|Hoosier United Methodists establish new conference|
Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner consecrates communion
elements during the first worship service of the newly merged Indiana
Annual Conference in
Indianapolis. A UMNS photo by Erma Metzler, Indiana Conference.
By Matthew Oates and Daniel R. Gangler*
Oct. 6, 2008 | INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS)
Clusters and cooperation are the touchstones for a new streamlined
Indiana Annual (regional) Conference approved by more than 2,000 United
Methodist Hoosiers in a special session on Oct. 4.
The uniting of the South and North Indiana conferences comes at the
conclusion of more than two years of work by task forces and a team made
of clergy and lay members from both conferences to streamline the
administrative structure and place resources closer to local churches.
The last structural change of this magnitude in Indiana came in 1968
when the former Methodist Church and former Evangelical United Brethren
Church voted nationally to become The United Methodist Church.
The Imagine Indiana Design Team recommended the merger after membership
in both conferences dropped to half of what it was in 1968.
The team said a single conference would be more efficient and would
allow more financial resources to go to ministries and programs rather
than administration. The new conference will make extended use of
electronic communication for meetings and the distribution of news and
In his first sermon addressed to the new conference, Bishop Michael J.
Coyner asked members, “Can these bones live?” based on Ezekiel 37:1-14.
“That’s not an organizational question, it’s a spiritual question. Can
this new Indiana Annual Conference be alive? The answer is found in the
question of Ezekiel,” he said. “The answer is yes, by God’s spirit.
That’s our answer today.”
Coyner encouraged congregations to join a ministry cluster as well as
continue development of clergy cluster groups that are already springing
up across the state.
Youth from both the former North and South Indiana Annual Conferences lead
a dance for joy during the establishment
of the new Indiana Annual Conference.
A UMNS photo by Erma Metzler,
Features of the new annual conference include forming clergy into
covenant groups and organizing all 1,200 congregations into ministry
clusters of four to nine congregations for support, outreach to their
communities and accountability to the mission of making disciples of
Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The current 18 districts will be dissolved and five resource centers to support the work of 10 districts will be established.
A new conference structure will include a conference leaders team and a
new conference center in Indianapolis. The team will be led by the
bishop and includes representatives from all aspects of the conference
at the same table.
“Yes, God wants this new conference to be an effective tool for God’s
ministry. It’s up to us – but it’s not all up to us. The answer is yes,
by God’s spirit,” said Coyner. “The gentle spirit of God will make us
into the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.”
During their presentation, the 13-members of the Imagine Indiana
Transition Team encouraged Hoosier United Methodists to pray through
aspects of ministry in the new conference by focusing on a particular
part of the conference’s ministry each day of the week, beginning Oct.
This past spring, South Indiana Conference members voted 616 to 185 (or
77 to 23 percent), while North Indiana Conference members voted 730 to
192 (or 79 to 21 percent) to create a new conference. In July, the North
Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church affirmed the two
conferences’ votes and granted permission for the unification of the two
The new Indiana Conference represents more than 225,000 United Methodist
members, 40,000 children and 1,200 congregations in all 92 counties.
The largest Protestant denomination in Indiana, the church is related to
three hospital systems, three universities, three children’s homes, six
residence facilities for older adults, one half-way house, seven
retreat/camps and numerous community ministries.
Response to flood victims
Indiana United Methodists collect flood buckets for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center near Springfield, Ill.
A UMNS photo by Matthew Oates,
In preparation for the special session, Hoosier United Methodists
were encouraged to bring flood bucket and health (personal hygiene) kits
to contribute to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center near
Springfield, Ill., a ministry of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual
According to Gary Peterson of Fort Wayne, disaster response coordinator
of the North Indiana Conference, the response was overwhelming. Members
brought 430 flood buckets and more than 1,000 health kits, as well as
school items to the Indiana Area-based Operation Classroom for schools
in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Hoosier United Methodists filled a 35-foot truck from the Illinois
center. Flood buckets that could not fit into the truck were divided
among Calumet District. That district will take the kits to one of the
two United Way Volunteer Response Centers in Munster and Portage in
northwest Indiana, to assist flood survivors recovering from
mid-September flood damage.
*Oates is a correspondent for Indiana United Methodist Communication and
is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Ind.
Gangler is director of communication of the Indiana Conference.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Indiana United Methodists approve unity plan
Indiana conferences vote to unite into one conference
Methodist bishops pledge cooperation but not merger
North Indiana Conference
South Indiana Conference