More than 1300 members of the 2018 Iowa Annual Conference gathered in downtown Des Moines last week. The Connectional Ministries Council staff were among the many conference staff members who were working behind the scenes to help assure that the event went smoothly. They devoted days both before and after the event moving furniture and equipment from the Conference Center to Hy-Vee Hall to enable them to have remote offices to care for the business of the conference.
Even more important, however, was the impact of their work on the ministries of Difference Makers who were recognized at the Celebration of Ministry on June 9th. The School for Lay Ministry honored 27 new graduates. The Board of Church and Society announced three recipients of Peace with Justice scholarships and recognized Doris Knight with the Beje Clark Restorative Justice Award. The Commission on the Status and Role of Women presented their Ambassador Award posthumously to Eileen McPherson. The Academy for Spiritual Formation announced their four graduates. Sixteen churches were recognized for completing the Healthy Church Initiative process.
The Connectional Ministries team provides administrative support throughout the year for several conference agencies and their related ministries. Their 2018 budget of $937,321 supports the work of the Leadership Development Minister for Camping and Christian Formation plus four administrative staff persons. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Mobile United Methodist Missionaries is using the latest Cokesbury curriculum, Rolling River Rampage, for their summer Bible school season. MUMM’s staff hosted some VBS fairs in Chariton, Atlantic, and Mount Pleasant earlier this year to introduce church leaders in the southern districts of the conference to the material.
Romper, the puppet, helps kids have fun as they learn five different Bible stories about Jesus, the disciples, Mary, Martha, and Zacchaeus in five sessions. The children enjoy “a white-water rafting adventure to experience the ride of a lifetime with God!”
Life with God, they will find, is an adventure full of wonder and surprise, and they can trust God to be with them through anything. The theme Bible verse is “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” from Isaiah 43:2 (CEB), riding the rapids of amazing grace!
These Bible school events help MUMM’s participants fulfill their mission to make disciples of Christ in rural southern Iowa. Visit them on Facebook to follow the ways they are helping small rural churches reach out and share God’s love in their communities, especially youth.
Apportionment gifts of $35,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa are budgeted in 2018 to support Mobile United Methodist Missionaries.
Threehouse, the Wesley Foundation of the United Methodist Church at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, offered free breakfasts to students during finals week at the beginning of May.
“Too busy cramming for finals to cook?” they said. “We’ve got you covered!” The breakfasts were available from 8 a.m. to noon each day. “Let us take some of the stress off your plate as the semester winds down. All are welcome!”
They served a different menu item each day, including a breakfast casserole, French toast, assorted baked goods, and paninis.
Threehouse is combination of three ideas. First, the Trinity, “our belief in a relational God that wants us to grow in compassion with God.” Second, Third Places, “not school, not work, but that other place where community happens.” Third, Tree Houses, which are “playful, creative, safe, and green.”
“John Wesley, the Founder of the Methodist movement,” their website reminds us, “was himself a campus minister at Oxford University. Methodism has a rich tradition of social activism and personal growth.” They are “Rooted in Faith, Free to Branch Out.”
The Iowa Conference is investing $131,542 in apportionment gifts in 2018 from United Methodist churches across the state to support the ministries of Threehouse.
Several staffing changes are taking place this year in response to the Iowa Conference’s strategic priority of directing our resources to our common goals. The Healthy Conference Initiative is guiding the implementation process to equip our leaders and our local churches to adapt and thrive in our current and ever-changing ministry environment.
Joni Mardesen, the Director of Human Resources, plays a key role in helping to align the Iowa Conference’s organizational structures and staffing resources for the sake of our mission and vision. Her work has included consulting with a variety of conference leaders to develop job descriptions for three Directors in New Communities of Faith, Congregational Excellence, and Clergy and Leadership Excellence.
Her office and the Human Resources Committee of the Iowa Conference continues to support alignment efforts by encouraging staff covenants to guide working relationships, especially as job roles are adjusted. The team also facilitates recruitment and hiring, compensation planning, performance management, and training and development practices for staff across the state.
In 2018 the office is receiving $102,380 in apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa. Additional monies for their ministries are provided by the Conference Board of Pension for the administration of the benefit plans of employees.
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Iowa City recently hosted one of several events being held throughout the state with Bishop Laurie Haller. She is exploring options with lay and clergy leaders to maintain and strengthen the unity of The United Methodist Church in light of our differences regarding human sexuality.
Participants discussed the most important values and convictions of their faith in Christ. They also learned about two proposals that are being developed for consideration at a special global gathering of church leaders in St. Louis next February. Although a final proposal is not yet completed, information about its development through the work of the Commission on a Way Forward is available and updated online regularly.
United Methodist bishops all around the world are pursuing these same conversations in their conferences to help the Church determine how we may remain united for the sake of our shared mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The Episcopal Fund, which pays bishops’ salaries, covers their office and travel expenses, and provides their pension and health-benefit coverage, is made possible with the support of each annual conference of our global Church. In 2018 the Iowa Conference is contributing $375,148 toward these purposes in apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches throughout the state.
Bruno Rwayitare made his way to Iowa from Rwanda in 2004. He had a good friend who was already living here, and he hoped to find a college where he could pursue his education.
Iowa Wesleyan University is the place he landed. “My first year was really difficult,” he said at a Founders Day luncheon last year. “I was far away from everything and everyone (I knew) and I was wondering if this was the right place to be for me.”
Four years later he completed his degree with the help of the Iowa Wesleyan community. He now works in Cedar Rapids and builds avionics for aircraft.
Iowa Wesleyan University is a Difference Maker in the lives of many international students. They come from 29 different countries, and they are among the 60% of students who embody the racial ethnic diversity of the campus.
Faith and Service are among the values of the school. “We honor spiritual values, social justice, and the welfare of the human community through civic engagement and service to one another.” Their campus ministries provide a variety of ways for students to express and practice their faith.
Iowa Wesleyan University is receiving $20,000 in 2018 to support their educational initiatives. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
About thirty people gathered in the shadow of the Iowa State Capitol to meet with legislators and their staff to discuss issues of importance to The United Methodist Church.
The 2018 Legislative Advocacy Day was hosted by the Iowa United Methodist Women on January 17th at Wesley United Methodist Church in cooperation with the Iowa Annual Conference’s Advocacy Team. “It was an energizing day,” said Brian Carter, “with many thoughtful, compassionate, and justice-seeking United Methodists in dialogue with legislators.”
Participants addressed several topics, including prison reform through community-based corrections and rehabilitation; responses to the criminalization of communities of color; quality, affordable primary and preventive health care to underserved people in Iowa, especially women and children; and compassionate immigration reform.
The day concluded with a conversation on the Commission on a Way Forward, which is preparing a proposal help The United Methodist Church address disagreements on human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
The Legislative Advocacy Team is supported in 2018 with $1,000 grant to cover the costs of educating the laity and clergy of the conference on issues of justice coming before the Iowa General Assembly and the United States Congress. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa.