On Sunday morning, Katie Reimer led opening worship and Jonah Holm from Zao MKE Church offered opening prayer. Thomas Kemper continued his Bible Study from Saturday. The Bible Study was based on Luke 10:1-11, when Jesus sends out seventy disciples in pairs.

On Saturday, Kemper had explained he saw four mission exhortations in this passage, and talked through the first one. On Sunday, he talked about the other three. The four mission exhortations were:

  1. You are like lambs in a wolf pack
  2. Travel light
  3. Accept the hospitality of strangers (and eat what they set before you)
  4. Shake off the dust from your feet

The Launch Out! team returned to the stage on Sunday to talk about the Launch Out! fundraising campaign before voting on Action Item #18. Allie Scott and Steve Scott led the presentation on the $6.8 million campaign to deepen our commitment to mercy and justice, to reach new people for Christ throughout Wisconsin, and to revitalize what God is doing in our midst. Allie explained why this initiative is necessary, saying, “As successful as many of our current ministries are, we know the needs in our state stretch the capacity of our current institutions and programs. Whether we’re in Kenosha or Kimberly, Milwaukee or Menomonie, Christ is calling us to think beyond our current institutions and reach beyond our present reality.”

In his Cabinet Address delivered on Sunday, Cabinet Dean Forrest Wells communicated that 2 Corinthians 4:7 is a favorite verse of his. He said that apostle Paul sums up “For we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Rev. Wells explained, “Treasure to many of us is stuff! But what is the treasure Paul refers to? Verse 1 of chapter 4 gives the answer: ‘Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.’ The ministry is treasure! Think of it, God has entrusted you and me to the ministry of representing God, ministers of a new covenant, of being instruments of reconciliation through the Holy Spirit; God’s very power working through us in Jesus Christ.” Wells continued, “One conviction I state without reservation is that everyone on your cabinet absolutely treasures the ministry of God that includes the call to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”

Wisconsin Annual Conference Delegate to General Conference Steve Zekoff explained the three plans delivered by the Commission on a Way Forward, as well as the Council of Bishops’ (COB) Recommendation regarding the future structure of the United Methodist Church as it pertains to LGBTQ issues. He said that the Commission on a Way Forward offered three models to Council of Bishops: One Church Plan, Traditionalist Plan and Connectional Conference Plan; and the COB recommends the One Church Plan.

Information about all three plans will be provided to the 2019 special General Conference delegates, with the full proposal to be released by July 8, 2018 when all translations are completed, he said. “The One Church Plan allows contextualization regarding human sexuality in U.S. and Central Conferences, encourages generous unity, enables UMs to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect theological convictions, removes from Book of Discipline restrictive language against practice of homosexuality, and includes assurance that Conferences will not be forced to ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexuals or pastors to perform same-sex weddings,” he explained.

Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbery, director of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI), talked about the importance of this program at the Conference on Sunday, June 17. She said, MCCI provides tools and training and resources to help churches identify their own dreams and guide them to move forward to realize dreams of doing more mission and more evangelism.” An important first-step initiative of MCCI is breakthrough prayer.

At the service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination, thirteen individuals were licensed as local pastors, four were commissioned for the work of an elder, two commissioned for the work of a deacon, three were ordained elders, and two individuals ordained in the Korean Methodist Church were recognized as Elders in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church. After the Gospel reading of Mark 8:34-38, Bishop Eduard Khegay from the Eurasia Episcopal Area gave his sermon The Way of Christ.

“Jesus says the way of Christ is full of rejection. It is a way of suffering and death,” Khegay said. He discussed what the way of Christ means in our modern life, “Today we live in a different era. At least in my country and in your country, I don’t see anybody killed or crucified because of faith. But try something like reforming your church, or try something to transform your community, and you may learn what the suffering and hostility is. I’m sure many of you have experienced that already in your ministry and your life.”

Five Action Items brought to Annual Conference during Sunday’s Plenary were approved. The General Conference Corrected Constitutional Amendment, Action Item 20, was also brought forward; the amendment votes will be reported to the Council of Bishops Office to the attention of the Executive Secretary.

On Saturday morning, Jorge Lockward led us in worship with several songs; and Sharon Cook, Coordinator of Camp, Retreat, and Age-Level Ministries, offered opening prayer. The Bible Study was led by Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, who talked about how he has enjoyed working with Bishop Jung, who is serving as President of GBGM this Quadrennium. He thanked the bishop for his leadership, and thanked the Wisconsin Conference for sharing their bishop with the General Board of Global Ministries.

Referring to Romans 12:1-2, Bishop began his address by asking, “Do we really want to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, and setting aside our own desires and designs? We talk a lot about transformation, but do we really want to be radically and fundamentally changed? But that is what will happen if we seriously discern the will of God.”

Bishop then read from Ephesians 4:1-6, and said, “This is a powerful witness: to be in Christ means to be united in Christ. In our baptism, as in our Holy Communion sharing, we become ONE in Christ, ONE with each other, and ONE in ministry to all the world. All of today’s talk about schism and division and splitting the church ignores this one abiding and overarching truth: we are ONE. Even when we disagree, we are ONE. It is time to set aside our own opinion of what the Church should be, and together, prayerfully, discern what is the will of God for our Church. We cannot achieve this alone, but only together.”

