Healthy Conference Initiative From the Bishop

Iowa Conference Alignment Update - March 19, 2018 - LINK

Grace and peace! As we journey through the season of Lent and approach Palm Sunday and Easter, leaders in our Iowa Annual Conference have been diligently praying about our ongoing staff alignment, engaging in holy conferencing, and taking next steps. I am writing to give you an update on our progress.

  1. In February, we invited conference clergy to submit names of clergy who might be qualified to serve as our new Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence, and clergy or laity who might be qualified to serve as our new Director of Congregational Excellence. After consultation with the appointive cabinet and a lay/clergy Review Team, I am very pleased to let you know that I will be appointing Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck, Lead Pastor of Broadway UMC in Council Bluffs, to this position beginning July 1, 2018. Lanette has a long history of fruitful and innovative ministry that transforms lives and strengthens congregations.
  2. I’m also excited to announce that I will be appointing Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson, currently Field Outreach Minister for the South Central District, to be the new Director of Congregational Excellence beginning July 1, 2018. For the past four and a half years, Jaye has very effectively served congregations throughout Iowa in the area of congregational vitality through the Healthy Church Initiative and has made this area of ministry his specialty. 
  3. In addition to their specific responsibilities, Lanette and Jaye will collaborate with our Director of New Communities of Faith, Rev. Bill Poland, to formulate a strategy for clergy and congregational excellence that aligns with our new mission, vision, 2019 Iowa Conference goal, and strategic priorities. They will also work with the current Field Outreach Ministers, who will become Interim Associates of Congregational Excellence over the next year as we transition to four Associates.
  4. Rev. Karen Dungan, who has served passionately and effectively as our Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries for eleven years, will finish her ministry in this role later this month. I thank Karen for her faithful service and commitment to the ministry of the Iowa Annual Conference.
  5. Beginning April 1, 2018, Rev. Jerry Oakland, retired clergy in the Iowa Annual Conference, will serve as a transitional Director of Connectional Ministries on a part-time basis while our Bishop’s Operational Team determines how these responsibilities will be cared for moving forward.
  6. Interim Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, Rev. Dr. Bob Burkhart, and Appointive Cabinet Dean, Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie, will shepherd the ongoing staff alignment. This work includes the development of appropriate on-boarding plans for new staff members, defined as the integration of new staff members into the Conference and its culture.   
  7. We are working closely with the Conference Council on Finance and Administration around the financial implications of this staffing alignment. We do know that the July 1 staffing changes will not increase the approved 2018 budget, and a small decrease in the overall staffing cost through December 31 is anticipated. The newly aligned structure reflects a missional Iowa Annual Conference committed to the faithful stewardship of our resources and a focus on our strategic priorities. Salary and benefit projections for future years indicate greater savings after the new structure is fully implemented. 

Thank you for your partnership in ministry as we seek to live out our vision to be God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people; and our mission to inspire, equip, and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Laurie

Next Steps in Alignment for the Iowa Annual Conference - February 26, 2018 - LINK

The Iowa Conference has been on a journey towards greater health for the past several years. From the adoption of our strategic priorities in 2014 to the approval of the Conference mission and vision in 2016, operational teams across the state have worked diligently to align our systems and structure to create and support vital communities of faith and transformational leaders. The healthy process implemented through these operational teams has equipped our leaders and our local churches to adapt and thrive in our current and ever-changing ministry environment

Most recently, the Aligning Resources Team, the task group assigned with aligning the Conference staff to our priorities, mission, vision and goals, brought their staffing recommendations to the Bishop's and Cabinet Operational Teams on January 31, 2018. The Cabinet Operational Team and Bishop’s Operational Team share overall responsibility for the staff alignment process. After a time of reflection, prayer, and input from others, it was determined by consensus to implement the following recommendations proposed by the Aligning Resources Team:

Three positions have been created to direct the work of new faith communities, revitalization, and leadership development as outlined in our strategic priorities:

  • Director of New Faith Communities
  • Director of Congregational Excellence
  • Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence

The Rev. Bill Poland assumed the position of Director of New Faith Communities beginning January 1, 2018, and the other two director positions will be filled in time for a July 1, 2018 start. The job descriptions for the Congregational Excellence and Clergy and Leadership Excellence are available for review on the Conference website at: 

Bishop Laurie will be accepting names for consideration as she prepares to appoint/assign the two new directors. Qualified candidates must possess the following experience and qualities: demonstrated fruitfulness in a ministry setting, emotional intelligence, flexibility, excellent listening skills, strategic thinking, a strong sense of connectionalism, collaboration, team building skills, and servant leadership. If you have suggestions about clergy you believe have the gifts to serve in either of the director roles, or if you would like to nominate yourself, please use the following links by March 9, 2018:

Beginning July 1, 2018, the current Field Outreach Ministers will become Interim Associates of Congregational Excellence, reporting to the Director of Congregational Excellence. The Field Outreach Ministers currently hold the responsibility of congregational revitalization across the Iowa Conference, and a transition plan will be developed with the help of existing staff. Interim Associates will work closely with local churches through the transition and implementation of a congregational excellence strategy. The transition will be completed by July 1, 2019, with the hire of four Associates of Congregational Excellence.

Effective July 1, 2018, the responsibilities of our current Assistants to the Bishop will be merged into one Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Connectional Ministries position. A survey of other UMC conference structures encouraged the Aligning Resources Team to recommend this shift in our current structure. Bob Burkhart, Interim Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, and Harlan Gillespie, incoming Assistant to the Bishop, will work with current staff and related boards and agencies to develop and monitor a transition plan. 

As we continue this journey of transformation for the health of the Iowa Conference, information will be shared in a timely manner and through a variety of communication channels.

Many thanks to all of you for your faithfulness and commitment to being the Difference Makers in and around our world!

Bishop Laurie

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