Daily Digest – Saturday, June 1
One resolution passes, one fails on the final day of Annual Conference

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

On a day that’s typically on the lighter side for business, the Arkansas Annual Conference had to modify the agenda at the last minute to fit a few necessary business items into the last day of Conference.

The first resolution of the day was presented by the Rev. Katie Pearce and proposed a raise in the amount of weeks that clergy are afforded for vacation time. Currently, most clergy are given two weeks of paid vacation for the first five years in the conference and four weeks after 10 years.

The Rev. Katie Pearce makes the case for a resolution that would increase clergy vacation time.

The resolution aimed to raise the vacation time to four weeks for all clergy, no matter the amount of years spent in the Conference.

The resolution was noted to be non-binding — meaning that if it passed, no church or SPRC would be required to implement the policy — but Pearce noted that it was more of a way to encourage the increase in vacation time, not mandate it.

The Rev. Chase Green, senior pastor of Primrose United Methodist Church, in a speech in favor of the resolution noted that while attending Wesley Theological Seminary, he learned that self-care and soul-care are essential for a healthy pastor and a healthy congregation.

A few others, speaking against the resolution, said that this kind of policy is already in place in many SPRC’s, but laity and clergy need to learn to work together to make sure it gets implemented.

After taking a vote on the resolution, the increase in paid vacation time for clergy was adopted.

The second resolution of the Conference was submitted by a group of Central District pastors and laity, and called for the immediate suspension of the United Methodist Church motto “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors,” in light of the decision at General Conference 2019 to maintain the Book of Discipline’s current stance on human sexuality.

Kyle Forehand of Pulaski Heights UMC noted that this resolution is not calling for the permanent suspension of the motto, but only a temporary one and could be reinstated if the denominations stance on human sexuality were to change.

Others, such as the Rev. Clayton Bulice of Hazel Edwards Memorial UMC, said that the adoption of this resolution is unnecessary since his church and many others in the Arkansas Conference still follow the idea behind “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

Still others shared personal stories of family members and friends who have felt hurt after the adoption of The Traditional Plan at General Conference.

The Rev. Angie Gage, senior pastor of Cherokee Village UMC, said she has a 25-year-old daughter who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Her daugher has been to churches where she has been snubbed because of who she is, and therefore she supports suspending the motto.

After a vote, the resolution failed to pass, 201 (37.85%) in favor to 330 (62.15%) opposed.

The Arkansas Chapter of The Methodist Federation for Social Action presented the Lucy Foster Award to Harold Hughes of Quapaw Quarter UMC.

From left to right: Harold Hughes, recipient of the Lucy Foster Award, Bishop Gary Mueller, and Carol Roddy.

The Lucy Foster Award is given to one Arkansas United Methodist each year who demonstrates a concern and care for social justice in their communities. The award was presented by Kyle Forehand, who is the great-grandson of the awards namesake.

After a contentious introduction the day before to a proposed $3.2 million purchase for a new church start in Centerton, the body of voters at the Conference were given a change to ask questions about the deal and raise any concerns they had.

The new church start is located at a soccer complex near the middle of town. The 45-acre plot of land is made up of multiple soccer fields and an indoor practice facility that will be converted into the new building for The Vine Church.

Arkansas voting members raised concerns about the facilities proximity to another fairly new United Methodist Church in Centerton, Living Waters UMC.

Todd Burris (left) and Stephen Coburn (right) explain the new church start and land purchase in Centerton, Arkansas.

The new church will be about two miles away from Living Waters.

The Rev. Stephen Coburn, Northwest District Superintendent, and Conference Treasurer Todd Burris answered questions related to the land purchase, and assured the body that a written report from the Board of Trustees will be sent to members of the Conference sometime after the conclusion of this year’s event.

After the Rev. Rodney Steel made a motion to vote on approving the purchase of the Centerton property, the motion passed by a slim margin, 52.01% in favor and 47.99% opposed.Due to a lack of time left in the agenda, the reading of this year’s appointments was shortened but those interested will be able to read the full list of 2019 appointments on the Conference website at a later date.

Daily Digest – Friday, May 31Final Delegate Elections, Youth Address, and the Ordination Service

Daily Digest – Friday, May 31
Final Delegate Elections, Youth Address, and the Ordination Service

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Final Delegate Elections

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference delegation, as well as alternates, were completed during today’s business sessions. After several rounds of voting, the final ballot was lay ballot number 16.

