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VIII. REPORTS A. DIRECTOR OF CONNECTIONAL MINISTRIES REPORT I begin this presentation with words of appreciation and the acknowledgement of some transitions taking place in your Connectional Ministries Staff. My wife Linda is my best friend and a constant source of encouragement. I am able to better serve you and the cause of Christ because she is serving with me in her own quiet strength, often subtly in the background, but always appreciated by me. Next, let me introduce you to Rev. Gary Step. Gary begins July 1, as the Director of New Church Development. This position has a second half assigned to it as the Director of Congregational Transformation. We look forward to the gifts and passion Gary brings to these roles. Kathy Hippensteel has once again, with an incredible eye for detail and accuracy, formatted all your legislative materials, the Nominations Report and updated the thousands of names and addresses in the Conference data base. Jim Searls’ constant work in the background of the conference website is what you see with every first glance and detailed search. Kiri Salazar and Betsy Weems are always prepared to answer your phone calls and emails at the front desk, let you in the door, update your events on the Conference calendar or share your prayer requests. Imagine nearly 2,000 registrations for more than 2 dozen camping events at multiple locations along with many payments of fees, scholarships and local church contributions and you have imagined a day in the life of Pam Stewart our Camping Registrar. Naomi García has been juggling three huge areas of responsibility with her usual grace and non-anxious presence: Youth Ministry, Supervision of the Camp Directors, including Abuse Prevention oversight and she has worked alongside me in all the initial training components and resource development for the Vital Church Initiative. You see the fruits of Mark Doyal’s Communication Ministries everywhere: on the web, Facebook, Twitter, in your pews, and in your hands. The photos tell the story, the words express the passion. The Weekly News is the creation of Kay DeMoss and Valerie Mossman-Celestin. Together they gather, write and edit the material you see each week. This leads me to one of those transitions. Valerie will continue this writing/publishing role for the Weekly News. However, beginning August 1, she will end her role as Office Manager and more fully expand her role as the independently funded Director of the Haitians Artisans for Peace International (HAPI). This transition has been a few years in the development and is a natural fit for Valerie’s passion to “change the world, one life at a time.” Will you join me in expressing your appreciation for these past 9 years of service? The second transition decision has been far more difficult to make. It is the discontinuation of the Michigan Area Resource Center, often just referred to as “the MARC”. The Conference Leadership Team made this prayerful decision after several months of reflections and intentional efforts to increase participation across the Michigan Area. A lack of sufficient usage by congregations, for a number of reasons, and reductions in funding, has led us to this moment in time. We realize that some of you will see little change, but those of you who have been faithful participants in the ministry of the Resource Center are grieving its loss. Written details of this transition, which includes distributing those resources to local congregations and creating a volunteer sharing system, have been sent to the participating congregations and posted to the web site.




Betsy Weems has been the director of MARC these past 4 years. Will you please join me is letting Betsy know how much you have appreciated her service in this ministry? ----------------------------------------As a child, our family of four would often sing a table blessing as a round. My sister and Mom would start. Then Dad & I would join in. If you have attended one of our UM Campsites, you too may have sung it: “For health and strength and daily food we praise thy name Oh Lord!” Deuteronomy 6: 4 & 5 records what the early Israelite parents were expected to teach and emphasize in their children’s lives. “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Our days here at Annual Conference are focusing upon “A healthy world: body-mindspirit”. We continue this generational teaching as we gather around a common “Conference Table.” I pray that something you experience, hear, read, observe or act upon this week, helps you move toward the “health and strength…” for which you praise the name of God. The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) has begun to re-focus energy and resources in the Conference. We expect this focus will contribute toward the steady incremental progress of improving our ministry. We especially see this focus directed toward the “Vital Congregations’” areas of Worship, Evangelism, Spiritual Formation, Missions and Stewardship. The 2011 Annual Conference made a significant change in the leadership approach of our Conference Program Areas. Previously, there were 25 boards, agencies and committees that made up the Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM). The total number of persons on this council was sixty-three and it had an average attendance pattern of less than 50% at its 3-4 meetings each year. In this past first year of its existence, the newly constituted 16 member CLT met on nine occasions, usually for one-half of a day or longer, with an average attendance pattern of more than 75%. It has also utilized an electronic meeting capacity on multiple occasions, saving both time and money, and at the same time modeling new forms of leadership in ministry. The CLT arranged a meeting for all the board and agency chairpersons and invited other Conference leaders as well. The event was held in October in Big Rapids. It was a positive opportunity for continuing dialogue, accountability and collaboration. The CLT quickly noted that there are several places of redundancy in our programming and some groups are functioning at a fairly minimal level. One of the CLT’s stated goals is to review those overlaps and capacities of functioning in the coming months to see what improvements can be suggested. The CLT identified that one of the primary goals to which it must attend is the equipping and connecting of local congregations for ministry. It noted that contexts for leadership development and training are essential. The CLT is directing resources and personnel into the Vital Church Initiative (VCI) as a means toward making a significant impact in this area. Additionally, some resources in the budget of the New Church Development Committee, which would have been grants to start new congregations, have been redirected to expand to full-time the previous ½ time position of Director of New Church Development so it also includes “Congregational Transformation.” The CLT has identified the following key areas as essential to the health and strength of our conference. We are determined that any actions we take as a Conference Leadership Team contribute to: s s s






