By Fred Koenig
The Missouri Conference now has nine districts rather than 12, approved by a nearly unanimous vote with no debate.
“I wonder if there has ever been a time in the history of United Methodism that a Conference voted that smoothly and quickly on reducing districts,” Bishop Robert Schnase rhetorically asked after the vote.
Preceding the vote, Special Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership Development Cody Collier explained how since Bishop Schnase would only be in Missouri two more years, it is time to finalize some of the experiments that have been started.
“One of the experiments Missouri has tried is having one superintendent serve two districts – and we have done that three times,” Collier said. “So with nine district superintendents and 12 districts, there have been some questions about whether Bishop Schnase might lead us into redistricting before he moves to another assignment.”
Mid-State District Superintendent Lynn Dyke said the cabinet has considered the idea, discussing number of churches, population and driving time. They also looked at financial implications.
“We talked about money, and our belief that the Conference would not want to go back to having 12 district superintendents, as this would add approximately $450,000 to the Conference budget,” Dyke said.
Missouri Conference Lay Leader Brian Hammons said the Mission Council also took up the issue, and approved of reducing the number of districts to nine.
“It is formalizing what we are already doing,” Hammons said.
Before the vote, Hammons presented an amendment to the proposal, giving the United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men until 2016 to restructure their officers and budgets to fit the newly aligned districts. The amendment was adopted.
Beginning July 1, the Pony Express and Heartland North districts merged, the Ozarks North and Ozarks South districts merged, and the Heartland South and Heartland Central Districts merged. In the coming year district boundaries will be adjusted to best impact ministry.