Asa Whitaker, who was a delegate to both General Conference 2016 and the special session of General Conference in February 2019, was the final delegate to reach enough votes to join the delegation.

Brandon Bates of First UMC Little Rock was elected on lay ballot number 10.

“I’m honored to be serving on the Arkansas Conference Delegation for the next four years as we prepare to interview and elect people who are discerning calls to serve as bishops,” Bates said. “With another General Conference on the horizon, even with tension and uncertainty that we humans have created, I have hope that we will be able to hear God and join in the work around the world that God is already doing. I pray that we will humbly walk with God as we act justly and love mercy.”

The Rev. Hammett Evans, senior pastor of First UMC Monticello, felt joy after seeing that he had been elected during the ninth round of clergy ballots.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of such a diverse and gifted delegation. It’s a real honor to serve our Annual Conference as we pursue a future with hope for all of God’s children,” Evans said.

The final delegation can be found below:

General Conference 2020

Clergy: Mark Norman, Michael Roberts, Lynn Kilbourne, Jessica Teegarden.

Laity: Karon Mann, Todd Burris, Miller Wilbourn, Elizabeth Fink.

 

South Central Jurisdictional Conference 2020

Clergy: Natasha Murray, Rebekah Miles, Hammett Evans, Katie Pearce.

Laity: Regina Norwood, Sarah Argue, Brandon Bates, Brian Swain.

 

Alternates

Clergy: Pam Estes, Lauren DeLano

Laity: Amy Forbus, Asa Whitaker

General Conference delegates will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 5 – 15, 2020, and South Central Jurisdictional Conference delegates will travel to The Woodlands, Texas, July 15 – 18, 2020.

Youth Address

ACCYM President John Mark Mathis delivers the Youth Address at Arkansas Annual Conference 2019. | Photo by Stephen Gideon

ACCYM President John Mark Mathis delivered the Youth Address to assembled body today.

Mathis focused his speech on the importance of making sure congregations include more youth into the work of the church.

He also talked about his own experience and self-doubt taking over as ACCYM president.

Mathis said he felt unworthy to take the role at first, but remembers what a former youth president told him: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

Later, Mathis addressed the results of General Conference, and how it is not just an issue that affects the current generation; it also affects the future leadership of the church and everyone in between.

He finished by encouraging older generations to change the culture of hate that he feels is currently in the UMC due to the decision on human sexuality at General Conference 2019. Greg Jones Reports

Reports

More reports were given today from various missions, conference centers, and educational institutions.

Mary Lewis Dassinger, Project Coordinator of 200,000 Reasons to End Childhood Hunger, encourage everyone at Annual Conference to involve their churches in the good work of 200,000 Reasons.

“Since starting the project five years ago, more than 500 churches in Arkansas have started a 200,000 Reasons mission at their church,” Dassinger said. 

Bishop Mueller added that although that number is amazing progress from where they started, more can still be done.

“100% of churches, regardless of size, can get involved in this work,” Mueller said.

For more information on 200,000 Reasons, contact Mary Lewis Dassinger at mdassinger@arumc.org. You can also check out the 200,000 Reasons class on CouRSe, the Conference’s new online learning management system. Enroll in CoRSe by visiting arumc.myabsorb.com.

Richard Hearne of the Lydia Patterson Institute also gave a report on the school, which services junior high and high school students living on the U.S. – Mexico border.

“This year, 81 students graduated from the Lydia Patterson Institute, and 100% of those students are enrolled to go to college in the fall, many at United Methodist institutions,” Hearne said.

He also praised the Arkansas Annual Conference for the ongoing campaign to raise money for the school’s new chapel, which the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas has committed to matching every dollar donated up to $250,000.

A few awards were also given today, including three Harry Denman Evangelism Awards. These awards went to the Rev. Casey Turner of First UMC Jonesboro, Zach Schrick, and Shannon Mecum.

According to The Foundation for Evangelism website, the award “honors United Methodists in each annual conference whose exceptional ministry of evangelism – expressed in Word (what), Sign (why), and Deed (how) – brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Michael McSwain of the General Board of Discipleship also awarded the One Matters Discipleship Award to members of North Pulaski United Methodist Church.

Ordination Service

The Rev. Linda Harker, senior pastor of McFarlin United Methodist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, led the Friday night Ordination Service for the 2019 ordinands and provisional members.

