Friday, May 31, 2019

Welcome to the second daily report from the Great Plains Annual Conference sessions in Topeka!

We'll provide a recap of the day's activities as well as what to expect on Saturday.

Those unable to attend at the Expocentre can follow along on our livestream and keep up to date with our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as photos in our Flickr gallery.


Clergy, laity select delegation 
for General Conference in 2020 

After multiple ballots, the Great Plains Conference’s clergy and laity delegate roster for General Conference was completed Friday. 

Clergy elected were the Rev. Adam Hamilton (first ballot), Rev. Amy Lippoldt (third ballot), Rev. Junius Dotson (fourth ballot), Rev. Kalaba Chali (fourth ballot), Rev. Dee Williamston (fifth ballot), Rev. David Livingston (fifth ballot), Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell (10th ballot). 

Laity: Oliver Green (second ballot), Lisa Maupin (second ballot), Scott Brewer (second ballot), Randall Hodgkinson (third ballot), Steve Baccus (fifth ballot), Dixie Brewster (fifth ballot) and Lisa Buffum (ninth ballot). 

Jurisdictional delegates were partly selected by the close of the conference session Friday. 

The Rev. Dr. Anne Gatobu, Rev. Mark Holland and Rev. Eduardo Bousson were selected by the clergy. 

Abigail Koech, Dan Entwisle and Jesi Lipp were selected by the laity. 

The remainder of the jurisdictional spots will be filled with the conclusion of elections Saturday. 

Adam Hamilton gives tips to 
ordinands in Friday night service 

While they answered more formal questions later in the night, the leader of the largest United Methodist Church in the world had a few other queries for the ordinands of the Great Plains Conference on Friday night. 

“What are you thinking?” the Rev. Adam Hamilton from United Methodist Church of the Resurrection asked in his ordination sermon. “Or maybe better, ‘Have you lost your mind?’”??? 

The denomination is in conflict, he told them, and its future is in question, with many churches declining. 

In his sermon, “Shepherds of the Good Shepherd’s Sheep,” Hamilton used a video to show an actual shepherd at work in the Holy Land, caring for each animal and not allowing it to go astray. The key, he said, is the shepherd loves the sheep, just as a pastor must love the flock that he or she is charged with serving. 

Hamilton delivered to his new counterparts his five tips for success in ministry: 

  • You can’t lead people where you are not going. 
  • Successful people are willing to?do the things unsuccessful people are not willing to?do. 
  • Pay attention. 
  • Preach the Word and love the people. 
  • Don’t give up in the face of criticism. 

“You haven’t lost your?minds,?you’ve found?your calling,” Hamilton told the ordinands. “You are to be shepherds of the good?shepherd’s?sheep – to?bind?up the injured, search for the strays and?bring back the lost, and?when you?do that, people find?life, and?you?discover the joy of being a shepherd.” 

Here are those whose ministries were celebrated on Friday: 

Licensed local pastors 

Esther Achi, Jo Ellen Axthelm, Nick Baker, David Benavides, Matt Bisel, Anna Borders, Yolanda Byers, David Clark, Lydia Dayton, Lillian Flegle, Bequi Flores, Joey Flores, Jae Sook Gil, Brenda Hogan, Geoff Iringo, Janelle Knowles, Joe Krepel, Brian Loy, Michael Miller, Elias Mukindia, Lori Persigehl, Victor Peterson, Alex Rossow, Joseph Schumacher, Debbie Senters, Tony Serbousek, Chelsea Shrack, Michelle Testman, Lauren Thomas, Michael Turner, Venedith Vargas, Juan Carlos Veloso, Lacey Wheeler, Yolanda White-Oliver, Katelyn Zoglmann. 

Provisional elders 

Bailey Amtower, Tino Herrera, Dennis Irwin, Dae Kyung Kim, David Taejong Kim, Jacob Maforo, Annie Ricker, Gina Tyler. 

Provisional deacon: Claire Clough 

Deacon ordained in full connection: Hannah Ebling-Artz 

Elders ordained in full connection: Emmanuel Afful, Michael Brown, Michele Byerly, Michael Evans, Jeff Goetzinger, Daniel Kipp, Curt Magelky, Jordan McFall, Rebecca Mohr, Richard Sigler. 

Transferring deacon: Abby Caseman, Sang Hak Lee. 

Indianapolis pastor encourages
Great Plains to think differently

The Rev. Mike Mather remembers his boyhood church in southern Indiana as the place where he learned to ride a unicycle in the basement.

Mather, the keynote speaker for the annual conference session Friday, even briefly demonstrated his skills on the one-wheeled vehicle.

“God takes the dumbest things we’ve ever done and brings glory out of them,” said Mather, senior pastor of Broadway UMC in Indianapolis.

Mather has been pastor of the Indianapolis church – during its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, the largest church of any denomination in the state – for 33 years and has seen waves of crime and poverty invade the neighborhood.

Like many churches, he said, Broadway had a food pantry and a thrift store. But he objected to the treatment of those seeking assistance – basically asking, “How poor are you?” he said. In Matthew 25: 36-40, Mather said, Jesus never asked for the poor to show their ID nor limited their assistance to once a month.