I and the Conference Leadership Team believe that for us to meet both the Great Commission and Great Commandment to “make disciples of Jesus Christ and love our neighbors,” we must intentionally focus our $6 million in resources on four critical areas which will contribute to a transformed world: 1. The Vital Church Initiative: a process toward renewed vitality for local congregations. New congregations and leaders emerge from strong and vital existing congregations. 2. Ministry with Young People: Congregations must be better equipped to serve with the youth and young adults in their midst. Our campus ministries must be supported in their focus upon intentional faith and leadership development. 3. Camping Ministries: We have excellent assets and gifted directors, staff and volunteers. We must better utilize this resource for life changing encounters with God through Jesus Christ. 4. Communication: We have stories to tell, conversations that must take place to improve our relationships, along with publicity and common resources that need be shared. The CLT plans to take intentional steps in the coming year to arrange opportunities for us to common listen to one another. Last year we distributed a document which described the characteristics of a vital and effective congregation. Our Annual Conference presentations emphasized components that help contribute to vitality. I shared with you highlights of the Vital Church Initiative (VCI). This initiative combines an invitational approach for congregations and clergy to participate in an intentional learning context over several months. The learning is supported by coaching and specific training. The VCI includes the possibility of an intensive evaluative consultation which results in specific actions being identified for the congregation to take supported by ongoing peer mentoring and a coach, if it so chooses. A “smaller church” pilot of the VCI has been underway on the Albion District and a “larger church” VCI pilot is just completing its first phase on the Lansing District. Both of these pilots have contributed to new discoveries of ministry possibilities, collaboration, colleagueship and common learning among the clergy and laity. Be sure to read the “Dump on Us” testimony on page 15 in your Annual Conference Program Booklet. The five overarching expectations of the VCI process are: Christ-Centeredness; Fruitfulness; Excellence; Accountability; Collaboration. This Fall, the VCI will have some phase of the continuous learning clusters underway in all six districts. The learning clusters of laity and clergy are guided and coached by more than two dozen clergy and laity trained and utilized from within the West Michigan Conference. We are multiplying the best practices demonstrated by vital congregations and effective leaders among us! I am inspired by the more than 50 congregations in the VCI who, by one year from now, will have invested prayer, time, energy and a commitment to watch for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in their midst. They are focusing energy on their particular purpose for God’s transformation in the communities where God has placed them. These congregations will have intentionally studied and implemented “The 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations”; Radical Hospitality; Risk Taking Mission; Intentional Faith Development ;Passionate Worship; Extravagant Generosity. The VCI emphasizes the following five assumptions: 1. 2.

Healthy churches grow Leadership is everything




Critical change requires outside help This intensive and intentional process helps create urgency There is no quick fix, but over time consistent accountability with support makes a difference.

