Annual Conference 2010, Day II

by Jacob Juncker

Well, its day two (not day 11 for those of you who don’t know your Roman numerals). I know I’m posting late.  I got to conference late this morning.  It was a late night.  Clergy session didn’t get out till a little after 9.  The clergy voted me in as a provisional elder.  Being commissioned may not sound like a big deal (three more years till ordination), but I want to share some statistics with you that are on the back of a T-shirt I received today:

Average age of a United Methodist:  58

UMC members age 18-39:  15%
UMC members age 50+:      62%

Indiana UMC elders under 35:  3.7%

Young adults in the U.S. certain of God’s existence:  62%
You adults who rarely or never attend worship:        65%

The bottom of the t-shirt says: “Ready to RETHINK CHURCH.  Find a young adult!!!”

One of the biggest tragedies in the life of the church is its lack of relevance to a younger generation.  Bishop Schnaze, our keynote speaker this week, reminded us of just how many radio stations there are that play mid-18th century, British, organ music.  If you can’t find a radio station that plays that type of music, Schnaze commented, what makes you think people will flock to your door to hear it on Sunday morning?  There are serious disconnects between the church and a new generation that desires authenticity and depth in a world that is full of mirages and shallowness.

While there are serious disconnects, there are glimpses of hope.  Yesterday, two churches were charted.  One, the Movie Theatre Church, was started in a theatre; and, though it has now moved to a permanent building, it still provides a “theatre” atmosphere by giving out free popcorn and Pepsis while sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The second church meets in a Valparaiso bar.  While they don’t give out popcorn and Pepsi, the pastor reminded the Annual Conference that “beer and wings works pretty well, too.”

I know a lot of pastors who find Annual Conference to be a bore: a time when people get together and discuss the dry, outdated structures of the church.  I am “one of those dorks” that like Annual Conference.  It is a time when I am given hope.  It is a time whenI actually get to meet with other young clergy to hear their stories.  We commiserate with each other.  We encourage each other.  We are inspired to continue in leadership through the support of others and inspired by the emerging ministries and new churches popping up around the conference.

Some interesting highlights:

  • the conference is entering into a purchasing program that will enable churches to buy office supplies and donuts at a reduced cost from Office Depot and Krispy Kreme.  I didn’t hear how much we will save on office supplies, but we will receive a 40% savings on donuts.
  • as I already mentioned, two churches were chartered: The Movie Theatre Church and New Song.
  • some of the political nature of selecting delegates for jurisdictional and general conference was stripped.  “Slates” (where interest groups tell conference members who to vote for based upon narrow theological stances) were banned from the Conference.  While there is much politiking going on at Conference, I think this is a step in the right direction for making the business of the conference less political and more worshipful/spiritual.
  • 14 people will be commissioned and 22 people will be ordained on Sunday.  58 clergy members of the Annual Conference will retire.  Below is a picture of the ordinands before the Annual Conference: being blessed by the Annual Conference led by Bishop Coyner.

If you would like to see a copy of the first day synopsis email, click here.