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The proposed Strategic Priorities were introduced to the Conference during a presentation on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking on behalf of the Strategic Priorities Task Force Rev. Brian Milford, Dean of the Bishop’s Appointive Cabinet said, “The task group was convened by Bishop Trimble in response to a Financial Accountability Report conducted for us by the general church last fall.” He named the participants, in addition to himself: Karen Dungan (Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries), Todd Weber (Treasurer), Art McClanahan (Communications), Dave Decker (Conference Lay Leader), Richard Braley (Chair of Planning and Research), Phil Carver (FOM SE District) and Katie Dawson (Imagine No Malaria).
Rev. Milford described the shared mission of the Annual Conference, which is “to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” He said that “priorities” was an intentionally chosen word – “We have intentionally chosen to propose PRIORITIES instead of a detailed strategic plan because we believe priorities will help us navigate the rapid changes that we are currently experiencing in the church and in the culture at-large.”
“We have heard many of you express your hopes and desires for United Methodists in Iowa,” he noted, “from our New Places for New People conversations, to committee and district conversation and online forums.” Out of those conversations three priorities were created which “capture the essence of those Holy Spirit inspired conversations, we believe they are faithful articulations of our shared hopes and dreams as we imagine a faithful church and a healthy world. These priorities will help us stay focused on our shared vision and common mission.”
“We have invited four persons to speak with you,” he said, “about how they see these priorities informing their life and ministry in the conference. They have not served on the task force, but have been reflecting on our work in preparation for this presentation. “
Nitza Dovenspike, a lay member of First UMC, Indianola and member of the Conference Connectional Ministries Council and Conference Hispanic Ministries Standing Committee, spoke about “what the strategic priority of creating world-transforming communities of faith mean to me.” She reflected on a time when she felt deeply connected to her community of faith and why it was personally important to her. She invited the Conference to “Imagine a vibrant community of faith; imagine an inviting and engaging community of faith; imagine communities of faith across the state of Iowa that welcome and extend Christian love to young and old; rich and poor; new arrivals in the city or town and long-time residents. Imagine your church being that community of faith.”
Rev. Lanette Plambeck is the pastor of First UMC, Atlantic Iowa. She directs the Residence in Ministry Program of the Board of Ordained Ministry and serves on the executive committee of that board. She was “pleased the strategic priorities before our annual conference challenge us to spend intentional time in ministry in our communities, especially alongside the least, the lost, the lonely, the left out, the let down, the overlooked, and the looked through. By getting our feet on the ground in the neighborhoods of this Conference – we create opportunities for ministries of justice and mercy to emerge. Ministries that celebrate recovery; – ministries where after-school programs are changing lives and giving hope – ministries between churches and community agencies serving returning soldiers, the immigrant, and those living on the margins.”
Rev. John Louk serves as the pastor of Salem UMC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is a member of the Communications Advisory Team. He said that two-way communications is “the kind of effective partnership we want to move towards between our local faith communities and Conference coaches and representatives.” He also indicated “The Communications Advisory Team, of which I’m a part, will do some intentional listening in the coming months so we can hear from you what kind of communications help is needed.” He added, “Our communications strategies and efforts are for the purpose of engaging with one another and with the world around us and sharing the story of what God has done in Jesus Christ and continues to do in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to save us and God’s good creation.”
Craig Liscum is the Business Administrator of Marion First UMC and serves as vice president of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. “We need to go back to some of the basic teachings,” he suggested. “One of them is stewardship. The revival of this teaching is vital to the financial health of the Conference. One of the things that needs to occur with this, is that we need to help each other. We need to reach out to those congregations whom are struggling with this and help…we need to be more connectional! We all need to be proactive in helping our neighbors by identifying our neighbors whom are in need… and HELP. Let us help our churches budget and financially plan.”
Table talk provided an opportunity to respond to some of the questions and ideas raised by each of the four presentations and the introduction to the Strategic Priorities. Conference members were invited to respond with written suggestions as well as electronically-on the Conference website, Twitter (#IACpriority) and on Facebook.
Rev. Milford concluded the report by saying, “Friends, we hope that some part of these strategic priorities stirs your heart and sparks your imagination. Again, we see this as the beginning, not the end of a critical and urgent conversation as we move forward together with Christ as United Methodists in Iowa. We hope you will continue this conversation in your local congregations and all communities of faith, committees, boards, agencies, district gatherings and coffee shops. Take the priorities home with you, share them with others and join us in trusting that the Holy Spirit will prevail!”