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2016 in Michigan Area

Michigan’s two annual conference moved toward union and offered love to neighbors near and far.

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

Looking back over the last 12 months in the Michigan Area, we see transition. It was a time of changing leadership, saying goodbye to one bishop and welcoming another. It was a time of listening and planning to live into a new identity as one Annual Conference. It was a season of responding in new ways to some new needs and needs that continued: the flood clean-up in Northwest Detroit, the water crisis in Flint, the hurricane in Haiti. There were opportunities to say, “Thank you,” and invitations to pray. Here’s how Michigan United Methodists made disciples and transformed the world in 2016.

January: Eight Water Resource Centers are organized in United Methodist churches in Flint with the help of Emergency Water Crisis Coordinator, Peter Plum. Rev. Dwayne Bagley is appointed Superintendent of the Kalamazoo District. Mark Doyal, Director of Communications for the Michigan Area is named denomination’s Communicator of the Year. The Area Design Team holds the first of six Listening Sessions that will help develop a plan to present to Annual Conference.

February: Michigan joins all congregations around the globe in a prayer initiative for the 2016 General Conference. The Michigan Area Delegation to General and Jurisdictional conferences endorses Rev. Laurie Haller and Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai as nominees for the episcopacy.

March: Rev. John Hice is appointed Superintendent of the Crossroads District. The Wesley Foundation at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo dedicated its new building and worship center as part of a “Widening the Welcome” Campaign that launched in 2009.

April: The long anticipated expansion of dining and kitchen facilities at Wesley Woods Camp moved  forward. Many Michigan congregations joined in the celebration of 30 years of Disciple Bible Study, that  deepened the faith of hundreds of people.  Michigan clergy served on the faculty of the Haiti Local Pastors Academy; the team was organized by Rev. Karl Zeigler, retired pastor in the Detroit Conference.

May: Michigan delegates, led by Nichea Ver Veer Guy (WMC) and the Rev. Charles Boayue (DC) traveled to Portland, Oregon to participate in the 11-day session of the 2016 General Conference. Michigan delegates provided leadership in legislative committees. Chelsea Spyres, young adult missionary serving at NOAH Project in Detroit, delivered the Young People’s Address alongside Peter Cibuabua from DR Congo. Michigan pastors—Peggy Paige, Jodie Flessner and Carl Litchfield—were in Portland with members of the National United Methodist Rural Advocates. Nichea Ver Veer Guy and other United Methodist Women from Michigan participated in a Rally for Clean Water that put a spotlight on Flint. After an 8-year effort The UMC celebrated the raising of $68 million for Imagine No Malaria. Michigan’s INM Field Rep, Rev. Molly Turner says, “Thank you again Michigan Area churches. We gave nearly $1.7 million and over-subscribed our goal!” The Michigan Area provided daily coverage of the event with delegate blogs, feature stories, and video interviews all made available through a GC Daily Update email. Back in Michigan Cass Community Social Services announced their $1.5 million Tiny House program. The first of 25 Tiny Homes opened its doors to the homeless in September.

June: A first in the Area … a combined session of the Detroit and West Michigan conferences took place in East Lansing. Special moments included saying goodbye to Bishop Kiesey as she prepared to move home to Iowa for retirement. Storytelling and prophetic witness by Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell, Jr. marked the Act of Repentance and Reconciliation with Native Peoples. Passionate preaching was shared by Bishops Don Ott, Deborah Lieder Kiesey, Sharon Z. Rader, and Gregory Palmer. The Detroit Conference endorsed Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue, Jr. for the episcopacy; West Michigan put their support behind Revs  Laurie Haller and Kennetha Bigham-Tsai. Responding to the pronouncement, “Let’s make history!” members approved an enabling  motion to create one Michigan Conference. Members affirmed these persons for leadership: Rev. Joy Barrett (Conference Secretary); David Dobbs (Conference Treasurer); and Rev. Ron Iris (Conference Statistician). Generosity abounded as members gave $78,823 to various causes, chief among them Haiti Hot Lunch, Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village, and the Flint Water Crisis Appeal. Later in the month Ruby Anderson, United Methodist Women from the Detroit Conference, was elected a UMW Director at the North Central Jurisdictional UMW meeting in Grand Rapids.

July: Rev. John W. Boley began service as the Clergy Assistant to the Bishop. Delegates from 11 Conferences in 9 states converged on Peoria, IL for the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Four new bishops were elected and assigned: Bishop David A. Bard (Michigan); Bishop Laurie A. Haller (Iowa); Bishop Frank J. Beard (Illinois Great Rivers); and Bishop Tracy S. Malone (East Ohio). Delegates approved the proposed joining of the Detroit and West Michigan conferences into one Michigan Conference by January 2019. Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey delivered the Episcopal Address at pulpit and keyboard and was honored on her retirement along with Bishops Jonathan Keaton, John Hopkins, and Michael Coyner.

August: Isaac Dunn, Global Mission Fellow, is welcomed at the NOAH Project in Detroit. Two women from the Michigan Area were also commissioned as US-2s: Erin Frey Kalamazoo Westwood UMC) assigned to Largo, FL and Audra Hudson (Howell UMC) now serving in   Tacoma, WA. The Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project marked the 2nd anniversary of the disaster. With the help of UMCOR and with leadership of Rev. Becky Wilson 200 families were helped to recover. Project leaders expressed hope to finish strong by helping 25 more families by year end. Gregory Timmons was named Director of the Flint Water Recovery as Peter Plum returned to secular employment.

September: Marquette Hope UMC/Connection Center becomes the first new church start on the Marquette District since 1978. Bishop David Bard announces that a Just Resolution was reached with Rev. Michael Tupper, who was under complaint having helped preside at the wedding of Rev. Benjamin and Monty Hutchison in July 2015. Fred Elmore retired after 16 years of service as Director of Camp Kinawind, Boyne Falls, MI. Shannon Priddy, baptized at Albion 1st UMC as a child, was elected President of the Board of the global United Methodist Women. She currently resides in Indianapolis, IN.

October: Hurricane Matthew strikes Haiti a devastating blow and the Michigan Area Haiti Task Force collaborates with UMCOR to aid relief and recovery. Bishop David Bard names Haiti Hurricane Relief as the 2016 Advent Offering focus for the Michigan Area. Three new district superintendents—Dwayne Bagley (Kalamazoo), John Hice (Crossroads) and David Kim (Saginaw Bay) were dedicated on October 9. (They began their service on July 1.)

November: The Design Team hosts three of four Listening Sessions gaining feedback that will help shape their proposal headed to the 2017 Annual Conference. The Board of Michigan Area Camping names two new camp directors: Ryan Culby (Lake Michigan and Albright Park) and Eric Hoffman (Wesley Woods Camp). They begin work January 2017. On November 23 the Liberia Annual Conference celebrated the gift of a multi-purpose truck from the Detroit Conference and dedicated the truck for use.

December: On December 17 the West Africa Central Conference delegates elected the Rev. Samuel Quire bishop. He was assigned to the Liberia Area and will be a partner with the Detroit Conference Liberia Task Force in carrying forth the covenant between those two bodies. Previously Quire served as Director of the Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village and Assistant to Bishops Arthur Kulah and John Innis. The Michigan Area prepares for another combined session of annual conference to be held at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, MI, June 1-4. “Gather UP” is the theme. Consultant and coach,  Rev. Susan Beaumont will be the lead teacher for the event.

2016 was a year the Michigan Area embraced new leadership even as they poured out their love for God’s people in the State and around the world. With deep trust in the Holy Spirit, the Michigan Area looks ahead to 2017.

Last Updated on December 28, 2022

The Michigan Conference