2016 Annual Conference Session

The 2016 Great Plains Annual Conference Session is scheduled for June 1-4 and will be held at the Kansas Expocentre (1 Expocentre Drive) in Topeka, Kansas. The theme, "Serving Christ Near and Far," will focus on the global connection of the United Methodist Church.

Guest Speakers

Archbishop Elias Chacour

Retired Archbishop Elias Chacour will be our featured teacher Thursday, June 2.  In addition to speaking in the morning, Archbishop Chacour will be the keynote speaker at the Mercy and Justice lunch on Thursday. A love offering will be taken during the lunch for support of Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

Chacour was born to a Palestinian Christian family in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in 1939. Along with others in his village, he was evicted in 1948 by Israeli authorities. He and his family members then became citizens of Israel when the Israeli state was created. He refers to himself as an Arab Palestinian Christian citizen of Israel.

In 1965, Father Chacour was ordained a priest in the Melkite Catholic Church and sent to the village of Ibillin in Galilee, not far from the village of Nazareth, where Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for hundreds of years. Yet, when he arrived, he readily became aware of divisions and tensions between the residents.  It wasn’t long before he began working to break down the walls that divided people.

Father Chacour realized early on that his work in Ibillin would require more than priestly duties.  His vision was, and still is, that through education, children, youth, and young adults of different faith traditions will learn to live and work together in peace. He was determined to open a school where all local children could receive an education, regardless of religious affiliation. In the early 1980’s the first classroom building was erected on an empty hillside now called the Mount of Light, and has continued to grow and expand since then.  Approximately 4000 students now commute from seventy different villages to attend high school and university.

Father Chacour was Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee from 2006 to 2014. He is the author of two books about the experience of Palestinian people living in present-day Israel.  Both books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land, will be available for purchase in the Cokesbury book store during annual conference.

George Howard

George Howard, Deputy General Secretary for Mission and Evangelism for the General Board of Global Ministries, will be our teacher for Friday morning, June 3.  Howard will help us understand how what GBGM has learned from the churches in other countries can influence how we function as the church in the United States.

Howard has a long-standing passion for international missions and asset-based community development and has lived in several parts of the world, making him especially gifted to the work of connecting the church in mission around the globe.

Howard has many years of leadership in the West Ohio conference, leading congregational and community-development efforts and orchestrating strategies for developing leadership skills in the conference. 

Howard was one of the creators of the partnership between the North Katanga Conference and the West Ohio Conference, and a founding leader of The United Methodist Church for All People, a multiracial, cross-class church in Columbus, OH.  He has hosted dozens of Volunteer-in-Mission work teams and worked with a wide variety of people of different cultures and contexts.

The Mission and Evangelism Unit of GBGM recruits, places, and supports missionaries, including young adults, from many lands and cultures in a variety of ministries.  The unit also promotes and oversees new mission initiatives; cultivates ties with Conferences and mission partners outside the United States; and links to the mission volunteer movement.

For questions contact Dana Reinhardt at dreinhardt@greatplainsumc.org or call 402-464-5994 ext.105.