Download the printable version of the February 26 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Bishop encourages Great Plains to come together for Lenten reflection
South Central Jurisdictional bishops urge protocol support
Behind the scenes as Great Plains delegates interview potential bishops
Annual conference speaker named; lodging info available on AC webpage
‘Fill the truck’ to help stock UMCOR Depot in Salt Lake City
Great Plains gather to ‘Repent and Resist’ decision on Ash Wednesday

How will the plans coming to 2020 GC impact churches financially?
Proposed new General Book of Discipline review documents available

Register now for one of two sermon planning retreats scheduled for July
Deadlines nearing for two clergy leadership development opportunities  
Glory-Neal to receive Distinguished Graduate Award from Saint Paul

First-ever Laity Summit is 24 days away in Kearney; registration still available
Retirees group to host seminar on future of Methodist movement
Certified Lay Minister courses for 2020 begin with New Testament in March

What actions can we take as ‘peacemakers?’

Nebraska UM Foundation offers New Start/New Faith Community Grants

Free online sessions help explore General Conference
UMCOR celebrates its 80th anniversary this year; special Sunday is March 22

Wrongly accused prisoner-to-preacher Burton to speak in Salina on March 18
In other news
Blogs and commentaries


Bishop encourages Great Plains to
come together for Lenten reflection

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. is inviting the people of the Great Plains Conference to join him on a reflective retreat about Jesus’ love and sacrifice during Lent via Facebook, an experience the bishop has titled “By His Side.”
Starting today, the conference will post a verse and theme for reflection and pose a question via its Facebook page by 5 each morning. The bishop encourages participants to read the scripture and reflect using the lectio divina process, which has six steps, as shared in the book “Song of the Seed: The Monastic Way of Tending the Soul,” by Marcina Wiederkehr:

  1. Preparation: Take time prior to unclutter our mind and unify our heart with God’s heart.
  2. Reflective Reading: This is the first reading of the day’s scripture and focus word. Read with the ear of our heart, contemplatively, slowly, and whenever possible, aloud.
  3. Contemplation: This is a time for a patient waiting. It is not a prayer time, but a time to listen for God speak to us.
  4. Meditation: Read the scripture again. Listen to the text as it speaks.
  5. Prayer: We can use words to express praise, repentance, thanksgiving, or petition for God’s grace and mercy. Be open to how the Spirit may lead you to pray. 
  6. Journaling: Journaling happens at the end of your day. Write down your reflections on both the question and theme of the day. Please share your reflection in some form on our Face book thread.

In addition to my conference-wide invitation to practice the spiritual discipline of lectio divina as a Great Plains United Methodist community, the bishop will join Todd Seifert, conference communications director, for special episodes of the “In Layman’s Terms” podcasts reflecting on the final seven sayings from Jesus from the cross. These podcasts will be available from the conference website each Monday during Lent, starting March 2.

Watch the invitation from Bishop Saenz.

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South Central Jurisdictional
bishops urge protocol support

Delegates from the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church met last week to interview candidates for bishop and discuss the 2020 General Conference. Bishops in the jurisdiction explained why they support the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation. 

Read more in this report from the Oklahoma Conference.

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Behind the scenes as Great Plains
delegates interview potential bishops

In his latest blog, Todd Seifert, conference communications director, shares some of what he witnessed while assisting the Great Plains Conference’s delegation to the General and Jurisdictional conferences as they interviewed episcopal candidates. Read the blog.

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Annual conference speakers named;
lodging info available on AC webpage

The senior pastor at a Washington, D.C., church and the author of the book “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going” are among the speakers for this year’s Annual Conference sessions, May 27-30 at the Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Daniels Jr. will preach at the opening worship. Daniels is senior pastor of Emory Fellowship, a Washington church that has been recognized for its urban ministry work and community-based social justice agenda. He is also one of the founders and co-chairs of the Washington Interfaith Network, or WIN.

The Rev. Susan Beaumont, one of the speakers for the Annual Conference, is the author of How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season” and "Inside the Large Congregation.” Beaumont has spent nine years as a senior consultant for the Alban Institute, and teaches at Wesley Theological Seminary.

The 2020 Annual Conference page is now active on the Great Plains website, with lodging information and group rates available for 13 Topeka hotels.

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‘Fill the truck’ to help stock
UMCOR Depot in Salt Lake City

The Great Plains Conference will “fill the truck” to go to the Salt Lake City UMCOR Depot during the Annual Conference sessions.

The truck will be located outside the box office of the Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, and 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28.

Donors should bring complete kits only for cleaning, hygiene and school use. Box and label each box with the number of kits inside.

For more information, contact the Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, at

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Great Plains gather to ‘Repent and
Resist’ decision on Ash Wednesday

Marking the one-year anniversary of the endorsement of a Traditional Plan by a special session in St. Louis of the General Conference – as well as Ash Wednesday – Great Plains members of the Resist Harm movement planned a day of prayer, song and community in “Repent and Resist” protest of the 2019 decision.