The 2019 ordinands are: Katye Chambers, James Kjorlaug, Gary L. Maskell, Rashim M. Merriwether Sr., Corey A. Tyson Read, and Judy Wills Rudd The provisional members are: Jesse C. James, Shawn Michael Gustin and Roy Elizabeth Kelley.Pictures from the service are featured below.

The business session will finish up today. The Lucy Foster Award presentation, the CF&A report, the Board of Trustees report, as well as two resolutions are scheduled for the final day, June 1, of Annual Conference.

Daily Digest – Thursday, May 30, 2019

Daily Digest – Thursday, May 30, 2019

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Laity Address

Arkansas Conference Lay Leader Karon Mann opted to deliver a slightly different version of her Laity Address than in year’s past.

Along with Associate Lay Leader Kathy Conley, lay leaders from each district of the Arkansas Conference joined Karon onstage to talk about the different ministry work that each district is undertaking.

Cathy Blackwood (Northwest), Jimmie Boyd (Southeast), Regina Norwood (Central), Kathy Conley (Northeast), and Jim Kimzey (Southwest) spoke for each of their districts during the Laity Address.

Speaking for the Southeast District, Boyd — Director of the Arkansas Conference Lay Servant Ministries — mentioned how even smaller churches can work to serve their community in big ways.

“My church, Mount Olivet, is a smaller church, but with our food pantry, we serve more than 60 families from all across Cleburne County,” said Boyd. “And when you have someone that comes into your pantry and says, ‘if it wasn’t for y’all, I think I would have died’ that brings it all home, folks. If we can save one person, it’s worth it all.”

Disaster Response Report

Byron Mann, gave the VIM and Disaster Response report today, giving the assembled body an update on the flooding situation along the Arkansas River.

Mann gave an update on what kinds of donations are needed from people and encouraged everyone to donate money and not flood buckets or health kits.

“The reason we aren’t asking for buckets and health kits right now is because we just received a delivery of 38 pallets of buckets. What we really need right now is churches to volunteer to help out their local community and to donate money, preferably cash, to the Arkansas Disaster Relief fund.”

To donate, visit http://bit.ly/2wvUnjG and select Arkansas Disaster Relief.

Rev. Dr. Greg Jones

The keynote speaker for Annual Conference this year is the Rev. Dr. Greg L. Jones, Dean of the Duke Divinity School at Duke University.

The Rev. Dr. Greg Jones gives the keynote address at the 2019 Arkansas Annual Conference. | Photo by Stephen Gideon

Jones focused his speech on reminding the United Methodists in the room about the rich tradition of mission work — reaching every person for Jesus — in our denomination, despite all of the many problems the United Methodist Church is currently facing after the 2019 special session of General Conference.

Jones used Numbers to illustrate how many of the Israelites were content to continue wandering in the wilderness or return to Egypt — to slavery and oppression — rather than face their fears and enter God’s promised land.

“Every one of us has a ‘Back to Egypt’ plan. We see what scares us; we want what’s familiar instead,” Jones said. “Part of the problem we have these days is that in the midst of our bewilderment, in the midst of change, in the midst of division, in the midst of the complaining and whining, in the midst of our complaining about leadership, we’ve lost our sense of mission and our sense of confidence in who God is and what God is doing in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Jones brought the mission of United Methodists back into full focus during the remainder of his sermon, reminding those in attendance why we believe what we believe as Christians, and the power to in all of us to do good work through that belief.

Jones will continue his keynote address at 9:45 a.m. on Friday, May 31.

Delegate Elections

During the second day of delegate elections, the voting members made it through a few more rounds before filling the remaining laity and clergy spots for General Conference 2020.

The fifth clergy ballot produced two delegates who made it over the minimum threshold for election: the Rev. Elizabeth Lynn Kilbourne (53.63%), senior pastor of North Little Rock First UMC, and the Rev. Jessica (Jessie) Waddell Teegarden (52.60%), an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church.

Teegarden is the first deacon elected by the Arkansas Conference to the General Conference delegation.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion with the opportunity to represent Arkansas at GC 2020 and grateful for the support of my colleagues in ministry. It is especially meaningful to represent young clergy women and the order of deacons,” Teegarden said.

“I am grateful for those who have paved the way and supported the need for deacons’ voices to be present at the table, especially Rev. Laverne Keahey and Rev. Lu Harding who have served on jurisdictional delegation and as alternates in the past. I pray that we will continue to ‘make history’ and continue to elect new, young, and diverse voices to the delegation.”

