AC 2016 Daily

Recap from June 2, 2016

Welcome to Topeka, Kansas, and the 2016 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 2016, along with announcements and featured stories.

Watch the live streaming of the session at 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 2016. Don't forget to use hashtag #GPUMC and #GPAC16. Have a great week.

Archbishop speaks of peaceful resolution in opening worship

Retired Archbishop Elias Chacour declared himself a “proud Palestinian” as he began his teaching session at the 2016 Annual Conference session, and then he opened his suit jacket.

“I have no bombs,” Chacour demonstrated, in one of several humorous moments that dotted his more-than-60-minute presentation.

The self-described “Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli” said he hasI never had any weapon in his hand. The 78-year-old said, “And I love all.”
“I love the Jews. I love the Palestinians. I love all of us with our deficiencies, with our pluses and minuses,” he said. “And to be a Muslim, it's normal that a Palestinian be also a Muslim, because Muslims are, in your media, people who are blood thirsty and inclined to violence.

“This is what the politicians want us to be seen as,” he added.
Being a Palestinian-Arab-Christian, he said, “complicates the picture.”
The native of Galilee told of how, as a boy, his family received warning of Jewish soldiers coming to their village. His father referred to the soldiers as their “blood brothers,” and should be received by the family.

The soldiers did not kill, molest, persecute or hurt anyone, Chacour said. They accepted the food and beds of those in the village, he said, while his family slept on the roof of their houses.

Chacour’s father, as well as other men in the village, were taken to the West Bank for three months to serve as soldiers.

“My father was a man who believed in God and believed in human beings,” Chacour said. “He never allowed any of my brothers to think about using violence to recuperate their rights.

“He always told them, ‘If you use violence, you will fall victim of violence.’”

That spirit of nonviolent resolve has stayed with Chacour, archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee from 2006 to 2014.

“We are citizens of Israel,” he said. “We never protest against the existence of Israel.

“We protest against the qualities of that existence. We want to be full citizens. We want to be sharing the building up of this country with the Jews,” Chacour added.

Chacour is the author of two books, “Blood Brothers” and “We Belong to the Land,” which he signed for annual conference session attendees following his presentation.

“When I sign my books -- I've signed hundreds of thousands -- I sign it, ‘God does not kill’ and sign my name in Arabic,” he said. “And God is love.

“All the rest is commentary.”

Service remembers late clergy, spouses

The Rev. Jim Akins, Hays District superintendent, spoke of “The Power of Memory” at the Memorial Service during the Great Plains Annual Conference session on Thursday.

“It’s kind of a mysterious power,” Akins said.

Those memories, Akins said, are encapsulated in the looks, special touch, phrases or “laughter you could hear from across the room.”

They manifest themselves in a smile, a tear or a “gut-wrenching sob,” he added.

The service honored 39 Great Plains clergy who had passed away since the 2015 Annual Conference.

“We feel oh-so-special and oh-so-blessed,” Akins said, “because they those to share their memory of the faith with us.”

Also honored were 23 spouses of clergy who had died in the past year.
Clergy spouses hold a special place, Akins said, since they are the ones who have to deftly juggle family commitments around the clerical duties of the pastor.

Akins was a replacement for the Rev. Kibum Kim, Parsons District superintendent, who had to return to Korea for the funeral of his mother-in-law.

The rest of the memorial service had a Korean flair, with a choir of Korean clergy in song, including a version of “How Great Thou Art” in their native language.

Chimes were rung after the name of every late pastor and clergy, with a gong struck following each category.

