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Disaffiliation, budget top AC business

Voting at Annual Conference

Clergy and lay members will vote on various business and legislative matters at the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference, including approving the disaffiliation of 60 churches.

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Michigan United Methodists are packing their bags as they get ready to travel to Acme, MI, near Traverse City, for the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference, held June 2-4, 2023, at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. Click here for the latest schedule, including pre-conference events.

Last week’s preview article summarized worship and ministry celebrations and missional opportunities that attendees will experience. This week’s article will review legislation and various business items, including the proposed 2024 budget and the Board of Trustees’ motion to approve the disaffiliation of 60 churches leaving The United Methodist Church.

Man reading conference business
Annual Conference is a time for taking care of the legal, financial, and organizational matters of the Michigan Conference, to discuss and vote on various resolutions at the conference level. ~ MIphoto

According to Rev. Paul Perez, Director of Connectional Ministries, several serious business matters will be “tender moments” at this year’s Annual Conference. Perez notes, “During our corporate session, we will be asked to vote on disaffiliation and closure of congregations. The proposed 2024 Annual Budget reflects an over $2 million reduction from the 2023 Annual Budget and major conference staff restructuring and reductions.”

The budget realities, along with the decline in receipts from Ministry Shares, are reiterated in Rev. Brad Bartelmay’s report from the Council on Finance and Administration.

But Perez reminds us, “We are not alone in experiencing these challenges. The United Methodist Church is at a turning point. We are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are emerging from decades of denominational conflict. We are on the cusp of major generational change in our membership. We are faced with ‘doing church’ differently as the pressures of secularization and decline catch up to us. This year’s Annual Conference theme helps us remember God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, and promise to be present with us each morning as we seek to live and minister amid these changes and challenges.”

Reviewing budget
Conference budget reductions are a top business item members will discuss at the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference. ~ MIphoto

The conference theme, “New Every Morning,” and subtheme of assurance touch on powerful scriptural themes that will give balm and hope to all those tackling the challenging business items that members will discuss and vote on during this week’s annual gathering.

Rev. David Eardley, Chair of the Commission on the Annual Conference Session, echoes the conference theme and Perez’s hopefulness for the future as he reflects on the mission and ministry of the Michigan Conference during this difficult season of disaffiliation.

“My hope,” Eardley says, “in this bittersweet season of farewell, is in Jesus Christ and the conviction that God is already birthing a new vitality within The United Methodist Church. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are beginning to experience a renewal of mission and identity, formed through faithful discipleship and mission in our world. Taking John Wesley’s definition of a Methodist (Jesus’ ‘Greatest Commandment’) as our guide, we will strive to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves. How could we do anything less?”

David Eardley speaking
Rev. David Eardley, chair of the Commission on the Annual Conference Session, says this year’s theme “invites us to recognize God and God’s work in each and every season, whether it be seasons of peace or strife, seasons of blessing or famine.” ~ MIphoto

Loving God completely and loving our neighbor as ourselves is a helpful guiding principle for the legislative work placed before the Michigan Conference—every year, especially this year.

Bishop David Alan Bard reminds those considering legislation matters to come prepared to treat one another with respect. Bard says, “There are moments at every Annual Conference where we discuss a topic about which people have deep thoughts and profound feelings, and those don’t point in the same direction. I encourage us all to do our best to engage in conversation and debate that is thoughtful, courteous, and kind, even when it may also be passionate.”

Conference leadership asks voting members to download or print all materials needed for Annual Conference, including voting items, except for the program book. Conference attendees will receive a hard copy of the program book at conference registration check-in.

Woman speaking at microphone
Lay and clergy delegates come with questions and comments during the plenary sessions of legislative business. ~ MIphoto

Voting members need to review the Rules of Order that define the membership of the Michigan Annual Conference, outline the process for submitting and voting on resolutions, and guide how business is conducted during various sessions (corporate, business, clergy, etc.).

Voting members should also watch the video conference reports that have been prepared in advance. Many of these reports have legislative connections and will not be shown during Annual Conference. However, questions on these reports will be received during plenary sessions.

This year, there is only one item on the consent calendar, which passed by nine-tenths of the legislative committee, so there will be ten annual conference resolutions and one General Conference petition to work through during the plenary sessions. The legislative committee report with resolution amendments, along with the consent calendar, can be downloaded here.

Woman speaking at microphone
Diane Brown is the Legislative Coordinator for the Michigan Annual Conference, assisting Bishop Bard in the coordination of legislative business during daily proceedings. She finds the work done during the business sessions to be a highlight of our time together as a conference. ~ MIphoto

Diane Brown, Legislative Coordinator for the Michigan Annual Conference, asks voting members to prepare accordingly for the busy legislative sessions. Brown says, “We have a number of important items to address this year, including some that address General or Jurisdictional conference actions, Michigan Conference administrative items, and social justice topics. Historically, our conversations at our annual conference sessions around such issues often are spirited. We anticipate the same this year. Hopefully, everyone will do their homework to be familiar with the resolutions and our rules that guide our process, as we will need to be efficient and respectful in our debate to effectively address all of the items.”

The 11 resolutions can be organized as such:

    • Four are Michigan Conference administrative topics: R#2023-1, 2, 3, and 11. Two resolutions (R#2023-1 and 2) come from the Michigan Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits related to the Past Service Rate for the Ministers’ Reserve Pension Fund and the Housing/Rental Allowance for retired or clergy on medical leave status. R#2023-3 comes from the Michigan Conference Commission on Archives and History concerning recent cuts in funding. And one resolution (R#2023-11) from the Commission on Equitable Compensation deals with the 2024 Minimum Salary Schedule.
    • Three aspire to affirm actions taken at the November 2022 North Central Jurisdictional Conference: R#2023-5, 7, and 8. One resolution (R#2023-5) addresses the desire to support the formation of a U.S. Regional Conference. R#2023-7 affirms the resolution “Queer Delegates’ Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in The UMC.” And R#2023-8 affirms the resolution “Leading with Integrity,” which discusses disaffiliation and continuing leadership within The United Methodist Church.
    • One speaks to proposed General Conference legislation: R#2023-9. This resolution asks the Michigan Conference to support the removal of all discriminatory policies and harmful language related to sexual orientation and urges delegates to adopt petitions working to remove such language.
    • Three relate to social justice issues: R#2023-4, 6, and 10. One resolution (R#20234-4) urges Michigan United Methodists to heed a call to promote justice for Palestinians in the Holy Land. (This item of business is the only resolution on the consent calendar.) R#2023-6 asks each congregation to engage with local schools to discern needs pertinent to empowering third-graders to reach reading proficiency. And R#2023-10 asks the Michigan Conference to recognize the unborn as fully human from the point of conception.

There is also one General Conference petition related to a resolution to be added to ¶165 in The Book of Discipline’s Social Principles concerning peacemaking and the prohibition of nuclear weapons that will be discussed and voted on during the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference.

This petition, if passed, will be submitted to the Commission on the General Conference when they begin receiving additional legislation to be considered at the 2024 General Conference, scheduled for April 23–May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, NC.

Last Updated on June 7, 2023

The Michigan Conference