Pictured L-R: Laura DeGuire; Sarah Musson; Jay Makowski; Pastor Melanie Carey
The 2023 Michigan Annual Conference theme was “New Every Morning”. We were reminded that God’s love is new every morning. Yes, although we are going through hard times (COVID, church disaffiliations, and reduced budgets), God’s love is, and remains, with us always.
Over the past year, nine churches have closed their doors. During the Annual Conference, sixty churches that applied for disaffiliation were approved to leave the denomination. More churches are expected to apply for disaffiliation. A special meeting of the Michigan Annual Conference will happen November 30, 2023, to address those and to approve disaffiliation where the requirements were not met by the July 1, 2023, deadline. The Michigan Conference budget was reduced by 20%. Despite this sad news, God’s love endures and renews every morning.
Bishop Bard will continue to lead the Michigan Conference. District Superintendent, Dr. Jerome DeVine, is retiring and we wish him the best. The Michigan Conference has been consolidated from 9 to 7 districts. As part of that reorganization, our area is now joined with the Heritage District. LuAnn Rourke serves as our Heritage District Superintendent. Pastor Melanie Carey will continue to serve University UMC for the upcoming year.
There were very bright spots despite the discouraging news of disaffiliations and consolidation. The Laity Perspective was about Christian Innovation led by Kimberly Daniel. We were challenged to hope and heal in abundant life and communities through innovative Christian practices. Rev. Grace Imathiu spoke on Assurance in Difficult Times and during the Sunday morning worship service when she spoke of our belovedness in God’s eyes. You are highly encouraged to watch these, as they are inspiring and uplifting in a way we need during difficult times. Laura and Sarah attended “Forging Guns into Garden Tools” at Traverse City Central UMC. It was encouraging to see the blacksmith turn a gun into a garden hoe and spade.
We celebrated accomplishments from the past year including the Day of Advocacy to end gun violence (which many of you participated in). The local news called it a “Methodist miracle.” We celebrated Readers to Leaders, a campaign for students in Michigan and Liberia. We also celebrated After the Storm, a year-old disaster recovery non-profit, that has served in Detroit after flooding and in Gaylord after the tornado hit there. As a conference, we are challenged to raise $600,000 to sustain this new organization’s future. The Michigan Conference gave $2,141,377.50 to The Advance in 2022, which is more than any other conference in the denomination. We also supported twenty-eight missionaries which is also more than any other conference.
We participated in passing many legislative resolutions and passed a General Conference petition to add to the Book of Resolutions that we “Advocate for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” We passed financial items, including the Conference Budget for 2024, the Equitable Compensations Schedule, Past Service Rate, and Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired or Clergy on Disability. Legislation was passed and included “A call to promote justice for Palestine,” “Financial Support for Archives and History,” and “In Support of Creating a U.S. Regional Conference.” Also passing was legislation “Encouraging Leadership with Integrity,” “Affirmation of the Queer Delegates’ Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in the UMC,” and “Supporting the Removal of Discriminatory Policies.” Postponed indefinitely was a proposed “Third grade reading efficiency in local communities” (redundant of Readers to Leaders) and a proposal “To recognize the unborn baby.”
Lay Leader Jay Makowski along with Laura DeGuire and Sarah Musson were proud to represent University United Methodist Church as your Laity Representatives at Annual Conference. Please feel free to reach out to any one of us if you have any questions.