First United Methodist Church - Wausau Wisconsin
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Live and Share God's Love

Conference & Connections

Annual Conference

Wes Ebert, Lay Member

Annual Conference – the gathering every June of United Methodist lay people and clergy from every United Methodist church in Wisconsin.

It’s a time for all of us to gather under one roof and worship together to celebrate our faith, as well as a time to follow Robert’s Rules of Order to do the business of the church in Wisconsin. What were some of the highlight for me?

The worship music was amazing, both because it was excellent, and because the team from New York City that led it included a fantastic musician, Katie Reimer, who was a member of the youth group when Karen and I were at Green Bay. It’s great to see the youth of the church grow, both physically and spiritually, as they prepare to lead our church into an unknown future.

The business agenda this year was relatively noncontroversial. One of the biggest items passed was a plan to launch a capital campaign for the Conference to develop programs that serve God’s people through various Mercy and Justice Ministries, both existing and new, as well as funding for congregational revitalization, and development of new ministries to reach out to the increasingly diverse population of our state. Now that it’s been approved in principle, the details of the campaign will be developed and we’ll be getting more information later this year.

Another big issue that was discussed throughout the conference was the upcoming reconvening this February of the General Conference (the gathering of United Methodists from around the globe). The one item on the agenda will be to make a decision on how the United Methodist Church will handle the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in our church. Our Wisconsin Conference is not able to take any actions on the issue until the General Conference makes its decision. However, I foresee the implementation of this being a major issue at the 2019 Annual Conference. Jayneann has written about the three proposals being discussed in previous articles and the details are to be released in early July, after this newsletter has gone to press. This is an issue that we as a congregation need to come to grips with so we can help lead our church into the future. I pray that we will have good dialogue on this topic throughout the upcoming year.

Danielle Del Conte , Young Adult Member

Hello FUMC family! I had the opportunity to attend Annual Conference this June, representing FUMC Wausau and Summerfield UMC Milwaukee. I also presented a resolution to the conference on the topic of gun violence on behalf of the Board of Church and Society. Honestly, speaking to a thousand people on a topic that has the potential to be controversial was terrifying, yet it was an extremely rewarding experience. The resolution passed, and I received a standing ovation for my speech. There’s a video of me speaking on the Summerfield UMC Facebook page for those of you who would like to watch (and laugh about how clearly nervous I am!).

After speaking, I was approached by many people who expressed their joy to see a young person involved in the church. And indeed, I have become very involved in the Methodist church while away at college, joining the Board of Church and Society, administrative council, and trustees. However, I owe my foundation in ministry to my family at FUMC Wausau. Indeed, many of you witnessed my earliest experiences public speaking in Christmas pageants and Mother’s Day musicals! I want to sincerely thank everyone in the church who helped me grow in my faith; I had dozens of role models within the church while growing up who taught me the value of sharing my beliefs. I cannot overstate how grateful I am to have grown up in a faith community where I always felt loved and supported. I hope to see many of you later this summer! Blessings!

Bonnie Goertz, Lay Member

The temperatures outside the Marriot Conference Center in the Madison/Middleton area were very warm, but inside, attendees of the annual Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church were actually cold, most bringing a sweater or blanket to bundle up in (!) as Bishop Jung welcomed us on Friday, June 15 through June 17/18. I have been attending Annual Conference for a number of years now, through the years of leadership under two different bishops. Each time I attend, I gain more knowledge and insight about both the past, present, and future direction of the church, both statewide, nationwide, and globally. This year it was especially interesting to learn more about the unification of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of coming together as United Methodists.

Wisconsin’s Annual Conference is an opportunity for lay members and clergy from throughout Wisconsin to come together and work on moving the Church forward. This year’s theme—One with Each Other— seemed especially appropriate as we considered a number of issues that have plagued our state, our country, and our world. One issue in particular has been a part of annual conference(s) every year since the 70s—reconciling with the LGBTQ community regarding acceptance in the church, ordination in the Church, marriage by ordained clergy, etc. ... So many
factors come into play as the United Methodist Church works toward a meaningful resolution for all of its members. We have become a very global church, which means so many cultures and values systems are bound to clash, but as Christians we need to recognize all equally. At the 2016 General Conference, this issue still had no resolution, so the bishops came together afterward and created three possible resolutions. Ultimately, they recommended one—One Way Forward— which will be the sole focus of a special General Conference called for February, 2019, in St. Louis. Lay and clergy representatives from the Wisconsin Annual Conference will attend this special session. In the fall, these representatives are planning sessions around the state to provide more information to congregations and to get feedback/input.

A highlight of this year’s Annual Conference was having one of our own church members present one of the action items to be voted on. Danielle del Conte, lay member representing her church in Milwaukee, presented the action item regarding a call to action on gun violence. Listening to this young person present information about this issue so confidently and passionately was a privilege. She then had to stand on the platform for quite a length of time as numerous people from the floor stated their support or objections to the item. Ultimately, it passed, but it was really special to be there and support Danielle and the efforts of the Conference Board of Church and Society, which she is now a member of.

One more item of action to mention is the conference’s Launch Out! program. There was a lot of discussion both at this year’s and last year’s conference regarding implementation, but it did pass through the general vote this year. It is a fundraising campaign that we will be hearing more about soon, looking to address very specific ministries and projects that go above and beyond our general giving through apportionments.

One quote from a presenter struck me as especially significant—“Too often, fear of the unknown creates inaction.” While there is definitely uncertainty about where the funding for this initiativ will come from, nothing gets accomplished if one doesn’t try. Annual Conference is an opportunity for lay people in our congregation to learn more about what’s going on beyond our community and beyond our church community. I am very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to be part of it for many years. I encourage you to think about being the next lay member.