MUNCIE -- Even though it's the third year Hoosier United Methodists will convene June 8-11 for their annual state-wide meeting at Ball State, the Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church will continue with a number of first including an increase in membership and weekly worship attendance in more than 30 years.
More than 3,000 lay and clergy members (delegates) will descend upon Muncie making Emens Auditorium central to four days of worship, teaching, business, elections, exhibits, health screenings and community building. Laity and clergy are equally represented. The conference member (delegates) represent the 1,187 United Methodist congregations across Indiana with more than 200,000 church members plus 40,000 children and youth making it the largest Protestant denomination in Indiana.
Indiana United Methodist Bishop Michael J. Coyner will preside over the conference and lead two Bible studies.
This year will be the first time the new Indiana Conference will be electing delegates to the General and North Central Jurisdictional conferences of the church. Those conferences will be held respectively next year at Tampa, Fla., April 24-May 4, and at Akron, Ohio, July 17-21.
Beginning on Wednesday evening, June 8, and proceeding ballot-by-ballot, nine lay delegates and nine clergy delegates will be elected to the General Conference. Following their elections, nine more lay and nine more clergy delegates will be elected to the North Central Jurisdictional Conferences. Those elected to General Conference also will be delegates at the jurisdictional conference.
General Conference is the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church and meets once every four years.
McFee to teach
The teacher for Thursday's day of learning beginning at 9 a.m. will be the Rev. Dr. Marcia McFee (www.marciamcfee.com). She also will assist in worship services and with the conference praise team, which will be another first. Conference sessions will be held in the context of worship.
McFee is an internationally-known author, worship designer and leader, professor, preacher and artist. Her engaging and interactive style has been called refreshing and inspiring. She combines her background and experience in professional companies of music, theater and dance with a variety of worship and preaching styles in order to bring a fresh experience of the Gospel to each worship setting. She also has been selected to be the worship and music leader for the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Orlando.
Other first include:
* This will be the first year in more than three decades that members will hear that The United Methodist Church in Indiana has grown both in membership from 197,349 to 200,602 members and weekly worship attendance from 116,737 to 117,750.
* Keeping the Wesleyan tradition of outdoor preaching alive, this will be the first year stump preaching and worship will take place during breaks and mealtimes across the Ball State campus.
* Registration will take place the university's Student Recreation and Wellness Center, Irving Gym 2 rather than under a tent. Shuttle service will be available to and from the site from Emens Auditorium.
* The conference will introduce Facebook and Twitter as new forms of communication at the session. Webcasting of all plenary sessions will continue from the conference website at www.inumc.org. All conference resource materials and reports are online at www.inumc.org at the Annual Conference Session tab. All plenary sessions will be webcast.
* The members of the conference will focus again on hospitality including a unique way of introducing each other during the plenary sessions.
* The Service of Ministry including ordination and commissioning of 24 ministerial candidates will be held Saturday morning, June 11, at 10 a.m.
* The Service of Resurrection and Remembering will be held on Friday, June 10, at 7 p.m. The Rev. Brian White, superintendent of the Southeast District based in Columbus, will delivering the sermon during this service. Both events are open to the public.
* Due to the election process, and a shorter time frame, there will be no formal mission outreach to the Muncie community for this annual session. During the past year, members were encouraged to perform mission outreach days in their home communities and share their stories at this conference. However, the United Methodist congregations of Muncie will be prayer walking and conducting a food drive for local pantries during the annual conference session.
* Many conference organizations and United Methodist-related institutions of the annual conference will offer information in an exhibit area at Emens Auditorium.
* School supplies will be collected for United Methodist-related schools in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
* Clean-up kits will be collected by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center to assist survivors recovery from sprint storms across the U.S.
For more information about the annual conference session visit www.inumc.org, click on Annual Conference Session.
Daniel R. Gangler serves as director of communication for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.