Clergy remembered at the service were the Rev. Donald Bakely, the Rev. Harold Dean Baldwin, the Rev. Olin A. Bel, the Rev. Jerry Lee Bever, the Rev. James Charles (JC) Browne, the Rev. Philip Brownlee, the Rev. LaDonna Ruth Carey, the Rev. Shirley Holden Carpenter, the Rev. G. Richard Carter, the Rev. Dale Clare, the Rev. James E. Fleagle, the Rev. T.J. Fraser, the Rev. Carroll French, the Rev. John Goering II, the Rev. Paul R. Hett, the Rev. Donald D. Hines, the Rev. Conley Kent Hinrichs, the Rev. Nellie “Nel” Lou Holmes, the Rev. Charles Stanley LaRue, the Rev. Lloyd J. Lowe, the Rev. Gerald Arthur Martin, the Rev. Dennis Howard Matthews, the Rev. Lillian Delorse Moore, the Rev. Marvin D. Neubauer, the Rev. Raymond Eaton Noah, the Rev. Robert “Bob” Donald Parker, the Rev. Arlie Persell, the Rev. Eugene Rasmussen, the Rev. Arnold Roland Jr., the Rev. Oliver Rosas, the Rev. David Dean Rowe, the Rev. John Schmitt, the Rev. Dwight Alden Skow, the Rev. John Snook, the Rev. James “Jim” Townson, the Rev. Richard Urbach, the Rev. Henry Wagoner, the Rev. George Wattenbarger and the Rev. Marion Woods.
Clergy spouses recalled were Uriel Bernell McNeill Baldwin, Willa Mae Borger, Lynda Brazil, Merceda Joan Dussair, Valda Joan Embree, Doris Ellen Garrison, Vera Evelyn Gordon, Irma Herrick, Sonia D’Ann Irwin, Connie Jo Jones, Hilda Zoe “Zodie” Kaye, Mary Lou Bauer Martin, John Byron Norwich McLennan, Fern H. Mead, Cleo Pataricia Noah, Helen Barber Norman, Cara Ruth Hutchinson Perkins, Virginia E. Rimel, Nita Wyatt Sundbye Sewell, Donna Elaine Stewart Stanton, Marjorie Watts Strohl, Phyllis Watkins Tudor and Julia Kitchens Wilke.

Archbishop Elias Chacour speaks at mission partnership lunch

More than 400 attended the mission partnership lunch where Archbishop Elias Chacour. Father Chacour was Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee from 2006 to 2014. He is the author of two books about the experience of Palestinian people living in present-day Israel.

Father Chacour was determined to open a school where all local children could receive an education, regardless of religious affiliation. In the early 1980’s the first classroom building was erected on an empty hillside now called the Mount of Light, and has continued to grow and expand since then. The school, Mar Elias (Advance #3020532) is now home to approximately 4,000 students who commute from 70 different villages to attend high school and university. When the school was just beginning, Muslims, Jews and Christians came together to attend.
“They forgot they were Jews, Muslims and Christians – they were just kids,” Father Chacour said.

After sharing about Mar Elias, Father Chacour answered several questions from those attending. One of the questions was from the Rev. Kabala Chali, Mercy and Justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. Chali asked for Father Chacour to share an experience he had previously shared with Chali.

A Jewish soldier had killed six and injured 12 more in a moment where he acted alone. The police called and asked Father Chacour to help with the situation. The soldier had been killed, but the Arabs would not let the police remove the body. The soldier, along with others injured and killed were still in the bus. Arabs surrounded the bus, and the police surrounded the Arabs. Father Chacour was able to walk through the crowd and onto the bus. It was here, amongst the carnage, that he was unable to tell the difference between the Jewish and the Arab blood. They were the same. He acknowledged that the soldier was a terrible person, but he still was a human being. After an hour and a half, he was able to convince the Arabs to let the police take the body. The next day, more than 50,000 walked in a candle-lit vigil to protest terrorism.

After the question and answer portion, Kent Little, chair of the Mercy and Justice team, presented Father Chacour with a $3,000 check for Mar Elias. Father Chacour, graciously accepted the check that will be used for the development of the school.

“I didn’t ask for money,” Father Chacour said. “I asked for friendship.”

Thursday plenary session

Seven churches voted closed

Seven churches were voted to be discontinued during the Thursday afternoon session of the Great Plains Annual Conference.

Six churches in Kansas and one in Nebraska were voted to be discontinued.

Kansas churches were Trinity UMC, Iola, founded in 1904; Hepler UMC, founded in 1882; Pleasant View UMC, Mitchell County, founded in 1884; Soldier UMC, founded in 1878; Scranton UMC, founded in 1879; and South Haven UMC, founded in 1880.

