Big Changes Ahead!

 

I really enjoyed the opportunity to attend Annual Conference this year with our lay delegate, James Madere.  He was a real “student of the conference” and took notes to prepare the report below.  Thanks for your time and attention, James!  Big changes occurred this year at annual conference, so please give the report your attention.
 

 

Annual Conference 2014 report
This year’s annual conference theme was “all things new” and it has brought several new changes. In an effort to change the way our church finds and makes new disciples for Jesus Christ this year’s conference has resolved to change many aspects of the structure of the Oklahoma Conference. The biggest changes include a large shift in the budget priorities and reducing districts. I’ll briefly discuss a number of the major topics, you may contact me at jmadere@okstate.edu if you have any questions about the proceedings of this year’s conference.
This year the annual conference has approved a new budget that rearranges our financial priorities considerably. Previously the top budgeted items were the conference’s support of OCU with campus ministries behind it in second place. After lengthy discussion and prayerful consideration the delegates passed a new budget that prioritized new church starts and support for programs focusing on disciple making above all. Along with this new budget the annual conference council has been expanded to be in charge of reviewing and distributing funds in the form of “new people new places” grants. These grants are available to all congregations in the conference and are focused on programs that increase discipleship.
Annual conference has passed the motion to reduce the number of districts. Starting next year the Oklahoma conference will be reduced to 8 districts. This reduction was in reaction of the loss of churches in the past several years and a re-focusing on district strategy. Along with the reorganization of the districts is the planned change of the position of district superintendent and how individual charge conferences will be handled. The motion that was passed only set the number of districts for 2015, the full changes will be not be set until the new districts are finalized next year.
Retired clergy health benefits have been address this year as well. An audit into the health benefits for retired clergy revealed over $120 million in unfunded liability. To address this the conference had passed a motion to issue retired clergy a health reimbursement account. The accounts will start at the beginning of the 2015 calendar year. This change should address the unfunded liability and reduce some of the apportionments for health benefits.
In addition to all of the changes in the Oklahoma conference this year, many of our conference supported ministries have continued their excellent wonderful work. Work such as the United Methodist Committee on Relief helping 594 household affected by the storms such as in Moore. The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation is helping to reduce student debt for our seminary students with a 2 to 1 matching funding campaign. Here In Tulsa, Restore Hope Ministries helped over 7000 families in 2013 and have prevented over 900 people from entering homelessness. These ministries truly allow us to be the hands and feet of the risen Christ and to spread the messages of hope and compassion.
Our churches are facing a challenge in reaching out to make new disciples and the conference calls all of us to become the new church. We will need to face the challenges of finding and making new disciples for the transformation of the world with new ideas and spirit-lead enthusiasm.