For the laity, it took one more round of voting than the clergy ballot, but the final two General Conference delegates were selected in round six.

Miller Wilbourn (54.17%) and Elizabeth Fink (50.25%) were elected as lay delegates to General Conference, bringing the total delegates from Arkansas to four clergy and four laity.

“I feel honored to serve as a delegate, and praise God for the opportunity,” Fink said. “I am thankful and don’t take for granted the trust that the Arkansas church has given me to continue contending for the faith.”

The final delegation from Arkansas is as follows:

Clergy – Mark Norman, Michael Roberts, Elizabeth Lynn Kilbourne, and Jessie Waddell Teegarden.

Laity – Karon Mann, Todd Burris, Miller Wilbourn, and Elizabeth Fink.

Three out of eight Arkansas delegates are under the age of 35, a noted increase from General Conference 2016 and 2019, where there were no delegates under 35 and only one alternate under that age.

According to the Young People’s Statement made at General Conference 2019, only 7% of elected delegates were under 35 years old.

Delegate voting will continue tomorrow for the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Four clergy and four laity will be elected, and two alternates to both General Conference and South Central Jurisdictional Conference will also be chosen.

Reports

Various ministries, from committees to collegiate entities, presented their reports at today’s afternoon business session.

While some, such as the Arkansas Conference Center for Vitality, used their time to highlight new programs, learning tools and their wonderful staff, others, like the newly formed Native American Committee, used their time to focus on the issues that still need to be addressed.

The Native American Committee, which formed at the 2018 Annual Conference and is lead by Angie Gage, highlighted that indigenous people are found in almost every county in Arkansas.

Gage also stressed the need for more churches to get involved with the Native American Committee at their own congregation and the reasons why it’s important to pay attention to the struggles of Native people.

“More than 6,500 indigenous women and children in the U.S. go missing or are murdered every year. We are working to raise awareness on this issue but we need your help,” Gage said.

Another new committee that was just formed before the start of Annual Conference is the Disabilities Committee. Mark Lasater is the head of this newly formed committee and said they are hoping to raise more awareness for those with disabilities in the Arkansas Annual Conference, and to make churches and services more accessible for those with disabilities.

Later, Annie Meek came to a microphone to bring awareness to the body that those with invisible disabilities should also be recognized by the Committee and more awareness should be brought to the struggles of them as well.

Retirement

During the retirement service, 26 retirees were honored. From local pastors to district superintendents and elders, their combined time in ministry added up to 660 years of faithful service.

The Rev. Rodney Steele and Bishop Gary Mueller share an embrace during the retirement service on Thursday, May 30.
| Photo by Stephen Gideon

The names of the 2019 Arkansas Annual Conference retirees, as well as the years they served in ministry, are listed below.

Charles Armour – 44 years
Velda Bell – 22.5 years
W. Clint Black – 20 years
Michael Blanchard – 8 years
Pamela S. Cicioni – 21.5 years
J. Wayne Clark – 32.75 years
C. Greg Comer – 14.75 years
W. Joe Head – 23 years
Brenton Higdem – 7 years
T. Tony Hill – 23 years
Mary S. Hilliard – 34.75 years
Donnie Hudson – 28 years
Travis Jackson – 39.5 years
Larry Kelso – 34 years
Travis Langley – 9.5 years
Donald H. Lewert – 30 years
Richard S. Mitchell – 26 years
James Scott Moore – 16.25 years
L. Glenn Pettus – 43 years
Richard Rogers – 18 years
D. Chris Rink – 15.5 years
Rodney Steele – 42 years
Martha S. Taylor – 8 years
Carla Ray Thompson – 11 years
Gregory Webb – 44 years
Richard G. Wilkins – 13.25

Local Pastor Licensing School candidates who received their completion certificate. | Photo by Stephen Gideon

Those who have completed Local Pastor Licensing School were also honored and presented with certificates.

Local pastors receiving their certificates included: Devon Arredondo, Deborah Bell, Patrick Brown, Polly Burton, Laura Butkovic, Phil Costner, Cullianne Foster, Ron Hayes, Diane Hughes, Leon Jones Sr., Hyeong Kwon Jung, Annie Lankfort, Marilyn Lecy, Mike Meeks, Kelsey Mendez, Hardy Peacock, and Nick Schimmer.