The lone Nebraska closing was Wellfleet UMC, founded in 1905.

Conference votes to raise minimum compensation

After deliberating a higher rate, the Great Plains Annual Conference session voted Thursday that pastors at all levels will receive a 2-percent minimum compensation rate increase beginning in 2017.

Accepting a proposal by the Personnel Committee, the minimum for a full-time local pastor will be $35,445; associate member, $37,740; provisional elder or deacon, $40.035; and full member, $42,330.

The Rev. Amanda Baker, pastor of Marion UMC in Kansas, proposed an amendment to increase the fulltime salary to $41,000, “equitable pay that we can live on,” she said.

But the Rev. Jim Akins, Hays District superintendent, spoke against the amendment, saying “you will sink many of our small churches.”
There was no compensation increase in 2016.

Conference honors 37 retirees

The Great Plains Conference thanked 37 retiring clergy members for their service in Kansas, Nebraska and beyond.

Jim Reed of the Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy and Spouses said that while their homes and offices may be downsizing, they should limit it to that.

“Do not downsize your stories. Do not downsize the love of your family,” Reed said. “Do not downsize your love of the church.”

Ben Hanne, Southwestern College campus ministry, and Lora Andrews, Grace UMC in Winfield, Kansas, introduced each of the retirees with insight into their clergy careers, peppered with favorite Scripture, quotes and even song lyrics.

The class of 2016 retirees are Sondra Atkins, Pat Ault-Duell, Larry Barbary, David Bell, Quentin Bennett, Eva Brown, Russell Brown, George Wine Chase, Moon-Hee Chung, Dale Coates, Louis Davies, Priscilla Davies, Randall Dilts, Leslie Ellis, Michael Flury, Janie Freeman, Dennis Fulton, Michael Graber, Joyce Harris-Scott, Warren Hett, Thomas Hyde, Keith Johnson, J.C. Kelley, January Kiefer, Dale Lambert, Bonnie and Dennis “Buck” Linton-Hendrick, Theresa Mason, Janet Maxwell, Bernard McFarthing, Melvin “Tom” Reazin, Clifford “Kip” Ryherd, Rick Saylor, Karla Shafer, Dale Thiele, Cheryl Wertheimer and Bob Whitaker.

Bishop Jones honored

During the second day of the annual conference session the conference took time to honor Bishop Jones and his 12 years of ministry in Kansas and four years of ministry in Nebraska. The conference also surprised Bishop Jones with a life-size cardboard figure of himself as Superman.

UMW celebrates raising more than $1.5 million at annual dinner

More than 200 attended the Great Plains Conference UMW dinner held at First UMC in Topeka, Kansas, the evening of Wednesday, June 1. After the dinner, it was announced that this was the second year that the mission giving for 2015 was, for the second year in a row, more than a $750,000. This makes the combined mission giving for 2014 and 2015 more than $1.5 million.

Darlene Hall from the Great West District was awarded the Eunice Harrington Award. This annual leadership award, recognizes a currently serving District United Methodist Women’s officer in the Great Plains Conference, who best exemplifies the leadership and work of Eunice Harrington. The leadership award was created to honor the memory of Eunice Harrington of York, Nebraska. Eunice served from 1968 - 1972 as the president of the world’s largest women’s organization, the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Eunice was instrumental in the formation of the single women’s organization that is now known as United Methodist Women.

Editorial Policy: The content, news, events and announcement information distributed in GPconnect is not sponsored or endorsed by the Great Plains Methodist Conference unless specifically stated.

To submit a letter to the editor, send it to

want more

Want More?

our website

submit a story


my subscription



Episcopal Office: 9440 E Boston Suite 160 Wichita, KS 67207 316-686-0600
Topeka Office: 4201 SW 15th Street PO Box 4187 Topeka, KS 66604 785-272-9111
Wichita Office: 9440 E Boston Suite 110 Wichita, KS 67207 316-684-0266
Lincoln Office: 3333 Landmark Circle Lincoln, NE 68504-4760 402-464-5994