Did you lose an item at Annual Conference 2017? Take a look at the picture below to see if any of the items could be yours. If they are, call Kellye Walker-Pontius at (608) 837-7328 to claim them.

The 2017 Annual Conference was blessed this year with a “pick up” worship ensemble, staffed by volunteers from various congregations from around the state. Working alongside guest worship leader Dr. Marcia McFee, this group provided musical inspiration and leadership for the four worship services. Tim Karth said, “It is a joy to share the names of these musicians and celebrate their commitment, accomplishment, service and gifts to this year’s Annual Conference. This creative collaboration is definitely a representation of the theme “One In Christ”.

2017 Worship Ensemble

  • Pastor Justin Lowe-Piano/Vocals--First UMC, Kenosha
  • Matt Starika-Jolivet-Vocals--Director of Creative Ministries, Sun Prairie UMC
  • Denise Utter-Vocals--Logos H.S. Leader, Sun Prairie UMC
  • John Haas-Bass Guitar--Ministry Council Chair/Lay Member, Still Waters Community UMC, Jackson
  • Holly Taylor-Flute--Lay Member, Parfreville UMC
  • Mary Keuhn-Guitar/Vocals--Choir Director/Song Leader, First UMC, Tomah
  • Pastor Norman Bude-Guitars--Evansville UMC
  • Tim Karth-Drums, Horns, Vocals, Piano (Laity Session)--Choir Director/Lay Leader, Wauwatosa Ave UMC

In his State of the Church Address, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, said that the Church is in a turbulent and chaotic time. But he said “Now is a critical time for us to answer loud and clear, “Yes, Lord, we have faith!” He explained, “This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It is a powerful reminder that the Church has weathered turbulent times in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.”  At this time, he said, “it is imperative that we raise our voice together – one with Christ – to proclaim our faith. As so many in the world seek to divide, we open our hearts, minds, and doors to bring all brothers and sisters into the family of God.”

Bishop said, “Certainly, we still experience the storms. There is a storm in our Church over sexual orientation and gender identity.” But we have faith that our Commission on a Way Forward, formed at the last General Conference to guide us through the storm, will serve us well, he said. According to the Bishop, there are other storms in our Conference. “But I believe Christ is helping me be the shepherd for our leaders; to help them navigate the waters when they get stirred up,” he said.

We have proven our faithfulness in what we accomplished in our Fund for Discipleship, the expansion of our camp facilities, and our Imagine No Malaria campaign, Bishop said, “and I have no doubt we will rise to the occasion to fund vital mission and ministry in the future.”

At the service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination, Bishop Jung encouraged those participating to remember several main things: first, that the mystery of “One with Christ” expresses the ultimate desire for our life and ministry; second, to remember your role as a servant leader; and third, to work together for unity.

Bishop read several passages from the Gospel of John, and talked about how they reminded him of love letters he wrote to his wife Im before they were married. “John’s Gospel are love letters from God,” he said. “My letters invited Im to become one with me. John’s Gospel invites us to become one with each other, with Jesus, with God.”

“John goes to extremes. According to him, we’re one with each other, one with Jesus, one with God. We can no longer live as though each other’s lives were of no concern to us. We who follow Jesus are connected because God has brought us together.” Just as Bishop and Im are now connected for eternity, he said, “We’re connected to God, to Jesus, to each other. Our lives are connected – whether we like it or not.”

Bishop Jung also talked about the stoles that the ordinands received, and how they represent the symbol of a towel. “When I was ordained, I saw myself as a servant; a servant of servants of God. This is still my definition of ministry. My prayer, as we meditate Jesus’ Prayer, is a radical version of discipleship for you. In this vigorous act of hope, you will be a servant for all, daringly transposed into a vison of astonishing inclusiveness by restoring community in every place in Wisconsin.”

“This past year in July, we were delighted and thrilled at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference consecration service of the five new bishops when the appointments were read and we found out that Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, our Beautiful Bishop, and his lovely wife Im were returning for another quadrennium to serve with us here in the Wisconsin Conference.

“In October, along with the Bishop and Im, the Cabinet and other leaders of this great Conference traveled to Korea for a Spiritual Pilgrimage, and to spend some time with the Dongbu Conference, our sister Conference. What a spiritual revival we experienced! We attended early Morning Prayer time and worship, received training, which consisted of the history of the Korean Methodist Church, and the various missionaries who served in Korea. We preached, prayed, shared our faith, visited Bishops home town, met his uncle, spoke at an international conference, and we even spent time in the homes of members of our sister Conference.

Julie Wilson, Conference Strategy Board (CSB) chair, reported on what the CSB is doing to reach new people. She said the CSB is currently supporting 24 new ministries, and in the last five years, 15 new ministries in 15 new places with 15 new people have been launched. Additionally, two new faith communities have started since last Annual Conference: Zao MKE and Sparta Hispanic Ministry.