Celebration of Life

The Rev. Rodney Steele, who had just been honored in the previous Retirement Service, delivered the sermon for the Celebration of Life Service. The title of Steele’s sermon was “In God’s Heart Is Our Peace,” and he focused his message on the precious gift of life, and how we can all find solace for the ones who have left us by remembering that God’s love is sufficient.

The saints who have died this past year are listed below.

Tom E. Anderson
William “Bill” Bainbridge
M. Mauzel Beal
Edward Blythe
W. Darrel Bone
Marie Katherine Byram
Novella Carter
E. Mazie Chesser
William “Bill” Cheyne
Robert Cloninger Sr.
Eleanor Gramling Forbes
Clarence O. “Dooley” Fowler
William K. Goddard
Paige Shields Gustin
Euba Mae Harris-Winton
Helen Covel Henderson
Wayne Jarvis
Susan A. Kemp
Tom Letchworth
Albert W. Martin
J.R. McElhannon
James Meadors
Calvin Mitchell
Mary Ellen Murray
Martha Ann Oliver
Virginia L. Randle
Ralph G. Riley
Danny Rogers
Judith Stroud
Billie Jean Tate
Vida L. Thompson
Gene Edwin White
Walter Mike Wilkie

Annual Conference will continue at 8 a.m. Friday, May 31 with morning worship and a business session.

First business session elects two clergy, two laity to General Conference 2020

First business session elects two clergy, two laity to General Conference 2020

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

After six rounds of voting – three each for the clergy and laity ballots – the voting members of the Arkansas Annual Conference chose to send two clergy and two laity delegates to General Conference 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

After voting to adopt the session rules and calling the business of the 17th session of the Arkansas Conference to order, members tried out their new electronic voting devices for the first time.

Voting members were asked to vote for four choices during each voting round, and a simple majority of votes (50% or greater) were needed to be elected as a delegate.

Before voting began, Shelby Kirk and Phoebe Sanders were asked by Bishop Mueller to come to the microphone and deliver a statement put together by a group of young people within the Arkansas Annual Conference. The statement addressed the need for more youth and young adult delegates to be elected to General Conference, and the lack of representation for young adults as delegates to General Conference, particularly in 2016 and 2019.

You can read the statement here.

Shelby Kirk, left, and Phoebe Sanders, right, read a statement put together by a group of young people within the Arkansas Conference. | Photo by Stephen Gideon

In 2019, only 7% of delegates were young people — people under 35 years old — according to the Young People’s Statement read at General Conference 2019.

The Rev. Mark Norman, Southeast District Superintendent, and the Rev. Michael Roberts, senior pastor of First UMC Conway, were the first clergy delegates elected to General Conference in the second round of clergy ballot voting. During the first round of voting, no one received a majority of votes. In the second round, Norman received 57.14% and Roberts received 50.87%.

For the laity ballot, three rounds of voting were needed before the first delegates received enough votes to be elected. Karon Mann (56.04%) and Todd Burris (50.90%) were the first two lay delegates elected to General Conference.

“I am honored to be elected as a General Conference delegate,” Burris said. “I love the United Methodist Church and pray that the love we share in Christ Jesus will unite us in a very divisive world.”

Norman, Burris and Mann were all previously elected as delegates to the 2016 General Conference as well as the called special session of General Conference in February 2019.

“It is an honor to be elected as a delegate to General Conference 2020 and to serve as the head of the delegation. I thank you for your confidence in me and promise to work diligently for the future of our United Methodist Church,” Mann said. “Arkansas delegations have a long history of camaraderie and Christian conferencing and this delegation will be no different. I thank the laity of the Arkansas Conference for this privilege!”

The voting members of Annual Conference will continue to vote on delegates until four clergy, four lay and two alternates are elected for both General Conference and South Central Jurisdictional Conference, for a total of 20 delegates.

Clergy and laity profiles can be read here.

The next business session will begin at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, May 30 and voting members will continue to vote on General and South Central Jurisdictional Conference delegates until all spots are filled.

2019 Episcopal Address: ‘It’s Time to Double Down Boldly on Our Mission’Bishop Mueller encourages Arkansas Methodists to continue mission work in state

2019 Episcopal Address: ‘It’s Time to Double Down Boldly on Our Mission’
Bishop Mueller encourages Arkansas Methodists to continue mission work in state

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

In his 2019 Episcopal Address to the Arkansas Annual Conference, Bishop Gary Mueller addressed the deep divides in the United Methodist Church and the hurt caused by the 2019 General Conference but reiterated the importance of “doubling down” on the crucial mission work being done by churches and ministries across the Conference.

