Annual Conference to address matters of ministry, administration

By Amy ForbusAC2015_Final_Theme
Editor

When the 2015 Arkansas Annual Conference convenes June 14 in Hot Springs, it will face a packed agenda.

Decisions concerning the business of the church, such as apportionment formulas and health insurance, may command much of the session’s time, but so will hours of worship, prayer and, as the conference theme suggests, a call to spiritual revival.

And, as happens every four years, some of the decisions of Annual Conference involve electing delegates to other denominational conferences.

Apportionments

The Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) is presenting a resolution that, if approved, will begin move the Conference from calculating local churches’ apportionments based on their reported expenses to calculating them based upon reported revenue.

Apportionments are a denomination-wide method of giving that proportionally allocates the United Methodist Church’s budget among conferences and local churches. Each Annual Conference determines its own formula for how its local churches share in that giving. A revenue-based formula for calculating apportionments will keep apportioned giving close to a tithe (10 percent) of a local church’s income.

tithe_initiative_graphic“We will be moving to an apportionment system that is biblically-based and exceptionally transparent, as well as immediately responsive to economic changes in each local church,” said the Rev. Jim Polk, chair of CFA.

“For years we have been looking for a way to fund our connectional ministries that was both sustainable and fair for all,” he said. “I truly believe that the Arkansas Tithe Initiative will be both…. The work has been done, the pieces are in place and this is the time to change the way we support our connectional ministries.”

Registration packets for AC2015 members include detailed information on the Arkansas Tithe Initiative. The documents also may be viewed online at http://ac2015.arumc.org. In addition, a number of pre-conference informational meetings open to all United Methodists will take place around the state between May 17 and 30; see the end of this story for a complete schedule and agenda.

Insurance

This year’s report from the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (BPHB) contains a significant change: the end of Conference-provided health benefits on Dec. 31, 2015. If approved by the members of the Annual Conference, the report will mean every clergyperson and Conference staff member receiving health benefits will have six months to choose new coverage, either through a spouse’s existing coverage or on the healthcare marketplace made available through the Affordable Care Act.

As part of this change, the BPHB recommends that local churches re-route the funds currently used for insurance premiums into clergy compensation, with a minimum increase of $12,000 per year.

“For many years the insurance companies utilized a ‘pre-existing condition’ exclusion clause which made it extremely difficult for families to change plans,” said the Rev. Dennis Spence, chair of the BPHB. “We have a window of opportunity now with that clause removed to let clergy find the best plan for their families. It will also lessen the load of the churches, which have been burdened with 100 percent of the cost of ever-escalating premiums.”

Spence will address questions concerning the change at each of the pre-conference informational meetings to be held around the state. See page 9 for the schedule of meetings.

Repentance

Tuesday afternoon of Annual Conference brings a special worship service: An Act of Repentance Toward Indigenous People. Led by the Rev. Dr. David M. Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church, the service will feature the Cherokee Adult Choir and a special offering to benefit Native American ministries. It also will include the celebration of Holy Communion.

General Conference, the UMC’s highest legislative body, in 2012 held an Act of Repentance Service for the Healing of Relationships with Indigenous Persons. A General Conference resolution mandated an ongoing process to improve relations with indigenous persons through dialogue, study, and local or regional acts of repentance. The Tuesday afternoon service is part of that process in Arkansas.

Remembering, ordaining, commissioning

The memorial service honoring the lives of clergy and clergy spouses who have died within the past year will be held the Monday afternoon of Annual Conference. The Rev. Walter E. “Bubba” Smith, senior pastor of Christ of the Hills UMC, will preach.

The final night of Annual Conference features the Service of Ordination and Commissioning, with Bishop Gary E. Mueller preaching. Nine provisional members of the Arkansas Annual Conference—two deacons and seven elders—will be ordained in full connection, and seven candidates for ordination, all on elder track, will be commissioned as provisional members of the Conference. For information on those being ordained and commissioned, see this listing.

