A discussion about the work of the Design Task Force and proposed changes to clergy health benefits began the 172 session of the Iowa Conference. Nearly four hundred people an orientation session at the Iowa Events Center, the site of the 2015 annual conference.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble, the resident United Methodist Bishop for Iowa declcared, “when the Conference is officially called to order tomorrow we will be United Methodists in Iowa for all the world to see as we worship, celebrate, deliberate, and decide.” He reminded those gathered “we do have a mission, which is also the theme for our annual conference – therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
“We will engage in Christian conferencing,” he said. “It means more than simply being nice to people. For early Methodists, Christian conferencing was about spiritual formation, encouraging people to serve and to follow Jesus faithfully.”
Bishop Trimble declared, “The real work of the church happens outside of this building.” As we move out into the world, in prayer and service.
Conference Lay Leader Margaret Borgen shared some thoughts about the importance of annual conference and the privilege of participation. “Participation in annual conference is a privilege that many of our predecessors did not have. Sometimes people have a cynical view about annual conference, and that view has always bothered me.” She talked about going attending annual conference in North Dakota as the president of the North Dakota Methodist Youth Fellowship. “I had such a sense that the democratic process in the church paralleled that of the nation and that it was our church, it was my church. In the worship and work I had such a sense that I was among people who wanted to follow Jesus.” She talked about her excitement about “what we can do, together, in the kingdom of God.”
Borgen also noted “laity have unique life experiences and points of view to bring to the table.” She has a deep belief that “the partnership of lay and clergy” is essential and a deep conviction that “true conferencing involves listening with both our heads and our hearts. We need to take responsibility for making our own decisions. We need to be in prayer. We need to allow space for others who may be in a different place in their journeys.”
Looking at the work before the Conference Borgen said, “I so believe that if we can approach our work with that deep sense of responsibility, that deep respect for our colleagues and a commitment to the integrity and faithfulness of our own personal decisions, then, with hope grounded in faith, our results will be the best that they can be.”
Patty LaGree, Conference Secretary, reviewed the work of the 2015 annual conference session, including electing delegates to represent the Iowa Conference at the General (worldwide) and (north central) Jurisdictional Conferences in 2016.
Members of the Design Task force gave an overview of the two-year work of the group, including the history, the substance of the proposal, and the specific recommendations that will call for conference action.
The Board of Pensions’ proposal for clergy health benefits was described in detail.
Questions were asked and answers provided regarding both the Design Task Force and the health benefits proposal.
Rev. Bill Poland, Assistant to the bishop for Administration, brought the 90-minute orientation to a close with prayer. “Loving and holy God, we are invited into this time to remember that we are a community called by you, called to be in you,. We don’t always think alike. We don’t always look alike. But, we are all always loved alike. Strengthen us aw we prepare to begin our annual conference tomorrow, and grant us peace.”
The 2015 annual conference session begins, formally, on Saturday, June 6, at 1:30 pm, following a morning laity and clergy session.