Entitled “Onward to Union,” James Droste, chair of the Wisconsin Conference Commission on Archives and History, and Sandy Kintner, Conference Historian, delivered a skit that gave insights into how the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church formed a union 50 years ago. Barbara Dick provided the background as follows. The event took place in April of 1968 at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium where representatives from both churches gathered to consummate a union based on a decade of negotiations. Dick pointed out that there were four key individuals who “stood at the headwaters of our denominational tributaries that flowed into one Church,” including William Otterbein, Jacob Albright, Francis Asbury, and John Wesley.It was also explained that the real crux of the effort in the process toward union occurred two years prior, in November of 1966 at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. Here, the delegates to the General Conferences for the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches met in adjacent ballrooms, separated by a twenty-foot corridor. For three and a half days they debated the final details of the Constitution, the Enabling Legislation, and the Plan for Union. Proposals and counter proposals were shuttled between these adjoining gatherings for the delegates consideration. For even the most dedicated delegate, as you can imagine, the continued debate became exhausting. The skit featured a conversation that “may have happened” between two Wisconsin delegates from the two Churches. Following the skit, Barbara Dick explained that the 800 plus delegates of the Methodist Conference approved union by more than 90 per cent. The vote in the EUB conference was much more dramatic. A three-quarter majority was needed, meaning if 102 of the 413 EUB delegates stood in opposition the proposed union would fail. But in the end, yea votes numbered 325 and the nay votes numbered 88, and the tally showed 79 percent standing in favor. The Wisconsin Conference celebrated the union at the “Together for 50 Years” banquet Saturday night. View script and slides here.

At Plenary on Saturday Morning, Allie Scott and Steve Scott gave a presentation on the Launch Out! fundraising campaign. Action Item #18, “Resolution to Authorize the Launch Out! Fundraising Campaign,” will be voted on Sunday morning. Launch Out! is a $6.8 million campaign to fund “a dream for the future” of the Conference. That total includes $2.92 million for developing new ministries, $2.48 million for mercy and justice ministries, $1.15 million for revitalization of current ministries, and $250,000 to pay for the campaign.

Deana Shimko, Lay Leader for the Conference, delivered the Laity Address on Saturday, June 16 at the 2018 Annual Conference. She began her presentation echoing the theme of the Annual Conference, “We are One With Each Other!” She talked about the importance of unity. She said, “God calls us to unity of purpose.”

“Unity is a powerful virtue and it brings great strength,” Shimko explained. “Unity is inclusiveness. It brings people together. We see our commonality without devaluing our differences. We experience our connectedness with all people and all life. Unity frees us from the divisiveness of prejudice and heals our fears. We refuse to engage in conflict, seeking peace in all circumstances. Unity comes when we value every person in our family or in our world. The joy of one is the joy of all. The hurt of one is the hurt of all. The honor of one is the honor of all.” She told the Conference to imagine the future of our world when we have unity of purpose.

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 Wesley Board of Oshkosh 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: Lisa Jones and Mary Beth Schlagheck
  • Love in Action Award was given to Lianna Daniels in recognition of her excellent ministry through disaster response, relief and recovery.
  • Harry Denman Evangelism Awards were given to three people practicing evangelism in their everyday lives and through the church: Jennah Harrington, Youth; Rev. Scott Carlson, Clergy; and Steve Mayeshiba, Laity
  • Thelma Gregg Mission Award was given to Lianna Daniels for demonstrated Christian commitment in tireless promotion of the missionary outreach of the Church.
  • Lois C. Olsen Ministry of Memory Award was given to Rev. Anthony J. Farina for his excellence in archival and historical work in local churches and our Annual Conference.
  • One Matters Discipleship Award was given to Sugar River UMC/Rev. Dr. Gary Holmes

The Conference Strategy Board (CSB) has the responsibility to plant new ministries, in new places, for new people. CSB Chair Julie Wilson highlighted many of the accomplishments of the board in the Saturday session of Annual Conference. In the last seven years (2012-2018), 25 new ministries have been started. The Conference Strategy Board currently supports 17 new ministries. For leadership development, 54 clergy and laity graduated from the Institute of Congregational Development (ICD) from the 2015-2018 session. Eighteen participants will graduate in December.The Spanish version of ICD, Instituto de Desarrollo Congregacional (IDC), was started last September, and this year, 40 participants are graduating.

On Saturday evening, the Commission on Archives and History (CAH) hosted the “50 Years Together” Banquet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union between the Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church to form The United Methodist Church at the historic Uniting Conference in Dallas, Texas in 1968. After dinner was served, the Rev. Dan Dick, acting as host for the banquet on behalf of CAH, introduced the panel of people who would be presenting throughout the program: Bishop Donald Ott, the Rev. Donald Fenner, Bishop Linda Lee, the Rev. Christine Bethke, and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung.

Dan joked, “We are here to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of a marriage that some thought would never work…It took time: there was courtship, there was dating. The couple didn’t always like each other.” On a more serious note, he said that despite their differences, “They held onto their common heritage and their mutual respect for the vision of John Wesley. What made their union much more likely was their commitment to evangelism, global missions, and social justice. These two organizations decided that the things they had in common were so much more important than the things they disagreed on.” He then introduced the video “1968 Uniting Conference,” the first of several videos that the CAH created for the evening. The video contained footage from the historic 1968 Conference.