike McGuire, Jeff Miller, Nancy Modin, Nathan Morgan, Larry Myers, Jerry Petering, Phyllis Provost-Saas, Lane Roberts, Lyle Seger, Scott Shreve, Douglas Smith, Donald Stewart, Dianne Tombaugh, David Upp and Nancy Barrett Walker.

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