"It’s been quite a year and a half, hasn’t it? Never could you and I have imagined what our life would be like on June 5, 2021," said Bishop Laurie Haller in her Episcopal Address and Opening Worship on the first day of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church's 2021 annual session.
Bishop Laurie went on to recall her and everyone's naivete in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "What have we learned over the past fifteen months? If nothing else, we are more convinced than ever that we are all connected in Christ and are called to watch over one another in love."
Main actions enacted by the conference
During the 2021 Iowa Annual Conference, only two items were removed from the action calendars, items 101 and 211.
Rev. Carolyn Bitner proposed an amendment to Action item #101 so that the location of the annual conference session is recommended at least two years in advance when feasible. This was approved as amended by the body.
Rev. Lee Schott made an amendment for Action Item #211. “In 2004 action by the Annual Conference Session created this pool of funding to support hands-on ministry and address needs as outlined in Matthew 25.31-46 (see pages 157-160 of the 2004 Iowa Conference Annual Journal). The funds are allocated to the districts based on a formula that takes into account the number of families living in poverty, the number of seniors, and the percentage of the population that is non-English speaking within each district. The formula is reviewed, revised, and adopted annually by the Conference Connectional Ministries Council.
All of the districts use the same application and process for determining distribution of the funds in their respective areas. Each ministry must submit mid-year and year-end reports to both the district that gave the grant and the Conference Connectional Ministries Council. The districts’ reports of how the grants were distributed are to be included in their ministry plans.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the Contingency Plan that went into effect in the first half of 2020, and with districts being realigned, solicited no Matthew 25 grant applications in the Fall of 2020 for disbursement of funds allocated to this program for 2021. However, the new districts’ Connectional Ministries Committees will undertake, as soon as practicable and before the end of 2021, the following steps:
- Allocation and disbursement of the $38,000 carryover of 2020 Matthew 25 funds that have recently been released by the Council on Finance & Administration.
- Allocation and disbursement of as much as possible of the $111,616 budgeted for 2021, subject to limitations imposed by the Contingency Plan (50%), until lifted, and any spending caps (currently 84%).
The District Connectional Ministries Committees will obtain assistance from Planning & Research to promptly update the distribution formula for the five new districts. They will determine how they can make decisions on allocating the 2020 and 2021 funds under Matthew 25. This may include allocating 2021 funds using the same process each DCMC will put in place for applications, decisions, and allocation of Matthew 25 funds approved for 2022.
The CCMCs will report on ministries receiving distribution of these funds at the 2022 Iowa Annual Conference.
CCMC approved for 2022: $111,616
This amendment details the District Connectional Ministries Matthew 25 grants and allocation of the funds that support conference ministries.
Resolutions adopted by the conference
There was a new resolution, The George Floyd Justice Policing Act which “urges church members to contact Iowa US Senators, requesting passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”
Another new resolution will add a column to the statistical reports so that starting with the 2021 reports, non-binary gender identity can be reported.
There was an update to the current resolution to the Palestine Human Rights for members of the conference to urge Congress members to support H.R. 2590 so that US tax dollars are not used to violate Palestinian human rights.
Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age
- We had two people commissioned as provisional elders. Their average age was 40.5.
- We had 8 people ordained. Their average age was 35.2.
- None received into associate membership this year.
- Total average age of those ordained and commissioned 36.2.
Number of clergy retired
- Elders: 19
- Associate Members: 2
- Total clergy: 21
- Membership stands at 140,599, down 3% from the previous year.
- In Person Worship attendance stands at 36,620, down 13% from the previous year.
- Online Worship attendance stands at 54,656, up 765% from the previous year.
- Church school attendance stands at 29,445, down 25% from the previous year.
- Received this year on Profession of Faith through confirmation: 810 —15% Decrease
- Received this year on Profession of Faith other than confirmation: 201 — 65% Decrease
- Membership restored by Affirmation of Faith: 19 — 72% Decrease
- Number of ongoing small groups, support groups, or classes offered (other than Sunday Church School): 1,610 — 24% Decrease
- Number of support groups or small groups offered for a short term only: 903 — 20% Decrease
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020: 20,403, down 21% from 2019