There will not be a GPconnect on May 29, but watch for daily coverage of Annual Conference sessions from May 30 through June 1.

Download the printable version of the May 23 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Methodists nationwide gather in Great Plains to discuss church future
We're a week away from the beginning of Annual Conference
Cabinet dean, DS and NUMB founder Ritter reflects on his 42 years of ministry
Clergy couple Kaye-Skinners share memories as their retirement nears

Conference seeks clergy and candidacy mentors for 2019-2020
Perkins begins new program for those called to direct in spirit

YOUTH2019 seeks volunteers for Kansas City event, July 10-14
Scholarship deadline near for Summit Youth Academy

Social Justice seed money applications are due May 31
Ecumenical Advocacy participant asks, 'Where is our prophetic voice?'

Team in need of volunteer sandbaggers in Chapman, Kansas

Retired clergy, spouses award Pass the Torch Scholarships

CVLI license allows you to go to the movies … at your church

In other news
The week ahead


Methodists nationwide gather in
Great Plains to discuss church future

More than 600 United Methodists from across the U.S. spent three days at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, grappling with possible options for forging what they hope will be a more inclusive future in Methodism. What united the UMCNext group, who met behind closed doors, was a rejection of the Traditional Plan adopted by the special General Conference.

Read more from the United Methodist News Service.

Rev. Adam Hamilton, Rev. Junius Dotson talk about impact on next week’s annual conference.

Watch the news conference Wednesday at the conclusion of UMCNext.

View our interview with the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection, about what might happen at next week’s annual conference, his church’s response to the special session vote and what Church of the Resurrection might do in the future.

Coverage of the news conference from the Kansas City Star, KSHB and KMBC.

The Our Movement Forward summit last weekend in Minneapolis drew 350 United Methodists.

Church continues grappling with GC2019 decision.

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We're a week away from the
beginning of Annual Conference

A week from today will be the first full day of Annual Conference 2019 where we will focus on how to live as if the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Conference staff and the Sessions Planning Team are taking care of the final details. Have you watched Bishop Saenz’s welcome video yet? If not, please take time do to so by clicking here.

Here is some other information that will be helpful to you as you prepare to attend Annual Conference 2019:

  • Online registration is now closed but you can do so onsite next Wednesday or Thursday if you missed the deadline
  • Remember to dress in layers. There is still a chance of rain during annual conference, so you might want to bring an umbrella also. Have a minimalist approach to perfume, cologne or aftershave. Some people are very sensitive to smells and the chemicals that create them
  • Most of the seating area in the Expocentre will be considered the “bar.” However, there will be a section for guests, spouses, alternate lay members of local churches, and clergy without voice or vote.  See the chart on page 5 of the workbook if you aren’t sure if you have voice or vote. Those without name tags, or with a name tag with no stripe will be expected to be seated in the section outside of the bar. This will be signed. The bar designates the area where those with vote need to be seated
  • Clergy are invited to wear their robes and process in together for the Memorial Service on Thursday evening. This is a visible way to celebrate and honor your clergy colleagues who have died in the past year. Clergy can attend the service without joining the processional if desired. White is the appropriate color for a stole or scapular.
  • Be sure to review the appropriate profiles of those who desire to be considered for election to the 2020 Delegation and determine who you will vote for on the first ballot. Remember to bring the numbered list of these delegate profiles with you. Copies will not be available on site. You will find the numbered lists on this webpage: click here. A list of clergy and laity who received at least one vote will be distributed after the first ballot has been reported
  • Clergy and laity session begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, May 30. Laity will meet in Landon arena and clergy will meet in the Sunflower Ballroom. Clergy: please note that the closest parking lot to the ballroom is the North Parking lot.

-- Rev. Nancy Lambert
Director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop

Other conference notes, reminders

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Cabinet dean, DS and NUMB founder Ritter reflects on his 42 years of ministry

He grew up in a household where his father ran a gas station and worked on Sunday mornings, and his mother was a Christian Scientist. But that didn’t stop the Rev. Bill Ritter from his journey of faith, which ends a chapter this summer after 42 years in ministry.

