The Future of the UMC in KS and NE – Great Plans for the Great Plains

A bit of background I believe might be pertinent…  I grew up a United Methodist in KS.  I went to a United Methodist College in NE.  I’m now back in KS serving as a United Methodist Pastor.  For 5 years I served churches in North Indiana and was present during a discernment process through which the decision was made to merge North Indiana and South Indiana to form the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Conversation has begun about the possibility of Kansas East, Kansas West, and Nebraska all merging together to form one annual conference.  Sunday afternoon a live webcast event was held with watch sites in churches throughout all three annual conferences.  During this event the announcement was formally made that the transition team (who has been intensely engaged in research and conversation for a couple of years) was recommending the three conferences be merged into one.  You can read more about the work of the transition team and see a variety of related documents here.

The primary concern that I heard at our watch site on Sunday was that it feels as if the transition team is asking for the annual conferences to vote on what seems like a great generality without many specifics.  Indeed, there are MANY details yet to work out about how the conferences will merge (if they do).

In some conversation following the event I heard friends in KS East express the concern that the potential geographic area to which they might be appointed would more than quadruple in size.  I definitely understand this concern, but I heard Bishop Sherer-Simpson say clearly that we have a “modified itinerancy.”  I appreciate the way in which she described this concept, but am mindful of the fact that she will retire before the merger happens.  I will be very interested to see how this concept is lived out if the annual conferences are all merged.  Surely it will depend on the Bishop serving the conference.

It is my understanding that the same consultant who worked on the Indiana merger is helping with this process as well.  There seem to be many similarities in the way things are unfolding.  That said, I have the sense that United Methodists in KS and NE will soon be living together in one annual conference.  And my sense is that, for the most part, this will mean little change in the day to day operations of local churches and local church pastors.

What are your thoughts?  If you were present at a watch site on Sunday, what were the primary questions/concerns there?

If sharing thoughts about the potential merger on twitter you are invited to use the hashtag #gpumc.  Additional Information about the potential merger can be found on:

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Future of the UMC in KS and NE – Great Plans for the Great Plains

  1. Jan Todd

    Hey Jeff,
    Great blog and good insight! I do want to lift up, as a member of the transition team, that the proposal is not a “merger” – but creating a NEW conference. That may sound ambivalent – but mergers usually have one entity that is more powerful than the others. We’re hoping to glean the best practices from each and become something totally new. This takes time – this takes trust – and I believe it is what the best systems are out there doing! It’s like Starbucks choosing to bring the best of the coffee world to the US – not just merge and acquire and replicate the old coffee shop. I know we didn’t completely present that picture on Sunday – but that is the direction we are wanting to lead these bodies of faith in.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jan. I appreciate your gentle correction regarding the word “merger.” Over the last several days I have been asking some of my North Indiana colleagues for their reflections on how the process is unfolding there and have been reminded that through that process there was much intentionality about avoiding “merger” language and talking about the forming of a new conference.

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