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Design Team conversations

Another in a series of exchanges with members of the Michigan Conference Design Team.

KAY DEMOSS
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

On June 10, 2015 Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey announced the commitment of Michigan’s United Methodists to become one annual conference. She then named a Design Team that has been working since September of last year, sharpening a vision and guiding the process that will produce a plan for action at the 2017 Annual Conference.

The Design Team, made up of 27 people, brings strong passion and a variety of gifts to this task.

One of those Design Team members is Phyllis Jackson, a laywoman from the West Michigan Conference. A retired public school teacher, Phyllis currently serves as a member of the West Michigan Board of Ordained Ministry and has been active in leadership in United Methodist Women, conference and jurisdiction. Other involvements through the years include adult leadership in youth and camping ministries. Click here to read more about Phyllis and her fellow team members.

MIConnect recently asked Phyllis, “What excites you about the creation of one Michigan Conference?” Phyllis said:

“We have emphasized from the beginning of the process that this is an opportunity to create something new. My hope is that coming together will bring renewed energy around embracing our diversity. We sang all those protest songs back in the 60s and some things happened in our society. Then we became complacent with business as usual. At this time in history we can’t afford business as usual. We in the church can model what it looks like to be intentional about inclusiveness by deepening our relationships across lines of color. I especially would like to see more cross-racial appointments. Some congregations still say, ‘We are not ready for a pastor of color.’ We need to get beyond that diversion and step up efforts toward relationship and reconciliation.

“And embracing our diversity shouldn’t stop with race. I believe the new conference will provide exciting possibilities between urban and rural locations. All of us tend to be content with our familiar surroundings. But that tends to isolate us. We all need to get beyond our ‘feel-good settings.’ I think each conference can learn from each other in these areas.”

It’s time for the Michigan Area to join this conversation. The Design Team has scheduled four public sessions around the State in November and January. The purpose of these gatherings is to offer detailed proposals and to receive direct feedback. After the sessions are concluded, the Design Team will further refine the proposals for presentation to Annual Conference, June 1-4, 2017 at the Grand Traverse Resort.

Presentation/feedback sessions will be:

  • Saturday, November 122016, 10am – Noon at the Marquette Connection Center, 927 W. Fair Ave. Marquette, MI 49855
  • Thursday, November 17, 2016,  7pm – 9pm at Cornerstone UMC, 1675 84th St. SE, Caledonia, MI 49316 (to be livestreamed)
  • Saturday, November 192016, 10am – Noon at Southfield Hope UMC, 26275 Northwestern Hwy Southfield, MI 48076
  • Tuesday, January 17, 2017,  7pm– 9pm at Michigan Area Ministry Center, 1011 Northcrest Road, Lansing, MI 48906. (to be an online webinar)

Phyllis concludes: “We have talked a lot about our diversity over the years. We are not living and celebrating our diversity enough by simply having Hispanic churches, Asian churches, African American churches; that’s still separation. Now is the time to get serious and make this a priority. Let’s reach in and reach out. I once heard Bishop Leontine Kelly say, ‘We like who we say we are, but we are not always who we say we are.’ As we come together as a new Michigan Conference, I call us to be fully who we say we are.”

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