The Michigan Conference announces a new district map and the district superintendents serving those seven new districts.
On Tuesday, January 17, Bishop David Alan Bard sent an announcement revealing the new district map of the Michigan Conference, the names of the seven districts, the list of churches found within each district, and those persons serving as district superintendents.
This redistricting plan goes into effect July 1, 2023, following the retirements of the Rev. John Hice and the Rev. Dr. Jerome DeVine at the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference.
Reducing the number of districts from nine to seven was approved by the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference. A year earlier, a District Working Group had been tasked with providing a holistic evaluation of the current district structure, as the conference continues to face the financial ramifications of projected membership decline and the reduction in the number of churches due to closures and disaffiliation. As a result, the District Working Group recommended the reduction of nine districts to seven districts to the 2022 Annual Conference.
While The Book of Discipline gives the annual conference authority to determine the number of districts, the bishop is responsible for drawing the lines “to form the districts after consultation with the district superintendents” (¶415.4). Bishop Bard and the district superintendents settled on one of several models the District Working Group provided them. The map and district lines have now been set, even though Bishop Bard admitted in his announcement that “some minor changes in the boundaries and churches in each district may yet be made.”
Here is the list of the seven new districts, some general notes related to the redrawing of boundaries, and their district superintendents:
- The Northern Skies District will extend further into the northern lower peninsula. The Rev. Scott Harmon will be the district superintendent.
- The Central Bay District will extend west to include more of the center of the lower peninsula. The Rev. John Kasper will be the district superintendent.
- The Western Waters District (new name) will extend along the shores of Lake Michigan and include both the Traverse City and Grand Rapids areas. The Rev. Jodie Flessner will be the district superintendent.
- The East Winds District will now include the entire thumb area of the state and some more of the northern Detroit metropolitan suburban areas. The Rev. Dr. Margie Crawford will be the district superintendent.
- The Greater Southwest District will extend more into the south-central part of the lower peninsula. The Rev. Dwayne Bagley will be the district superintendent.
- The Heritage District will extend into the Lansing metropolitan area. The Rev. LuAnn Rourke will be the district superintendent.
- The Greater Detroit District will extend south to the Michigan-Ohio state line. The Rev. Dr. Darryl Totty will be the district superintendent.
Five of the seven district offices will remain virtual, with Greater Southwest District and Greater Detroit District continuing to have dedicated office space. This decision had already been implemented throughout the Michigan Conference’s districts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to cut overhead costs.
The forthcoming retirements of Rev. Hice, superintendent of the East Winds District, and Rev. DeVine, superintendent of the Mid-Michigan District, will allow the remaining superintendents to continue to serve in the new district plan without any additional reductions. Both superintendents will conclude their service at the 2023 Annual Conference.
Bishop Bard expressed his appreciation for their ministries as district superintendents in the Michigan Conference. “Both brought a wealth of experience and a depth of knowledge to the work of the superintendency,” he said. “Both have keen minds, large hearts, and profound souls, and yet each expresses these qualities in unique ways.”
The reduction in the number of districts and superintendents to match is something Bishop Bard and the cabinet are monitoring closely, to ensure the workload is manageable and fitting for the role. Bishop Bard said, “It is important to note that as we move to seven districts, we are thinking anew about the work of superintendency. We do not want to simply expand territory without revising the essential work of the district superintendent.”