The VCI also helps churches establish a clear vision and purpose for leadership. One workshop uses the analogy of a car. Vision is in the driver’s seat. Relationships are in the passenger seat. Program & Structure are in the back seat and finances and other resources are located in the trunk. When Vision and purpose take their proper seat the journey is exciting, meaningful and the “car” is filled with vitality. Vitality in our congregations spills over into the vital ministries of our Conference. To find out more about the VCI go to the Conference web site or contact Gary Step, Naomi García or me. I know the Conference Leadership Team is deeply committed to both continuing the strong pattern of effective ministries in our Conference and taking the necessary steps for change so the West Michigan Conference is strategically moving forward in creative, vital and fruitful areas. We are blessed collectively by many other congregations that have taken steps to initiate new worshipping communities by adding additional worship opportunities, using additional venues, and sending forth teams to launch new settings. Many others have committed time and resources to ministries of compassion and witness in their communities and around the globe. I again point you toward our Conference theme: “A healthy world: body-mindspirit.” I pray that something you experience, hear, read, observe or act upon this week, and in the weeks ahead will help you and your congregation move toward “health and strength…” I pray that each of us sees Jesus in those we serve and we hum a prayer of thanks,”… we praise thy name, Oh Lord!” Rev. Benton R. Heisler Director of Connectional Ministries

B. DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS’ REPORT Annual Conference Video Files In lieu of a written report, please refer to the following web page: Rev. Cornelius “Neil” Davis Dean of the West Michigan Cabinet, 2012

C. TREASURER’S REPORT An audited financial statement is printed in this journal, in compliance with the Book of Discipline which requires the Conference Treasurer to prepare annually a report of all receipts, disbursements, and balances of all funds in the conference treasury. (Par. 617.1). The Conference Treasurer’s Office serves the church through the ministry of finance and administration to enable the conference to carry out its purpose to make disciples of Jesus




Christ in a fitting and orderly manner. (I Cor. 14:40). Story of A Giving People. The chart below shows the generous giving of our churches in the midst of difficult economic challenges. The conference received more than $7.7 million in 2011 which were designated 74.4% to ministry shares, 6.2% for district ministry funds and 23.4% for advance special offerings. Thank You, West Michigan Churches! 12 Year History of Giving:


Ministry Shares

District Funds

Designated Gifts

Total Giving






% Min Shares Budget Paid 93.0%






































































THE ADVANCE: Our Conference is the recognized leader in per capita giving to the Advance for Christ Fund of the denomination. 100% of money given to the Advance goes to the intended recipient of the gift. The Advance projects include UMCOR, Mission, Community ministries, Evangelization and church growth. Our Conference also has the highest percentage of churches participating in the Advance and the highest amount given to missionary support in the North Central Jurisdiction. Praise God! MINISTRY SHARES: Ministry Shares is the first priority benevolence of the local church and reflects its financial commitment to the shared mission and ministry of the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church, locally and globally. It is conference policy to support the worldwide ministry of The United Methodist Church by paying 100% of the World Service Fund as a minimum. Traditionally, the Conference has been paying 100% of all apportioned general funds of the UMC but because of low reserves available in 2011, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration paid 100% of the World Service Fund only 93% of the remaining general apportionments resulting in aggregate payment of 96.6% or 3.4% short of 100%. WHERE MINISTRY SHARES DOLLARS GO: Praise God for the provision that is given to administer God’s grace in various forms (1Pe 4:10).

MINISTRY SHARES DOLLARS District Superintendent & Clergy Support



Conference Program Ministries











New Church Development Administrative Support Ministries World Service & General Church Apportionment Total






Churches giving 100% or more






Churches giving less than 100%






Churches giving less than 70%
















$6,376,538 84.2% $1,207,482

$6,438,092 88.4% $1,975,543

$6,235,939 85.3% $1,487,123




ALBION Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$918,820 89.1% $154,186

$865,920 90.1% $247,596

$809,526 86.2% $145,273

HEARTLAND Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$709,706 81.6% $154,321

$717,958 87.7% $222,306

$748,885 90.7% $158,557

GRAND RAPIDS Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$1,729,108 89.9% $337,898

$1,788,434 95.1% $628,594

$1,800,946 94.1% $443,378

GRAND TRAVERSE Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$817,045 82.3% $154,785

$870,639 92.5% $225,868

$822,646 86.8% $203,349

KALAMAZOO Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$1,065,505 78.5% $237,917

