By Susan Sneed
Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase called to order the 2016 Annual Conference and John Wright, a lay member from Grace UMC in St. Louis, offered the opening prayer. Immediately following the worship and baptism service, Bishop Schnase recognizing the 200th anniversary of Missouri Methodism, the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Methodist Church and the 20th anniversary of the Order of Deacon. He welcomed Ruth Handy, wife of Bishop W.T. Handay, former Bishop of Missouri, who was present during much of this year’s conference.
Rev. Monica Jefferson, Conference Secretary, established the bar, which indicates the physical area where those eligible to vote should be seated if they want their vote to count.
She was followed by Rev. Rob Barringer, chair of the Session Committee, who offered evidence of the theme Radical Hospitality in the form of coffee stations and phone charging stations in the main room. Cards thanking people who are serving in local restaurants were in the packets and the members were encouraged to use them. Booths in the exhibit area close at the end of the day Saturday. Rev. Barringer moved that the published agenda be accepted, and it was accepted by the conference.
The Standing Rules report came from both Rev. Jim Dace, chair of the Rules and Procedures Committee and committee member, Ms. Wendy Hildenbrand. There were five items brought before the annual conference. Since there are no camps, the programming responsibilities will be moved to the Camping Ministries Team. Changes to the communications commission will move those responsibilities to Mission Council and the Office of Connectional Ministries. The creation of the Mission, Service and Justice Team is a result of merging the Creative Ministries and Social Justice Teams and now houses the conference boards of Global Ministries and the Commission on Christian Unity, Ethnic Local Church Concerns and Native American Ministries. This team will also link with the General Board of Church and Society and direct Volunteers in Mission and Disaster Response.
All ecumenical ministries will also be the responsibility of this team. The Youth Leadership Team will now function for all youth related ministries and Next Generation Ministries will replace the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, as well as Young Adult Ministries Team. These teams will also work with the Camping Ministries Team. These changes were all voted on and approved later in the conference. These changes are bringing into alignment the rules with the Conference’s current practices.