For the first four days of June, Edie Bogart, Konnie Grant, Reba Peterson, and I attended the Michigan Area 2022 Annual Conference in Traverse City. This was the first time in three years that we could gather in person. For the past two years we have participated in our Annual Conference by Zoom. This year approximately 1800 delegates gathered for worship, preaching, training, education, encouragement, and taking care of the administrative business needed to keep our conference moving ahead.
On the first day, eight hundred pastors gathered as our Bishop Bard fixed pastor assignments, recognized pastors that were retiring and we celebrated seventeen new pastors joining our vocation in serving The United Methodist Church as clergy.
During our Trustees Administrative Session, we recognized the closure of ten United Methodist Churches in Michigan and took action to allow four churches to leave the United Methodist Michigan Conference under the guidelines of “A Way Forward Through Reconciliation.” While it is difficult to close churches and see churches leave our denomination, it is our prayer that new and exciting ministries will happen through these actions.
In our plenary sessions, we voted to support legislation that would encourage us as a denomination, a conference, churches, and individuals to take a stance against gun violence in our country which includes enhanced background checks and reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons. We also affirmed a resolution that encourages debt relief in diverse ways in which we can, as individuals and a nation, reduce the burden of federal student loan debt. In our discussion we learned that not only is this debt draining on those who incurred such overwhelming debt, but it also effects our country, our economy and discourages many to seek higher education to improve not only themselves but also education is away to increase our country’s standard of living.
We passed a resolution to encourage writing and giving support to our legislators that would allow immigrants to have state ID’s and possibly drivers’ licenses where possible.
We also adopted a statewide campaign that will bless children in Michigan and Liberia through the “Readers To Leaders Scholarship Program.” This program is asking each of the Michigan local congregations to assist in raising funds through the Children United Methodist Defense Fund.
We also affirmed actions for the future of the United Methodist Church that included the Covenant To Build Beloved Communities, a Call To Grace, and a narrative for the continuation of the United Methodist Church which had been presented to us from the Council of United Methodist Bishops.
The last pieces of legislation that were considered and approved were the annual fixing of appointments for pastors, establishing the guidelines for clergy compensation and benefits, and approval of the 2023 conference budget of $11,608,106.00 which is a 4.1% reduction from 2022. This reduction is because of reduced revenues that many churches have experienced and as we move out of COVID-19 with the dramatic effects that COVID has had on our United Methodist Churches.
Late Saturday afternoon following our closing worship we said our goodbyes to friends who we may only have seen in Zoom gatherings but now have been able to be together and to work shoulder to shoulder as delegates representing our local churches striving to make Disciples for Jesus Christ and the Transformation of the World.
It was a blessing to gather once again as United Methodists in the Michigan Area Conference under the leadership of Bishop Bard, our district superintendents, and the many conference committees of laity and conference staff.