$1,075,331 81.7% $333,120

$1,001,261 76.9% $266,379

LANSING Remittances Year To Date % Paid Special Giving

$1,136,354 81.2% $168,375

$1,119,810 82.0% $318,059

$1,052,675 76.3% $270,187

SPECIAL GIVING 12/30/09 1. Camp Endowment Campaign $574 2. Christian Education Sunday Offering 4,938 3. Racial Ethnic Local Church Sunday Offering 6,288 4. Human Relations Day Offering 14,861 5. Rural Life Sunday 6,112 6. Peace With Justice Sunday 12,205 7. Camp Sunday 7,307 8. Native American Ministry Sunday 16,672 9. Golden Cross Sunday Offering 7,054 10. United Methodist Student Day Offering 9,713 11. World Communion Offering 19,031 12. One Great Hour of Sharing 81,130 13. Africa University Endowment Fund 2,894 14. World Missionary Support 181,772 15. World Mission Projects 83,952 16. United Methodist Children’s Fund 176 17. National Missions 69,137 18. Appalachia Service Project 140 19. U.M.C.O.R. 453,074 20. Ethnic Ministries 27,483 21. Conference Ministries 193,217 22. Other Benevolences 9,753

12/31/10 $760 3,853 5,669 12,275 4,177 11,798 5,979 12,658 5,566 11,997 23,636 80,138 399 190,807 88,023 1,041 66,662 0 1,160,407 23,340 245,228 23,488

12/31/11 $720 5,259 4,363 15,192 4,962 12,712 7,858 12,922 5,614 10,154 17,335 72,687 2,803 174,584 148,692 1,048 60,001 0 685,359 22,635 218,542 3,683




GIVING SUMMARY: Special Giving District Funds Conference Ministry Shares

$1,207,483 $488,516 $5,888,021

$1,977,901 $521,595 $5,914,139

$1,487,125 $494,712 $5,741,225

TOTAL RECEIPTS Conference Budget % of Conference Budget Received

$7,584,020 $6,694,890 87.9%

$8,413,635 $6,209,076 95.2%

$7,723,062 $6,159,550 93.2%

ONLINE ANNUAL CONFERENCE REGISTRATION: For the third year in a row the Annual Conference session used online registration to the annual conference session. Ours was the first annual conference to use the GCFA event manager system for free. This particular service and the use of the online data reporting of our conference statistics represent one of the benefits of connectional services provided to our churches by the denomination. PENSION BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION: In 2011, five hundred ninety six (596) participants received annuity benefits and total payments to annuitants were $7,305,034 including Disability payments of $261,092. A detailed report showing payments to individual beneficiaries is available upon request at the Conference Treasurer’s Office. The General Board of Pension actuarial requirement for 2011, showed the Conference has a funding contribution of $306,346. The general board estimates that in 2012, the pre82 fund will be at 110% over funded status based on the past service rate of $711 and surviving spouse benefit of 85%. HEALTH BENEFITS: In 2011, in our effort to continue providing a high level of benefits at a time when other industries and conferences are cutting back, the board implemented a Self-Funded Plan with the approval of the Annual Conference effective September 1, 2009. Benefits remained unchanged except medical coverage for auto related injuries in order to protect the Plan from potentially excessive loss. To effectively administer the self-funded medical plan, the Board hired Ron Stoll as a consultant. With the changes already made, the 2011 medical benefit claims costs incurred under our Plan through October 31st have stabilized compared to the medical claims cost experience for prior years. POST-RETIREMENT MEDICAL BENEFITS LIABILITY: Our Health Care Reserve Fund at year end 2011 was $16 million. (If needed a portion of this amount may be used to contribute to any unfunded liability in pension funds as the General Board will determine.) The Board of Pension and Health Benefits plan to set aside the amount of $10.7 million for postretirement health care liability. Actuarial study by Watkins Ross and Co. showed unfunded liability of $19,609,000 as of January 1, 2011. The Board of Pension and Health Benefits has started the process of evaluating changes in the post-retirement health care plan that would take effect in 2013 with the objective of maintaining a sustainable post-retirement health care for our clergy and conference lay employees. PROPERTY AND WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE: The conference Property and Casualty Insurance Mandated Group Program has progressed into its third year and the Board of Trustees will start the process of securing proposals and renegotiating with qualified insurance companies. A survey of all churches will be completed and request for proposals will be extended to these companies. In 2011, the Safety Group Dividend Plan agreement with Church Mutual resulted in safety dividend going to churches in the amount of $71,233 which represented half of the total. The remainder of about the same amount will be distributed in 2012. Savings on the Multi-Peril insurance premium of churches joining the Church Mutual program averaged 22% of their previous plan while churches already in the Church Mutual program saw a 10% savings. The combined annual savings during the first year of the Program was 15% or about $210 thousand. Savings from the Workers Compensation Insurance was less precise to