“We plan to continue growing,” Director of Congregational Development Jorge Luis Mayorga said. “We continue encouraging local congregations to continue growing, and plant new ministries that can connect people in communities to God. We must shift our thinking of just fixing churches to encouraging churches to have the passion to plant new ministries.” He said the CSB hopes to plant five new faith communities in the next quadrennium – at least one in each of our five districts. He hopes to work with ethnic caucuses throughout the state to identify new areas for ministries.

One of the ways the CSB trains and equips leaders is through the Institute of Congregational Development (ICD).  Jenny Huffman, ICD Coordinator, reported that 26 participants graduated from the ICD in 2016, and 28 more will graduate in July. The third ICD class will start in January 2018, and the first-ever Spanish-language ICD, Instituto de Desarrollo Congregacional, will begin in September 2017. Click here for a brochure with more information on ICD.

“All this can only happen with your prayers and financial support,” Mayorga said, adding that 30% of our apportionments will support starting new ministries and congregational revitalization. Bishop Jung said, “Pray for them as we start 100 new churches. This is our dream for Imagining Wisconsin Anew.”

Click here to see the presentation slides.

Amanda Stein and Randy Chapin, co-chairs for the Make A-New Wisconsin task force, presented the results of the year-long feasibility study for a major financial campaign in the Wisconsin Conference.  The James Company and Make A-New Wisconsin task force are recommending a second year of the study, to be completed within the original $60,000 budget established at the 2016 Annual Conference. Action Item #24, the resolution to continue the study, was approved during Sunday’s plenary.

“There is support for the vision and an eventual financial campaign,” Stein said. “But we heard you, loud and clear, that we are not ready. Wisconsin has a heart for service, and connecting with those in need. We are proposing another year of work without additional cost to you. We need to better establish this vision.”

Chapin and Stein explained that during the 29 listening sessions, and 92 one-on-one interviews, the task force gathered feedback and suggestions about the proposed financial campaign. Leaders met with the James Company in April to discuss the results, and prepare a recommendation to the 2017 Annual Conference.

“The task force has heard you: we need to listen and work with you, and light a fire underneath what is currently lukewarm support for the campaign,” Chapin said. “No silver bullet will magically eliminate the hardships we’re facing in our local congregations and Conference. An aging population and shrinking budget are challenges we face. By God’s help and continuing to work together, we can continue to change the trajectory.”

The James Company believes the Wisconsin Annual Conference is positioned to undertake a $5 million financial campaign over a five- year period, to fund critical priorities and build capacity for the financial health of the congregations and the Conference. A yes/no recommendation will be presented to the 2018 Annual Conference.

Click here to see the slides from the presentation with more information about the feasibility study and vision for the financial campaign.

Rev. Steve Zekoff, Conference Benefits Officer, delivered a report from the Conference Delegates to the 2016 General Conference stating that their work is not done. He said, the only other time this has happened since the 1968 union of the EUB and Methodist churches was in 1970, an intentionally scheduled special session to act on organizational details for the newly united denomination.

When we were in Portland a year ago, Rev. Zekoff continued, the General Conference was unable to complete consideration of legislation related to human sexuality, due to deeply conflicted differences in views and theological understandings about the proposals. “When the entire legislative process of General Conference came to a halt, the delegates requested that the Council of Bishops (COB) establish a Commission on a Way Forward to prepare recommendations for the COB, who would then bring a report to the General Conference for action,” Zekoff said. A special session has been called for Feb 23 – 26, 2019 in St. Louis with the purpose of acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward. The 2019 Special Session cannot take action on other legislation.

Action Items 11-28 and one motion were brought to Annual Conference during Sunday’s Plenary. Seventeen were approved; some amended. One was ruled out of order. A motion presented Friday to amend the budget was also ruled out of order. Specific amendment information will be published in the Conference Journal. The General Conference Amendments to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church, Action Item 25, was also brought forward; the amendment votes will be reported to the Council of Bishops Office to the attention of the Executive Secretary.

The following individuals were recognized for their commitment to advancing missions and evangelism in Wisconsin and around the world with the following awards:

  • Francis Asbury Award was given to Diane Schumacher for excellence in campus ministry.
  • Perry Saito Awards were given to two people/groups in recognition of their commitment and dedication to ministries of compassion and social justice: Donna Veach, Laity; and Kenosha: First UMC.
  • Love in Action Award was given to Tom Rossmiller in recognition of his excellent ministry through disaster response, relief and recovery.
  • Harry Denman Evangelism Awards were given to two people practicing evangelism in their everyday lives and through the church:  Deb Nulhern, Laity; and Jason Mahnke, Clergy
  • Thelma Gregg Mission Awardswere given to Gwen and Bill Gibson for demonstrated Christian commitment in tireless promotion of the missionary outreach of the Church.