The Blue River and Elkhorn Valley district superintendent, also dean of the bishop's cabinet, talks about his accomplishments during those four-plus decades, and his plans for retirement.

Read the story here.

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Clergy couple Kaye-Skinners share
memories as their retirement nears

Married for nearly 37 years, the Rev. Nan and Lew Kaye-Skinner are both visible at the annual conference sessions – she as a secretary, he as a parliamentarian.

So, it’s perhaps appropriate that their relationship started during sessions of the former Nebraska Conference, when she was appointed to Lexington and he to a trio of churches just to the south.

“She said, ‘If you ever have any parishioners in the Lexington hospital, give me a call and we’ll have coffee,’” Lew recalled. “I’m not sure if she was really serious, but I kept asking my parishioners, ‘Oh, do you need to go to the hospital?’”

Read more about the Kaye-Skinners. Photo courtesy Lincoln Journal Star.

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Clergy Excellence

Conference seeks clergy and
candidacy mentors for 2019-2020

Ministry does not happen alone. It happens with people — church members, other clergy and members of our community. Mentors are among the most significant influences in the life of someone discerning a call to ministry and developing effectiveness in ministry. Have you felt called to come alongside those in the beginnings of ministry? 

The primary way that the Great Plains does mentoring is in a group context. Candidacy Summit and Residency participants are assigned to mentoring groups. However, certified candidates and licensed local pastors who are required (by the Book of Discipline) to participate in mentoring are able to select their mentoring group from two options: Practice of Ministry and Preparation for Ministry. To find out more about the distinction of the two groups and other resources, visit the mentoring page here.

We are currently requesting people to serve as clergy and candidacy mentors for the 2019-2020 Conference year. Those who have completed Course of Study or are ordained as a deacon or elder are eligible to serve as a mentor. Are you interested? If so, would you consider applying to be a mentor? Our deadline for applying is June 7. You can register here.

Are you currently serving as a mentor and want to continue? Please register even if you are intending to continue mentoring with a current group. The application will give you a chance to identify your intention about which type of mentoring you’d be willing to do and will be used to match willing mentors with mentoring needs.

If you have questions, please contact the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator, at , or 785-414-4216. 

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Perkins begins new program
for those called to direct in spirit

Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas has announced a new Certification in Spiritual Direction program.

The Perkins Certification in Spiritual Direction program seeks to equip individuals who feel called to serve as spiritual directors for others. Students complete a series of eight courses over three years and attend regular meetings with their own spiritual directors. Throughout the program, students are equipped to listen, pray and ask questions in a fashion that encourages them to look for the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

They learn to ask the kind of questions that nurture the growth of wisdom, using tools and values that have been sharpened over the last two millennia.

The new cohort will start on Aug. 23, and applications are due by Aug. 1.

More information can be found here.

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Equipping Disciples

YOUTH2019 seeks volunteers
for Kansas City event, July 10-14

Volunteers are needed to help create an atmosphere of hospitality when 2,500 youth and their leaders descend on the Kansas City Convention Center in July for YOUTH 2019, the national gathering for United Methodist youth.

Youth from more than 250 churches will be attending the four days of discipleship, worship, Bible study, service opportunities and life-changing fun July 10-14.

“Volunteering is simple, and we have roles for any adult age and giftedness,” said Chris Wilterdink, director of Young People’s Ministries at Discipleship Ministries.
While some volunteer roles will be in direct contact with youth at the event, many will involve set up, clean up, organization and support for adult leaders.
“Volunteers could be welcoming groups at the Kansas City airport, aiding the build-out of worship or exhibit areas, stuffing bags, making sure adult speakers have supplies, hanging out near our exhibit hall or onsite service projects, or even be working back stage in our big room worship area,” Wilterdink said.
YOUTH 2019 volunteers are needed July 9-13, and there will be no registration costs. Shifts will be as short as four hours or as long as a full day. Parking expenses will be covered, and meals will be provided.
Volunteers need to register and complete an online background check and simple Safe Sanctuaries guidelines review, powered by Safe Gatherings.
For more information and to volunteer, go to

For answers to questions, email Patrice Rullo at or Taressa Thompson at

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Scholarship deadline near
for Summit Youth Academy

If there’s an outstanding high school sophomore or junior in your church or community, nominate him or her for the Summit Youth Academy, July 21-27 at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.