quantify and was estimated to be about 17%. CONFERENCE PROPERTY: All conference property has been diligently cared for by our trustees. Since 2007, we have reported conference property and equipment on the financial statements at their original cost value. At December 31, 2011, value of property and equipment net of depreciation was $2.5 million with the original cost value of $5.3 million. I acknowledge with appreciation the support of the treasury staff, John Kosten, Ann Buck and Russ Geske, whose dedication make possible the accounting of 490 funds with more than 2,500 accounts in the conference treasury. The leadership and guidance of all conference leaders on the boards and agencies I serve were invaluable in carrying the ministry of finance and administration in the conference. “I thank my God every time I remember you as partners in ministry.” (Phil 1:3-4). Pros Tumonong, Conference TreasurerPros Tumonong, Conference Treasurer

D. CONFERENCE LAY LEADERS’ REPORT Bishop Keaton, Cabinet, clergy and laity: “This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalms 118:24. My favorite verse reminds me that I am blessed everyday, blessed to have so many days and opportunities to share God’s Word. I’d like to introduce the Board of Lay Ministries: Associate Conference Lay Leader – Ray Marshall Six District Lay Leaders: Albion – Max Waagner Heartland – Larry Wyman Grand Rapids – Helen Reid Grand Traverse– Mike McDonald Kalamazoo – Sandy Lash Lansing – Deb Fennell Director of Lay Speaking (Lay Servants) – Sheila Baker Scouting – Keith Anderson United Methodist Men – Mike Bremer United Methodist Women – Jenny Kroeze Members-at-Large – Mary Gardner and Pat Catellier I’m sorry that several of these people are absent, but they are working and have a difficult time missing three days of work to attend Annual Conference. These servants represent you, the laity, in numerous ways and on various boards and agencies. Thank you for your time, talents and willingness to serve. We are all on a journey. We don’t know how long it will be or even where it will take us. We do know that God’s in charge and it will be a blessing. It’s up to us to trust and obey God. Sometimes we think one person is insignificant and doesn’t matter. Remember Jessica Arnold, the 19 year-old student who continues to gather and ship textbooks to Liberia. She’s only one person, but ask the people of Liberia if she’s important. Jessica makes a huge difference in their lives. Along the road on our journey, I’d like to share some accomplishments and changes for the laity. The 2004 General Conference voted that Conference Lay Leaders would become new members of the Full Cabinet. Annually the appointive cabinet which consists of the Bishop, Clergy Assistant to the Bishop and all six District Superintendents, appoints pastors to churches. The Full Cabinet has four additional members: Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Benton Heisler, Conference Treasurer Pros Tumonong, Director of Communications Mark Doyal and now Conference Lay Leader Laurie Dahlman. We meet monthly for business




items and to share thoughts and ideas. In this way laity are included and our concerns are addressed. I am a voice and representative for the laity. We work diligently and many hours. We have become a family. The 2004 General Conference also voted that Conference Lay Leaders could participate in our Ordination Service held annually at Annual Conference. This is a very sacred time and it’s a blessing to lay hands on our new ordinands. Remember that I’m representing all of you during this service. Additionally, the 2004 General Conference added the word “witness” to membership vows. When anyone joins the United Methodist Church, “we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness.” God has called laity as well as clergy to help make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and we, the laity, need to witness. Clergy cannot do it alone. They need us. So let’s work together for God and truly become CLAITY (clergy and laity) partnering in ministry. I was blessed this past year to attend a Clergy Sexual Ethics Seminar. It was eyeopening for me. Michael Clark, Conference Lay Leader from the Detroit Annual Conference, and I talked about our experiences and would love to see this seminar made available to the laity of both conferences. Clergy and laity would have separate days in order to maintain honesty and confidentiality. It made me much more aware of things to look for and hopefully to avoid potential problems. My eight year journey as Conference Lay Leader has been one filled with wonderful opportunities of serving our Lord and new experiences while meeting lovely people. God works in such mysterious ways and provides everything needed and in abundance. Had I declined this position, as was my original plan, I would have missed all these blessings which the Lord provided me. Journeys can be long, difficult and tiresome, but God made mine one of hope, love, expectation, support, encouragement and even a little adventurous. THANK YOU! God bless everyone. Laurie A. Dahlman Conference Lay Leader —WMC Photos, Mark Doyal