“The purpose of this event is to repent from and reject the Traditional Plan, resisting evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves, living faithfully as Christians and Wesleyans and affirming the sacred worth of all persons,” according to promotional material from Resist Harm.

Each district planned gatherings, either online or in person.

In the Topeka District, 10 people gathered for the first of three 20-minute worship services at Topeka First UMC.

“What an appropriate time to repent for the plan that passed last year and hurt so many people,” the Rev. Jeff Potter, pastor at Topeka University and Perry UMCs, said in leading the Topeka First service.

Psalm 139: 23-24 was prayed aloud individually in Topeka, and participants wrote their needs for repentance on a large pad at the front of the sanctuary.

In the Kansas City District, stations were set up in Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC for every General Conference since exclusive language was added, according to the Rev. Lora Andrews. Prayer, testimony and music took place on the hour.

The Missouri River District gathering, at Omaha St. Paul Benson, received about 20 people by mid-afternoon Wednesday. "The simplicity of the liturgy has been well-received by participants," the Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede said.

Other locations scheduled to host the events were Lincoln Connection Point, Osborn Chapel at Baker University, Reading and Manhattan College Hill UMCs, the Gateway District office, Parsons Wesley UMC and Wichita East Heights.

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General Conference

How will the plans coming to
2020 GC impact churches financially?

No matter what happens at General Conference, United Methodist financial leaders expect changes in funding. The finance agency board met to discuss some of the possibilities. 

Read more from the United Methodist News Service.

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Proposed new General Book of
Discipline review documents available

The United Methodist Church’s Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters has launched — an online resource that makes it easy to review tracked changes to the proposed new General Book of Discipline as a means of offering transparency, and informing and stimulating conversation within the church. Members can now choose to view the content as the proposed final document version or a version with edit notations. The latter highlights revised text and the reasoning behind it to reduce potential questions.

Read more here.

Stay up to date with GC news with our webpage.

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Clergy Excellence

Register now for one of two sermon
planning retreats scheduled for July

Would you like to give your sermon planning a refresh? Have you ever considered taking some time away to work on six months to a year of sermons in a prayerful context? Consider marking off five days in July with other pastors committed to the same purpose. You have the opportunity to join with others or work on your own and be encouraged by a seasoned mentor at A Time Apart: Preaching and Worship Planning Retreat. A Time Apart, led by Rev. Dr. Theresa Mason, is an invitation to develop an intentional plan for preaching in the year ahead. The dates for 2020 are:

  • July 6 (8 p.m.) to July 10 (2 p.m.) at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska
  • July 20 (8 p.m.) to July 24 (2 p.m.) at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita

The cost is $150 if registered by April 1 (includes lodging and meals). The cost is $200 after April 1. Space is limited, so register early!

To register and for more information, check out the website,

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Deadlines nearing for two clergy leadership development opportunities  

Are you interested in some time away to discern about opportunities to grow in your current season of ministry? Coming up are a couple of Continuing Education opportunities right here in the Great Plains in which you can set aside time to listen to God, yourself, and get clarity about God’s presence in your current ministry context. Both will nourish you as a leader and each will equip you in different ways for growth. Will you read on for which of these might be a fit for you for 2020? The deadlines for attending the March retreats are quickly approaching.
For Your Life: Giving your soul time and means to grow is a retreat that will introduce you to the framework for creating a Learning Plan, give you resources, guide you in worship, and most importantly, give you space to spend time in solo reflection and/or connection with others. Consider attending one of our two retreats for 2020:

  • March 30 (9 a.m.) to March 31 (3 p.m.) at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita
  • Sept. 14 (9 a.m.) to Sept. 15 (3 p.m.) at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska

The cost is $25 and includes lodging and meals. The deadline for registering for the March retreat is March 12. This event filled last fall, so register early!
To register and for more information, check out the website,
Questions? Contact the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford,

Roots for Your Soul retreats are designed to create space for you to nourish your spirit, to renew your call to ministry, to refresh your soul. Each takes place at a retreat center in our conference with varying retreat facilitators, enabling you to attend this retreat as often as you need in order to care for yourself and your spiritual formation. In 2020, both spring and fall retreats will be held at St Benedict Retreat Center at Schuyler, Nebraska.

  • March 16-18: Facilitator: Rev. David Dodge. Theme: Courage to Lead through our Birthright Gifts: A Circle of Trust
  • Nov. 2-4: Facilitator: Seanne Larson Emerton, LMHP. Theme: Mindfulness and Resiliency.

Cost to attend is $100 and includes lodging and meals. Registration for the March retreat can be found here. The deadline to register is Feb. 28.

