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Indiana United Methodists approve unity plan


Members of the United Methodist South Indiana Annual (regional) Conference discuss plans to unify with the church's North Indiana Conference.
UMNS photos by Linda Hoopes.

By Daniel R. Gangler*
June 11, 2008 | BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (UMNS)

With shouts of joy and prayers of thanksgiving, members of The United Methodist Church's South Indiana and North Indiana annual conferences approved a plan to merge the two regions into one new Indiana Annual (regional) Conference.


Youth member Ben Boruff offers an amendment to increase youth representation.

Bishop Mike Coyner of Indianapolis announced the results of votes by each annual conference during the closing session of the South Indiana legislative gathering June 7 at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington.

South Indiana members voted 616-185 on June 6 to unite with the North Indiana Conference. North Indiana members, meeting May 30 in West Lafayette, voted 730-192 for the merger.

The votes conclude 62 years of Methodist annual conference sessions at Indiana University and 40 years of United Methodist annual conference sessions at Purdue University.

In a June 9 letter to leaders of both conferences, Coyner thanked all who helped in the process.

"Thanks to all who have prayed, discussed, disagreed, and worked together to shape the plan to date," he wrote. "There are many 'next steps' to follow, but I sense the strong affirmation of both conferences for us to continue on this journey together. I pray that it will all be to the glory of God and to the ministry of Christ here in Indiana."

 
Bishop Mike Coyner

Coyner called for a special session of both conferences Oct. 4 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to finalize amendments, elect committees and begin plans for the first combined Indiana Annual Conference session, scheduled for June 25-28, 2009, at Ball State University in Muncie.

Unified voice

The merger is designed to streamline administration of the Indiana Area to bring resources closer to congregations for their support. The new structure will have five district resource centers across the state. Currently, having two annual conference centers in Bloomington and Marion and an area office in Indianapolis has resulted in administrative duplication and a need for better communication and recordkeeping. Proponents say uniting the conferences also will give Indiana United Methodists a single statewide voice.

The bishop will appoint a transition team to implement design plans. Features of the new annual conference, which was two years in design, include:

  • Forming clergy into covenant groups and all 1,200 congregations into ministry clusters for the support of and accountability to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world;
  • Dissolving the 18 districts across Indiana and establishing five resource centers to support the work of 10 districts; and
  • Creating a new conference structure and establishing a new conference center in Indianapolis.

The only major amendments to the 50-page unity document added youth and young adults to the discussion-making process of the statewide church and added more staff in youth and young adult ministries to the five resource centers across the state.

Largest Protestant group

The last such structural change of this magnitude in the state occurred in 1968 when the former Methodist Church and former Evangelical United Brethren Church voted to become The United Methodist Church.


An usher collects ballots from South Indiana members.

With 225,000 United Methodists and 1,200 congregations in Indiana, The United Methodist Church is the largest Protestant denomination in the state. Methodists first established churches in Indiana in 1801.

The denomination also is related to three Indiana hospitals, three universities, three children’s homes, six residential facilities for seniors, one halfway house and seven retreat/camps. All of these will be part of the new Indiana Conference.

*Gangler is director of communications for the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

Indiana conferences vote to unite into one conference

United Methodists consider new northeast boundaries

Resources

Indiana Area

2008 Annual Conference Reports

2007 Annual Conference Reports


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