Throughout his address, Bishop Mueller noted that this is the hardest Episcopal Address he has ever had to prepare.

“It is the hardest because our beloved church is as polarized as our nation … LGBTQIA+ persons and allies are hurting because you believe the church has pushed you out. Supporters of the church’s disciplinary stance concerning human sexuality are hurting because you feel you have been labeled bigots,” Mueller said.

“It’s the hardest because I have to stand up here in front of those of you whom I deeply love and confess I can’t take away your pain, change how people treat each other or fix The United Methodist Church – as hard as I have tried.”

In February, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered in St. Louis to discuss matters related to human sexuality.

By a vote 438 to 384, the delegates voted to pass The Traditional Plan, which maintains the Book of Discipline’s current language regarding human sexuality, preventing the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” as clergy and the performance of same-sex marriages by UMC clergy in United Methodist Church buildings.

Despite the difficulty of this year’s address, Mueller contrasted his initial thoughts by saying it is also the easiest address he’s given.

Mueller stated that he has personally experienced the truth of this year’s theme, “The Best of All, God is with Us.”

“It’s not just a catchy slogan, but a transforming reality more powerful than all the things that threaten to tear us apart.”

It is also the easiest address because of a shift in focus from the problems and uncertainty in Arkansas, to a renewed focus – “doubling down” – on mission work, according to Mueller.

Mueller gave three examples of how Arkansas United Methodists can double down on mission work: Double Down on Faith, Double Down on Being Fruitful and Double Down on Compassion.

In each example of doubling down, Bishop Mueller cited a different parable from Matthew 25, some of Jesus’s final teachings before the crucifixion.

Matthew 25:7-13 is the parable of the bridesmaids and their lamps.

“Jesus’s message to us through these words is clear. We’re not just disciples when it’s convenient. We’re disciples all the time,” Mueller said. “Arkansas, it’s time to double down on getting serious about our relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord, double down on responding to his call to get involved in his ministry and double down about the importance of what’s at stake for Jesus, for others and for us.”

The worship band leads the Conference in a hymn during the opening worship service.

For an example of doubling down on being fruitful, Mueller cited the parable of the talents, in which a master gives three servants different amounts of gold. Two of the servants took what they were given and multiplied their earnings, but one servant chose instead to bury his gold.

The servants who invested their money were rewarded, but the one who hid away his money was rebuked.

“Jesus is telling us we are to use the gifts, resources and people we have been given to get results that actually bring about God’s transformation of lives, communities and the world,” Mueller said.

A few of the examples of Arkansans doubling down in the past and the future include creating places like Methodist-LeBonheur Hospital, Camp Aldersgate and Philander Smith College, as well as current ministries supported by United Methodist Churches, including Lucie’s Place, Breaking Bonds Ministries, and ECHO Village.

Bishop Mueller also brought up the current struggle many Arkansans are facing due to the Arkansas River flooding in cities along the river, such as Fort Smith, Dardanelle, Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

“This is something that we can all come together and help with right now. Many families are hurting right now, and they need your help.”

To donate, visit http://bit.ly/2EDBzn1 and select the Arkansas Disaster Relief Fund.

When mentioning his final point on doubling down, Bishop Mueller used the parable of the sheep and the goats. In this parable, Jesus casts away those who did not protect the least of these by feeding, clothing, and taking care of the sick and needy.

Mueller reminded those at Ozark Bank Arena that one of the major missions of the Arkansas Annual Conference is 200,000 Reasons, a ministry seeking to end childhood hunger in Arkansas. Since starting this ministry almost five years ago, that number has gone down from 200,000 hungry children to about 165,000 children.

“We can get it to 150,000 and then 100,000 and eventually zero. And we will. This is a way we can join together – regardless of whether we are liberal, conservative, in-between or confused – to double down on our acts of compassion,” Mueller said.

Bishop Mueller reminded the gathered crowd that he is aware there are still divisions within our Methodist congregations but also gave a hopeful reminder that there is still much work to be done within and outside of the Arkansas Conference.

“You are a member of The United Methodist Church painfully divided by matters of human sexuality that are beyond your ability to settle, regardless of your stance. But you also are a member of a local congregation that is still called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

“So let’s get started right now. Let’s choose to start by joining hands with Christ, who joins our hands with each other. Let’s choose to start by doubling down boldly on our mission. Let us start, my sisters and brothers.”