The Summit is the only United Methodist Lilly-funded youth theology institute in the region, and it gives young people the tools they need to hear God’s voice and follow God’s call in each stage of their lives. 

The deadline for $100 scholarships is May 31 – all it takes is a nomination from an adult like you!

What a gift to have it right here in the Great Plains!  Nominate a young person who you think can make a difference for God at You can also follow us on social media by searching @summitkansas on any social media platform.

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Mercy & Justice

Social Justice seed money
applications are due May 31

In April, Topeka JUMP brought together 1,200 people to organize to stop predatory lending.

In 2018, Topeka Justice, Unity & Ministry Project, or JUMP, received social justice seed money through the Great Plains Mercy & Justice Team. This seed money helped get a campaign launched to stop predatory lending. Topeka JUMP is made up of a number of faith communities with several United Methodist Churches being members.

“Over the next year, our goal is to build a state-wide coalition called Kansas for Payday Loan Reform. The coalition will advocate for legislation in the State of Kansas to make payday loans more affordable and less predatory. We are also researching local alternatives that can serve consumers more equitably,” Shanae’ M. Holman, lead organizer with Topeka JUMP, said. “Through the power of organized people, we will advocate for policy change to liberate at-risk consumers from companies that exploit them.”

Four in 10 Americans have no savings to help them weather a financial emergency. For Kansas residents facing a financial emergency, having bad or no credit history can leave them with limited options and they often turn to pay day loan institutions, getting trapped into paying up to 391% interest. The nature of the pay day loan product is misleading and predatory.

As Christians we are concerned about the economic community (Social Principles ¶163) and whether economic systems benefit all or just a few wealthy people. In Luke 3: 12-13 we read: “When tax collectors came to be baptized, they asked John, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ John told them, ‘Don’t force people to pay more than they owe.’”

Social Justice Seed Money grants are aimed at encouraging us to look at structural injustice and take action to change these. For a flyer with more information and to access the online application go to

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Ecumenical Advocacy participant
asks, 'Where is our prophetic voice?'

From left, the Rev. Jose Miranda, St. Paul UMC, South Sioux City, Nebraska; Melissa Ross, College Hill UMC, Wichita; Andrea Paret, Peace with Justice coordinator; Valecia Scribner, director of discipleship, El Dorado First UMC; Sheila Kjellbeerg, Church of the Cross UMC, Salina.
Peace with Justice Sunday is one of the special Sundays the UMC observes. The suggested date is the Sunday after Pentecost which falls on June 16 this year. Funds received through this special offering support ministries working for peace with justice in our conference and around the world (50% of the offerings go to the General Board of Church and Society and 50% stay in our conference). Resources can be found here.  

Being encouraged and strengthened in our peace with justice work by worshiping, learning, sharing and advocating with others is one important part of being able to engage in this work in the long run. For several years, our Great Plains Peace with Justice Ministries has made scholarships available for church members to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C.

Rev. Jose Miranda, serving at St. Paul UMC in South Sioux City, was one of the scholarship recipients this year. He shares about his experiences:

“I have wanted to attend the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington D.C., for several years. Thanks to the Great Plains Peace with Justice Ministries advisory team that provided the funds to make this experience possible.

This was indeed one of the most informative and empowering conferences in advocacy for peace and justice that I have experienced. Just the theme of the conference “Troubling Waters for the Healing of the World” deeply invoked me to reflect on my lackluster attitude and to confront the issues of racism, poverty, climate change, violence and other manifestations of injustice that permeate our nation, our communities under the current administration.

