June 12, 2011


The 2011 Annual Conference of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church took place from 6/8-6/11 on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, IN. There were nearly 2,000 lay and clergy members representing the roughly 1,187 UMC churches in the state that participated in the 4 day conference of meetings, worship sessions, voting, etc.

I had the opportunity to attend as a clergy member and thought I would share some of my experience with you.

-#inumconf11 was the Twitter hashtag used for the conference. You can see a list of the #inconf11 tweets here. I am a big fan of Twitter and was excited when our conference publications talked about it being used a source of sharing information and connecting with others, though I was disappointed to see the small number of us who actually used it.

-I thought Marcia McFee did a very nice job of providing practical ways to create and practice passionate worship. She reminded us to expect that God will show up in our worship and allow His Spirit to lead. I would have enjoyed hearing more of her teaching on worship.

-I believe there should be more "teaching" and provided opportunity for workshops or breakout groups. If it weren't for the connection I made with others via Twitter, it would have been easy to get lost in the crowd.

-We talk a lot about being a "connectional" church but I'm not sure I saw much of that outside of a few conference reports. Imagine what we could do if we didn't care who, or which church, got the credit.

-This was the 3rd Annual Conference I have been to and my most enjoyable so far. Not sure if it was because I knew what to expect or knew more people or maybe both but I found it to be alright.

-The "dashboard" for Vital Congregations was previewed in our clergy session. Roughly 72% (803) of our churches in Indiana have an average weekly worship attendance of 99 or less. I pray the average weekly worship number doesn't carry too much weight in defining vitality.

-There are a lot of churches within our conference that have a ton of potential, this makes the idea of revitalization really exciting to me. How are we intentionally bringing up leaders and providing them opportunities to make this happen?

-God is big and God is present. This provides all the hope needed to be about the work of creating disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. This is the first time in over 30yrs that our conference has seen growth in membership and average weekly attendance, let's make sure we maintain this momentum by staying out of our own way and keeping our eyes focused on the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. If you attended, what did you think? If you didn't, what do you think?


John Meunier said...

Thank you for the report. I always find the worship and teaching the best parts of Annual Conference.

Scott S. Semester said...

Matt, what about elections to jurisdictional and general conference? I saw a lot of people tweeting and Facebooking about "their" candidates, and many younger United Methodists voiced dissatisfaction with the average age of those who will represent Hoosier United Methodists elsewhere... Any thoughts?

Chiyona said...

I had a great time. I made connections with laity, equalization, and clergy (those in RIM, those ordained in years passed, and retired). The connecting is hard, but not impossible.

I also went to EVERY plenary. I did not have to skip sessions to meaningfully mingle. I did skip the "overpriced" campus meals and dined away from campus with acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.

I too think this was a memorable Annual Conference. We covered a lot of business in a little time.

I believe, however, if the 800+ Clergy who were registered, checked in, and eligible to vote had come to sessions and voted, we may not have taken as long as we did to vote in delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

We need to shed this sense of "entitlement" when it comes to the business of the church. Clergy need to stop making their churches pay for Annual Conference then taking Vacations During Annual Conference Sessions.

That is fraud; unfaithful stewardship; and misappropriation of funds.

journeyman37 said...

@Scott... My observation... The thing that turned the tide for younger adults (under 35) was the report of the Young Adult/Campus Ministry leadership group, which happened between the conclusion of the GC balloting and the beginning of the JC balloting. Had this report occurred earlier-- before the GC balloting-- we may have seen a more diverse GC delegation, at least in terms of age.

If the Council of Bishops are serious about reducing the average age of United Methodists by 10 years over the next decade, perhaps they need to think about how to lead that more proactively. Certainly a start in that direction is by actively encouraging the conferences to consider younger persons for the GC delegation-- not exclusively, but inclusively.

BTW, I am not in the younger clergy category. Neither were most of us tweeting about this at the #inumconf11 hashtag.

Matt Lipan said...

John Meunier: hey John! as always, thanks for the read and comment.

Matt Lipan said...

Scott S. Semester: thanks for the comment Scott.

as a young clergy person, i would agree that the average age of delegates is a little bit older than i think is ideal. like journeyman37 (@twbe on twitter) mentioned, having the young adult report prior to voting could have helped. i also would have appreciated seeing/hearing the candidates on stage before voting began as well.

i'm not sure i can verify this but i thought i heard something about 7 of the 9 GC delegates were "endorsed" by the Confessing Movement. in my opinion, that seems fairly representative of how i guess our conference would fall on the "conservative-liberal" scale.

Matt Lipan said...

Chiyona: thanks for the read and comment.

i'm glad to hear you enjoyed AC so much. i agree w/you that the connecting can be hard at times but certainly not impossible.

despite smaller clergy numbers during some of the plenary sessions, we did get a lot accomplished in a relatively short time.

you bring up an interesting point about the sense of clergy "entitlement." i'm not sure i would equate absence in a plenary session as "fraud" but it is interesting to think about how we engage AC, especially clergy.

thanks again for being willing to share.

Matt Lipan said...

journeyman37: as always, thanks for the read and comment.

it would be interesting to see if there were more reports before voting how that might impact the delegation. maybe it wouldn't at all but i would be interested to find out.

we have got our work cutout for us if we hope to reduce the average age by 10yrs in the next 10yrs. i believe it's doable but whoa...

i was disappointed how few of us were on twitter as well as the lack of engagement from the conference's twitter account. seems like a missed opportunity. why was the hashtag not projected on the screen, ever? Or the conference twitter/fb accounted promoted, or even mentioned? direct correlation to average age of delegates??

thanks again for sharing.

Chiyona said...

Ahhh. No, I didn't mean that not attending plenary was fraud; but, having the sending church pay for the annual conference and utilizing this time as vacation and foregoing all sessions is fraud.