“We forget the heart of Matthew 25 is to treat people as sisters and brothers, not as clientele,” he said.

So the church shut down its thrift store and food pantry, instead working with those in the neighborhood to find out the skills that they could put to use, either in production or teaching.

An example is a woman who told the staff she could cook, who began making meals for the church staff, then began cooking for outside groups. That blossomed into a catering service, and now the woman owns her own restaurant.

The expertise of the local residents was put to use in what they called “Broadway University,” where for $7 per session, others could have classes in everything from cooking to Spanish to eclectic topics such as “The History of Hollywood Westerns (and Why Black Men Were Left Out)” and “Conversational Physics.”

Mather, whose book, “Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places,” said the successes came from simply asking questions of people in the neighborhood.

“If you don’t look, you’ll never see it,” he said.

Three resolutions up for discussion
during Friday conference sessions

Clergy and lay members to annual conference discussed three resolutions during Friday’s sessions.

  • The conference health insurance allowance was approved to continue at $15,850 per year, with which clergy are expected to purchase at least a bronze-level coverage plan. The plan was amended to allow full- and three-quarter-time pastors appointed to larger local churches that provide a health insurance plan to receive the equivalent financial support as the conference’s health allowance to purchase health insurance. A resolution that would have allowed churches only to pay the actual cost of health insurance instead of the amount required by the conference was defeated.
  • A proposal to allow clergy with six years of full-time appointment, or equivalent for less-than-full-time clergy, to be allowed up to three months of leave “for personal reflection and self-renewal,” funded by the local church or charge passed. The resolution was sent to the Council of Finance and Administration to determine its cost in a report to be delivered Saturday. Under provisions in the resolution, the conference would pay the salary for the interim pastor.
  • A resolution to allow churches with the ability to conduct their own training similar to the Safe Gatherings program to ensure safety of children and at-risk adults was referred to the Connecting Council for review. Concerns about lack of uniformity for the purposes of liability insurance were shared prior to the vote to refer.

Treasurer gives snapshot of successes, challenges facing conference

In his report to the conference Friday, the Great Plains Conference treasurer praised churches and districts for their successes – but warned of difficulties that may lie ahead.

Scott Brewer, treasurer and director of administrative services, said that for the second year in a row, the conference received over 90% payout of mission shares in 2018, with 10 districts topping that amount, led by Blue River with 98.1%.

However, Brewer said, mission shares have decreased by 9.6% compared to this time last year, a deficit of more than $1.26 million.

“We have no sense of how these trends may change through the remainder of the year, and particularly the last three months of the year when we as a conference receive a third of our mission share income,” Brewer said.

Disaster has caused more than $1.3 billion in damage in Nebraska and Kansas since mid-March, up to and including damage this week in Lawrence and Linwood, Kansas. As of Wednesday night, Brewer said, $701,165 has been contributed to the conference’s disaster relief program.

Methodists, Brewer said, are facing the greatest existential crisis since the 1840s. Not only is the denomination threatening a split because of human sexuality issues, but many churches have remained dormant.

In 2018, he reported, in the Great Plains, 72% of churches had no confirmation classes, 54% had no professions of faith, 41% had no vacation Bible school, 32% had no ministries to the poor, and 23% had no children or youth.

“These are not mere percentages, friends, these are lost opportunities,” Brewer said. “We can wait, and wait, and wait, and the right time is still never going to come.”

While truck gets loaded with UMCOR
kits, special offerings raise money

The UMCOR truck in front of the Expocentre on Wednesday and Thursday received 386 cleaning kits, also known as “flood buckets,” 1,650 hygiene kits and 1,421 school kits. In addition, Great Plains youth created another 104 school kits. The conference also received $3,873.31 in cash donations.

Great Plains Disaster Relief received $6,907.15 in the Wednesday night offering.

The Youth Service Fund received $5,599.04 in its special offering.

LED cross provides colorful backdrop
for annual conference sessions

Many of those attending the annual conference session have been impressed by the 15-foot high images inside an LED cross behind the main stage.

“I’m so glad you like those images,” said the Rev. Melinda Harwood, pastor of Oskaloosa and Easton, Kansas, UMCs and a member of the conference planning team.

Maddie Nevins, general manager of Kent AV, the Wichita-based company that provides the audio-visual for the session, called the display “little video TVs where we can convey any images we like,” demonstrating with a video fireworks display.

“You can really change it up to make it anything you want,” Nevins added.

Harwood said there were 25 different designs, with a number of color variations, of the cross and another 10 messages on either side of the cross.

As new churches take root in
Great Plains, others leave a legacy

New church plants in Wichita, Omaha, Kansas City and Overland Park were celebrated Friday, while these churches were officially closed: Ada, Chetopa St. Paul, Delphos, Dexter Hicks Chapel, Kansas City Trinity, Overland Park Valley View, Portis and Robinson in Kansas, and Kilgore, Nebraska.

Twenty-two churches in the Great Plains are celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year.


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PO Box 4187
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