Additional information and the registrations can be found at the website,

Questions? Contact the Rev. Nancy Lambert,

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Glory-Neal to receive Distinguished
Graduate Award from Saint Paul

Alumna Rev. Dr. Lois V. Glory-Neal will be presented with the prestigious Distinguished Graduate Award by Saint Paul School of Theology on Friday, March 27, for reflecting the mission of the seminary and exemplary service in ministry.

Born in the Cherokee Nation, Rev. Dr. Glory-Neal was the first Native American woman to be received into full connection as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Rev. Dr. Glory-Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma City University in 1984. She continued her education by earning her Master of Divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology in 1988.

After serving on the reservation in Horton, Kansas, while attending seminary, she was the first Native American women to receive full-conference membership and then serving after four years on the Kickapoo/Potowatomi reservation, became the first  Native American woman to serve as a district superintendent in 1992. 

The Distinguished Graduate Award is presented annually at Saint Paul School of Theology. This year the award will be presented at the Saint Paul 60th Anniversary Celebration held at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center. She will also be honored during the Oklahoma Campus Commencement on Friday, May 15, in Oklahoma City.

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Equipping Disciples

First Laity Summit is 24 days away
in Kearney; registration still available

The inaugural Laity Summit will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Kearney First UMC. This is for all lay persons, lay servants, lay leaders, and laity discerning a call for more of a leadership role. It will be a one-stop leadership gathering with worship, workshops, childcare, and food! The aim is that all in attendance network, learn and obtain resources for leadership. 

For more information, details and to register go to this link. 

The cost is $15 per person and that includes lunch, materials from workshops and walk-away resources for opportunity. Childcare will be provided at the church for $5 per child.

Hear about the summit on Todd Seifert's "In Layman's Terms" podcast.

Read about the first-ever summit.

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Retirees group to host seminar
on future of Methodist movement

All clergy and laity are invited to a special seminar to explore the nature, mission and future of the Methodist movement.

“The UMC: Church of What’s Happening Now?” will be the presentations by Dr. Donald E. Messer, president emeritus and professor emeritus of practical theology at Illif School of Theology. The event, sponsored by the Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy and Spouses, is scheduled for March 23-24 at First United Methodist Church, 612 Poyntz Ave., in Manhattan. The cost is $20 per person or $30 per couple.

Download the flyer and registration form.

The seminar — substantially underwritten by the Nebraska United Methodist and the Kansas Area United Methodist foundations —  will include presentations about the denomination’s understanding of the church, the theological principle of the saving love of God being available to all people, information about the proposals for reorganizing the denomination proposed for the 2020 General Conference, and how God’s saving love creates community.

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Certified Lay Minister courses for 2020 begin with New Testament in March

Eleven Certified Lay Minister courses are being offered online in 2020.
Courses offered are in New Testament, Evangelism, Old Testament, Missions and Social Concerns, Worship, United Methodist History, United Methodist Theology and Doctrine, Preaching, and Leadership in a Changing Culture – Fresh Expressions.

The first course of the year, New Testament, begins in March and is taught by the Rev. Richard Fitzgerald. Friday is the deadline to sign up for New Testament.

It’s open to anyone. Low cost, $75 per course, and taught primarily by clergy within the Great Plains conference. Each course is a month long.
More information is available here.

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Mercy & Justice

What actions can we
take as ‘peacemakers?’

Our United Methodist General Board of Church and Society describes the call to work for peace with justice in the following way: “In a world plagued by war and terror, violence and destruction, people of faith have a clear call to build peace with justice. Scripture is consistent in the call for followers of Christ to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45a), forgive others their trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15), to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), and to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). Peacemakers are blessed and called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).”

“As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict. We must insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them.”
— United Methodist Social Principles, ¶165.C

We are constantly surrounded by news about violence happening in our communities, our nation and around the world. I often reflect on the scriptures telling about Jesus coming to Jerusalem and crying over it. “And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42).

How Jesus must be crying over what is going on in our world. Just now, our government is ending existing U.S. prohibitions against the use of landmines. Landmines have been internationally banned through the Mine Ban Treaty since 1997. This treaty was signed by 164 countries and even though the United States was not among the signers, we have not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, excluding the use of a single munition in 2002. We have also not exported landmines since 1992 and have not produced them since 1997.

But our government wants to change this now. Many faith-based as well as other organizations have signed a statement regarding the new landmine policy. It is urgent that we make our voices heard and contact Congress. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is one of the signers as well as many other organizations we collaborate with.

To love peace is important but we are called to be peacemakers! Let’s take action!  
Read the statement.
Contact Congress.

-- Andrea Paret, Peace with Justice coordinator

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Nebraska UM Foundation offers
New Start/New Faith Community Grants

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation announces a new church development grant opportunity available to Nebraska churches and affiliated Nebraska agencies of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference.

