On June 10, 2015 ballots were counted and announcement made of the commitment to create one conference in Michigan.
LANSING, June 10 (MIC) – Three years after she first arrived in Michigan and began to hear stirrings about bringing together the Detroit and West Michigan conferences into one, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey today announced to the Area, “Dear friends, the vote is Detroit Conference 718 yes and 75 no; West Michigan 551 yes and 83 no. We have discerned that now is the time for our two annual conferences to become one!”
During a live webcast from the Area Ministry Center, Bishop Deb addressed hundreds who watched online and to the 75 persons assembled, “I want to personally thank you all for your willingness to participate in this ‘journey’, and I celebrate all that has happened along this ‘journey’. I also celebrate today the exciting possibilities and challenges that are now before us.”
The Bishop asked for continued prayers for next steps as she begins to gather the area-wide Design Team together. Their task will be to take the concept of one, unified Michigan Conference and make it, with the help of many others, into a plan.
The union of the Detroit and West Michigan conferences must also be approved at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference convening in Peoria, IL in July of 2016. If the NCJ blesses the plan, it is expected to take 2-3 years before Michigan’s two annual conferences take the final vote to dissolve and emerge as a single conference.
“I am very pleased the vote was affirmative – again thank you for that discernment,” Bishop Deb continued. “However, I am fully aware that in many ways, the hard work begins now. It is a difficult and yet exciting task to try to create something new, and it will take a great deal of prayer, a creative spirit, many wise minds, and a willingness to ‘let go’ of some things we might hold dear.”
Other leaders also expressed joy in the announcement. The Rev. Benton Heisler, Director of Connectional Ministries for West Michigan said, “I am incredibly excited about this new opportunity we have created for ourselves in response to the moving of God’s Spirit!” He continued, “There have been artificial obstacles of redundancy and overlap that have diverted human and financial resources along with hampering clarity of vision and effective leadership. Now we can make those adjustments, create new ministry models and be strategically focused as a united Michigan Conference.”
The Rev. Dr. Jerome (Jerry) DeVine, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Detroit Conference, noted, “It is clear now that the majority of our annual conference members in both conferences envision us being more effective and fruitful together than apart.” Mindful of the Apostle Paul’s image of “one body,” DeVine went on to say, “Just as athletes train their bodies for the rigors of the specific activities they will strive to excel in, so too we will be in a sort of training time to strengthen our whole Michigan Area body to fulfill the vision and mission God has called us to be part of for the transformation of lives and communities.”
In conversation on the floor of both Annual Conference this spring, some members expressed concern about the uncertainties and lack of answers in hand prior to the vote. The Rev. Melanie Carey (current Superintendent of the Detroit Renaissance District and future Clergy Assistant to Bishop Kiesey) calls the Area to trust as the journey continues. “I look forward to the collaborative effort of creating something new. I trust this creative process will be highly participatory and will focus on the local church as the most important center for making Christian Disciples.”
Further, she joins the Bishop in requesting prayer as well as ideas. “Please focus your prayers for wisdom and creativity as we move forward in new ways. And stay tuned for ways in which your input can be added to this new thing God is doing in Michigan United Methodism,” Carey concluded.
This truly is a day of new beginnings!” Bishop Deb declared, “It’s a day to remember all that’s been … and move on. It’s a day to believe in what love is bringing … and to trust that the God who brought us here, will continue to guide us into that new future with hope, with excitement, and with joy!” Click here to watch video.