Bishop also recognized Paul Webster for his years of dedicated service as a missionary at Mujila Falls, Zambia. Additionally, Gail Burgess, Interim Chair of the Wisconsin Board of Global Ministries congratulated the 18 churches who participated in the Rainbow Covenant, an opportunity to support missions locally, nationally and worldwide. Click here to see a list of those churches.

Each year at Annual Conference, the Commission on Archives and History celebrates length of service to The United Methodist Church at the points of 25 years, 50 years, 60 years, and 70 or more years.  The years are counted from the time an individual was first “On Trial,” or from the date of their first appointment in The United Methodist Church or one of our predecessor denominations. This year, the Commission recognized 26 clergy for varying years of service, including nine with 60 or more years, and three with 70 years or more: Alvin L. Briggs with 70 years, George Wesley Buchanan  with 73 years, and Marvin A. Schilling with 80 years. Click here for a complete list of the Length of Service honorees.

During his Saturday sessions, Adam Hamilton shared tips for improving worship that he has learned over the years of leading worship every week at Church of the Resurrection.

He talked about intentional discipleship and asked, “What is a disciple? What does one look like?” He said every church should have a clear picture of discipleship, and define goals to help them reach people in any stage of their faith journey.

Hamilton said the purpose of worship is to help people have a spiritual encounter with God, but most people don’t expect it because it doesn’t happen very often. He then walked through the beginning of a worship service at Church of the Resurrection, and identified some of the ways their worship services help people encounter God. This includes being high energy, not being afraid to change words in hymns, or explain what they mean before singing them, and inviting everyone to the communion table.

When it comes to preaching, Hamilton said sermons should teach people something they didn’t know before. “I use maps and charts in my sermons,” he said. “I’m looking for one thing I can teach them.” He added that good preaching is interesting and heart-touching. “Talk about hope. Ask your members to respond and act on your sermon.”

“Our theme for this Annual Conference is One with Christ. This is a very big statement indeed when we attempt to apprehend the “allness” of it. I believe it calls us into places we have not dreamed about yet. At our Friday evening session of Bishop’s Convocation of Laity Leadership in March, we talked about “imagination” as in Imagine Wisconsin Anew. An active imagination is key, as in thinking out of the box. But it is much more than that. I think imagination is one of the most underutilized, under-exercised God-given gifts, especially in our service to God. I suspect that to imagine freely involves surrender – surrender to God. This is where it becomes a matter of not my will, but your will, O Lord. We talk about God-sized dreams in our Conference; I think that “Imagine Wisconsin Anew” is about God-sized dreams. And I think “One with Christ” is about God-sized dreams. It is our hope. It is our salvation! It is the Kingdom come!

Rev. Steve Zekoff, retiring Conference Benefits Officer, preached during the Retiree Recognition and Worship Service on Saturday afternoon. He spoke on the theme of “Good Bye Tension; Hello Pension” and read from the scripture Hebrews 12: 1 - 2a NRSV. Rev. Zekoff said that “Over the decades, I have become increasingly conscious of what makes up my personal version of what Bishop Talbert refers to as the American tossed salad.”  Rev. Zekoff described his lineage as being a “stew” of Bulgarian, Suedo Finnish, Manx, and lower class English. He reminded all that some of the discrimination that early 20th century immigrants experienced is being faced again by those entering the U.S. today.

In addition to his ethnic DNA, he explained that the Church is also part of his DNA. “Overlaying my stew of ethnic identities has been my life in the Body of Christ as manifested in The United Methodist Church. We all have a stew,” he said.  Zekoff explained that your retired status cannot remove the essence of being a UM clergy. “For any of us to believe that our part of the Body should be removed is to deny the contributions we made.” Those retiring represent over 450 years of service. All contributing an important part to what makes up the Body of Christ, he said.

Several Action Items and one motion brought to the floor were presented to Annual Conference during Saturday’s Plenary. Click here for more information about the action items.

Action Items 8, 9 and 10 were presented to the Annual Conference by the Joint Board of Pensions, Insurance & Equitable Compensation. The three Action Items regarding Past Service Annuity, Minimum Conversation, and Comprehensive Benefit Funding Plan were all approved by the Conference. Click here for more information about the Action Items.

Sharon Cook, Director of Camp, Retreat, and Age-Level Ministries celebrated a successful spring youth leader training that saw participants from all five districts. She also commended the hard work and dedication of the 13 youth delegates to Annual Conference.

She and Bill Busch also presented recent research done recently at ELCA Lutheran camps in Southwestern Wisconsin at sites very similar to Pine Lake and Lake Lucerne. "Camp does not appear to cause lasting change in general belief or agreement with doctrinal statements, but has clear and lasting impacts on campers’ understanding that faith matters and the communal elements of faith are important," Cook said. "The theological depth of camp, it turns out, lies not in doctrine, but rather in connecting young people to Christian community, fostering increased devotional practices, promoting faith conversations, and providing experience-based evidence that faith is relevant in everyday life."

Click here to see the PowerPoint sildes from their presentation.