Guest preachers at other services during AC2015 are the Rev. Paul Rasmussen, Bishop Young Jin Cho and the Rev. Lisa Yebuah. For information on their preaching schedules, visit ac2015.arumc.org.

Voting

Members of the Annual Conference with voting rights will elect delegates to serve at the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Laity will elect lay delegates, and clergy will elect clergy delegates.

The work of General Conference centers on making changes to the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book; and the Book of Resolutions, which states denominational policies on social issues. Jurisdictional Conference’s primary task is to elect new bishops. Both conferences take place every four years.

The 2016 General Conference delegation from Arkansas will consist of four lay and four clergy, as will the 2016 Jurisdictional Conference delegation. General Conference delegates also serve on the Jurisdictional delegation. Jurisdictional delegates will serve as alternates to General Conference; two lay and two clergy will be selected as alternates for Jurisdictional Conference.

Those open to being elected as delegates were encouraged to submit a self-nomination form by April 15; those completed forms are now available at http://ac2015.arumc.org.

Conference officials anticipate a smoother experience for the sometimes drawn-out process of electing delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. An electronic keypad voting system will yield results faster than the ballot scanning system used four years ago and in many election years past. After exploring available options, the Arkansas Conference has contracted with Padgett Communications to provide this service.

“Padgett Communications is one of the industry leaders in audience response systems, and have worked with many other conferences,” said Todd Burris, director of administrative services and treasurer for the Conference. “They will have technicians on site to ensure all votes are counted accurately.”

The keypads will be used not only for delegate elections, but also for any matter before the Conference that requires a vote, eliminating the need for tellers to count a standing vote or secret ballot in the event of a narrow margin between the yeas and nays.


 Pre-Annual Conference meetings scheduled throughout the state

A series of pre-Annual Conference informational meetings open to all United Methodists will take place around Arkansas between May 17 and 30. Clergy and lay members of the 2015 Annual Conference are especially encouraged to attend the meeting most convenient for them.

Sunday, May 17
4 p.m., First UMC Jonesboro

Tuesday, May 19
10 a.m., First UMC Hot Springs
3 p.m., First UMC Hope

Thursday, May 21
6 p.m., First UMC Newport

Tuesday, May 26
9 a.m., First UMC Brinkley
2 p.m., Lakeside UMC Pine Bluff

Saturday, May 30
10 a.m., First UMC Russellville
2 p.m., St. James UMC Little Rock

Agenda for Pre-Annual Conference meetings

Conference Pension and Insurance
The Rev. Dennis Spence, chair of the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits, and Todd Burris, Conference director of administrative services, will be on hand to share information and answer questions concerning the potential change in how churches provide these benefits for their clergy.

Arkansas Tithe Initiative
Jim Polk, chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, and Todd Burris, Conference director of administrative services

Process for Petitions and Resolutions
Video presentation from the Rev. Will Choate, chair of the Petitions and Resolutions Task Force

General and Jurisdictional Conference delegate election process
A video message from Bishop Mueller

General Question and Answer Session
The Rev. Mackey Yokem, executive director of mission and ministry for the Arkansas Conference

Other Business

Closing Reflection

The graph above shows the combined apportionment and pension billing amount for all churches in the Arkansas Conference. Churches fall into one of five ranges of change in percentage. The red bars represent churches that will experience an increase in the apportionment and pension amount the church will pay. The blue bars represent churches that will experience a decrease in apportionment and pension payments. For a detailed report that includes how specific churches are affected, visit http://ac2015.arumc.org.

The graph above shows the combined apportionment and pension billing amount for all churches in the Arkansas Conference. Churches fall into one of five ranges of change in percentage. The red bars represent churches that will experience an increase in the apportionment and pension amount the church will pay. The blue bars represent churches that will experience a decrease in apportionment and pension payments. For a detailed report that includes how specific churches are affected, visit http://ac2015.arumc.org.