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.
MissionInsite provides demographic information to local church and conference leaders to help them in their outreach efforts. One way of learning about new people in our communities is to study statistical data provided through the U.S. Census. Demographics assist both established churches and new communities of faith better understand and engage their mission field.
Local church leaders participating in Healthy Church Initiative consultations, for instance, prepare a demographic report provided by MissionInsite to help them assess their outreach potential. The material can identify persons or groups who are not being reached by our churches and offer insights about how we can develop relationships with them.
In addition to HCI and other church revitalization processes, the demographic information is used by superintendents as they consider pastoral appointments and by conference leaders to identify and start new communities of faith. Bruce Wittern, the chair of the Iowa Conference Standing Committee on Parish Development said, “We have seen a great increase in the use of MissionInsite over the past couple of years.”
His committee invests $10,000 annually in a contract with MissionInsite so that this demographic information can be available free of charge to all churches and leaders within the Iowa Conference. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The Lake Mills Food Shelf is a part of a network of about 500 partner agencies with the Food Bank of Iowa—food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, schools, and others—who serve Iowans in need directly.
“Right now in Iowa,” the Food Bank reports on their website, “one in eight people struggles with food insecurity.” In addition, “one in five children may not have food at home.”
The Lake Mills Food Shelf, alongside their many partners across the state, invites the people of their area to be Difference Makers. With donations of food, funds, or time, supporters respond to hunger needs by providing “food for Iowa children, families, and seniors to lead full and active lives, strengthening the communities where they live.”
The Food Shelf was originally located in Asbury United Methodist Church in Lake Mills. This ministry was one of the practical ways the people of their congregation were transforming their world as disciples of Jesus Christ. The pantry is now located in the Helgeson Civic Center, which allows the organization to have set hours with a staff of volunteers.
Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa have supported the Food Shelf through a $2,500 Matthew 25 grant from the North Central District.
James and Greg are best friends. They have been chronically homeless for the last fifteen years. Both have struggled with drinking, and they have chosen to “camp.”
The two men have been living outside for the last three years. They have been coming to The Center, a ministry of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Davenport, each day for showers, meals, and work. Greg’s job is the windows and James does the dishes.
A few months ago Greg decided he “felt valued enough to go into housing.” He currently has a small apartment but still comes to visit The Center everyday to do his job.
James got housing more recently. His first purchase for his new house was a shovel. Pennie Kellenberger, the director of The Center, said to him, “A shovel? But you need so much more.” He told her, “Pennie, I haven’t shoveled my own sidewalk since I was a kid. I want my neighbors to see me! I live somewhere.”
The Center’s goal “is to be a light in dark places, serving the needs of our community through the empowering love of Jesus.” They strive to love people where they are in community until healthy change happens.
The Iowa Conference is investing $17,000 in The Center this year. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Southwest District is celebrating Difference Makers in their part of the state. Two of their disciples from First United Methodist Church in Carroll were featured recently.
Sara and Lisa are a mother/daughter team who feel God’s call to help children. They are active in UM Kids on Wednesdays after school, and they teach Sunday school. In addition, they invest in community ministries that affect the lives of children. Here are just two examples.
Lisa is one of two people working with the Carroll Community Schools to find volunteers through the Parent School Cooperative. PSC volunteers help with many different things from picture days and health checks to classroom support, book fairs, and fundraisers. And the list just goes on and on.
Sara has started a program called Carroll Cares, a community toy drive that assures that children have a good Christmas. Donations of money or gift items can be dropped off at the church, and Sara will help take care of the rest. Last year, for example, this ministry collected games, balls, sweatshirts, dolls, trucks, and more that were split between different community services that could get them to children in need.
The Iowa Conference is investing $10,749 in the ministries of the Southwest District to develop leaders and celebrate Difference Makers like Sara and Lisa. These funds are made available from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state.
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.
A PBS special, “We’ll Meet Again,” hosted by Ann Curry recently featured the story of a United Methodist chaplain in an episode entitled, “Heroes of 9/11.”
Captain Doug Waite, a retired Navy chaplain, was at the site of the plane crash at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The television special tells the story of Capt. Waite ministering to the needs of Col. Timothy Mallard, an Army chaplain. Until recently, Col. Mallard had never learned the name of the man who had stopped to pray for him in the midst of the chaos of that tragic day.
The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry works with chaplains to assure proper credentialing and benefits. The GBHEM “invites, equips and supports faithful and effective clergy and lay leaders for congregations and the world.”
Their United Methodist Endorsing Agency (UMEA) has responsibility for recruitment, endorsement, and support of clergy in extension ministries. The vision of the UMEA is “that United Methodist ordained chaplains and pastoral counselors will be active and visible in connectional ministry and mission to persons, institutions, and systems in multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary settings.”
The Iowa Conference is contributing $427,863 in 2018 toward the Ministerial Education Fund, which underwrites GBHEM programming. These resources are made possible through the gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.