Due to the generosity of donors supporting congregational development, the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation has grants available to enhance and support your new church development. The ultimate goal of these awards is to alleviate a little bit of the financial burden.
Grant applicants should be aware that priority will be given to the following:

  • A New Start that is recognized by Congregational Excellence as a New Start/New Faith Community.
  • A New Start deemed to be of an outreach and beneficial nature to the larger community.
  • A New Start that is in collaboration with other United Methodist entities.
  • A New Start that has identified other sources of revenue.
  • A New Start that is an integral part of a long-range plan for growth and outreach.

Grants will be awarded on an annual basis. Applications must be received by April 1 to be considered. For application materials and more information, visit

If you have questions about the application process or would like to talk to the Foundation about how you can help grow these types of grants, please call 1-877-495-5545.

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Free online sessions help
explore General Conference

Help gain a better understanding of the importance and function of General Conference with free resources from’s Exploring General Conference online training course. During interactive, multimedia sessions, participants will learn about how the church works, its rich history and its legislative process. Best of all it's complimentary. Enroll today. 

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UMCOR celebrates its 80th anniversary this year; special Sunday is March 22

Dear friends in Christ,
United Methodists will celebrate UMCOR Sunday on March 22, 2020. Eighty years ago, World War II was raging. Millions of people, displaced from their homes, sought refuge and hope. The church responded by creating the Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief (MCOR) and supporting MCOR through an annual offering called “One Great Hour of Sharing.”

The 2016 United Methodist General Conference changed the name to UMCOR Sunday to reflect the important work accomplished by the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

UMCOR Sunday calls the church to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. UMCOR Sunday reaches children, families and communities who have experienced devastation in the wake of disaster.

Now is great time to get ready for this Special Sunday. We have created a toolkit to assist you in easy preparation for leading worship, children’s and youth ministries and small-group discussions. We encourage you to promote UMCOR Sunday through social media, videos and newsletter articles with relevant and meaningful messages. Please use and adapt these resources to fit your context and to encourage generous giving on March 22.

Download worship ideas, social media graphics and other resources from our UMCOR Sunday Pastor and Leader's Kit.

If you don’t already have offering envelopes for UMCOR Sunday, please order them today. Call 1-800-991-6011 or order online.

As you prepare for UMCOR Sunday, invite the Holy Spirit to inspire your congregation to give generously and to pray for those who serve — and are served. Through United Methodist sharing, vulnerable people affected by crisis or chronic need witness the love of Jesus Christ. We pray that your congregation will celebrate wholeheartedly.

Thomas Kemper, General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries
Lara S. Martin, UMCOR Executive Director

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Across the Connection

Wrongly accused prisoner-to-preacher Burton to speak in Salina on March 18

All congregations, pastors, laity, college and high school students from the Salina area are invited to join the Salina District of the Great Plains Annual Conference to hear a miracle story. The Rev. Darryl Burton will share his story of how he was wrongly convicted of a St. Louis murder in 1984. After serving over 24 years in prison, on Aug. 29, 2008, he was proven innocent and exonerated.

Burton emerged with little hope and assistance to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. But he rose out of this pit of despair to become an associate pastor at the largest United Methodist Church in the United States, Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.

He is the co-founder of Miracle of Innocence, a nonprofit “seeking justice and comprehensive care for the innocent.” Not satisfied to simply be grateful, he is giving back to help those still behind bars by raising funds and awareness, bringing about change, hope and forgiveness.

Times and locations on March 18:

  • 10 a.m. to noon: Church of the Cross United Methodist Church, 1600 Rush St., Salina
  • 3-4:30 p.m.: First United Methodist Church, 122 North 8th St., Salina
  • 7-9 p.m.: University United Methodist Church, 1509 South Santa Fe Ave., Salina

In other news


Blogs and commentaries

  • In case the Covid-19 coronavirus gets ugly: The Rev. John Collins, co-pastor at Abilene First UMC, fears an ugly development in any possible Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic. "That ugliness will be a fear that abandons rather than helps the afflicted," Collins writes in his blog. Collins provides tips on how to react and what to say and do should the epidemic hit locally.
  • Response to ‘Why I’m not leaving’: An Alabama pastor has written a response to a commentary about a meeting of traditionalist United Methodists. The Rev. Paul Lawler, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Shelby County, penned the response to the Rev. Steve West. West wrote a commentary that appeared here last week about why he would stay with The United Methodist Church. Fifty-five other United Methodists co-signed Lawler's blog, posted on the New Methodist Movement website.
  • Taking a walk with the pastor: The Rev. Melissa Earley, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, leads weekend nature walks that double as spiritual retreats. Sometimes she even misses Sunday worship to take a group outside for contemplation and Scripture reading. "I wasn't skipping church. I'd been to church," she writes.


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