In our opening celebration, Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, preached from Isaiah 40: 3-5.

Warnock challenged us that this vision needs to be lifted up through our faith communities during these times of immoral character, immoral rhetoric and partisan politics coming from our political leaders. In other words where is the prophetic voice of the church? And personally, where is my prophetic voice?

In the following days I attended the following workshops:

  • Organizing to Stop Family Separation and Border Militarization.
  • LGBTQ Briefing Breakfast.
  • Denominational Gathering: Preparing to visit Congress and meet our correspondent state legislators.
  • Latin American & Caribbean – The Refugee Exodus from Central America. Forced to Flee: Root Causes of Migration.

Some of the many contemporary issues to advocate for: criminalization of poverty, criminalization of immigrant families and dehumanization of immigrants, how to deter aggression by anti-migrant/vigilant groups, mass incarceration, separation of families, violence against women and children. It is overwhelming; however each church and community of faith may seek God’s particular contextual call to advocate the particular justice issue in their own context.

The conference closed with a message from Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, President and General Minister Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Troubling Waters theme comes from the John 5:1-9 passage where Jesus healed a paralyzed man who had lived thirty-eight years at the pool of Bethzatha, waiting for the waters to be stirred (troubled waters) and for someone to carry him to the pool. Finally Jesus showed up and healed him. Dr. Hord Owens’ challenge to the audience was that we are the ones to take those in need of justice to the agitated waters.

Flying back to Omaha after the conference I felt that my inner water had been agitated and I had to remind myself that it takes each Christian person, lay or clergy, to be the prophetic voice much needed in our context. In order to do my part I will have to be the prophetic voice in my congregation and community. I also will make a sincere effort to work in conjunction with my conference justice and peace coordinator, Micah Corps and other entities to learn about immigration, environment, criminalization of poverty, LGBQT, and other issues that are dividing our churches, communities and country. My hope is to ignite the beginning of some change in my corner of the world.”

Access videos of some of the other sessions here.

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Disaster Response

Team in need of volunteer
sandbaggers in Chapman, Kansas

As storms continue to target the Great Plains this week, the Disaster Response team from the conference is looking for volunteers -- whether or not they're ERTs -- to sandbag in Chapman, Kansas.

Anyone willing to help should contact the Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, at

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Retired clergy, spouses award
Pass the Torch Scholarships

Pass the Torch Scholarships are a ministry of the retired clergy and their spouses as well as the surviving spouses of the Great Plains Conference. Retirees are encouraged to give toward the Pass the Torch endowment, the earnings of which are used to provide seminary and Course of Study scholarships.
This spring the Pass the Torch Committee received a large number of applications and are pleased to report that the following persons will be receiving scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year.
Seminary scholarships: Erynn Dahlke, first year at Iliff; Wesley Gately, first year at Wesley; Brenda Hogan, second year at Saint Paul; Spenser Johnson, third year at Garrett-Evangelical; Maria Pernod, second year at Garrett-Evangelical; Victor Peterson, second year at Asbury; Stephanie Seth, third year at Iliff; and John Young, fifth year at Asbury.

Course of Study scholarships, all at Saint Paul: David Abbott, third year; Nicholas Baker, first year; Dorothy Ellsworth, fourth year; William “Stacy” Ellsworth, fourth year; Lori Miller, fourth year; Gordon Pettibone, third year; and Dorothy Smith, fifth year.

The committee and all the retirees wish each of these students the best as they either begin or continue their education for ministry in The United Methodist Church.

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CVLI license allows you to go
to the movies … at your church


In his blog, “In Layman’s Terms,” Todd Seifert, communications director, continues his series on helping you ensure your church is protected from any legal issues surrounding use of copyrighted materials.

In this third installment, he explains how a CVLI license can cover you legally so you can show movie and television clips in worship and host movie nights at your church.

Read the blog.

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Across the Connection

In other news

The week ahead

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