News


Bishop Wilson among advocates for payday loan reform

Bishop Wilson among advocates for payday loan reform

1/25/2023
TOPEKA — Bishop David Wilson joined statewide religious leaders in calling for reform of payday loan regulations in Kansas.  The Great Plains Conference bishop joined Catholic and Jewish leaders in calling for changes in the industry in a Jan. 25 news conference in the rotunda of the state Capitol.  “We don’t always agree with each other,” the bishop said, “but we agree on this.”  Bishop Wilson asked the Kansas Legislature to conduct hearings in the House Financial Institutions and Pensions ...

David Burke


Kansas pastor still going strong at age 91

Kansas pastor still going strong at age 91

1/24/2023
ELSMORE, Kansas – Rev. Ralph Peters asks and answers his own question. “Why is an old pastor, 91 years old, still preaching?” he said in the middle of a recent sermon at Elsmore United Methodist Church. “I’m still preaching because I love the Lord God, God’s power, and the things He can do.” Rev. Ralph Peters talks to the congregation at Elsmore United Methodist Church before Sunday services. Photos by David Burke According to Great Plains Conference statistics, he’s the only nonagenarian ...

David Burke


Group seeks ways to end violence in KCK

Group seeks ways to end violence in KCK

1/18/2023
KANSAS CITY, Kansas – With the image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as a figurative and literal backdrop, Churches United for Justice asked local law enforcement officials to begin initiating group violence intervention programs in Wyandotte County. “The violence must stop,” the Rev. Ronald King, pastor of Mason Memorial United Methodist Church, said at a news conference Jan. 16 that preceded MLK Day celebrations at Memorial Hall. Churches United for Justice is a coalition of 14 houses of ...

David Burke


Chali to succeed Reece as Wichita DS

Chali to succeed Reece as Wichita DS

1/17/2023
The former mercy and justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference will become the district superintendent for the Wichita area beginning July 1. Rev. Dr. Kalaba Chali, 45, will succeed Rev. Dr. Mitch Reece, who will reach his eight-year limit on the appointive cabinet. Reece will be appointed as senior pastor of Wichita Aldersgate United Methodist Church.   Rev. Dr. Kalaba Chali “Kalaba Chali will be a great superintendent for the people of the Wichita districts. He is very familiar ...

David Burke


Grant to help conference with March border trip

Grant to help conference with March border trip

1/11/2023
A $10,000 grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race will go toward a border immersion opportunity for those in the Great Plains Conference wanting to learn more about immigration.  The immersion trip, under the umbrella Justice Encounters, will be March 23-28.  Leaders from the Great Plains Conference went on a border immersion trip in March. Photo courtesy Central Texas Conference The grant will alleviate some of the cost for the 35 people who have signed up for the trip to the...

David Burke


Bishop continues tradition at Topeka First

Bishop continues tradition at Topeka First

1/10/2023
Bishop David Wilson continued a 50-plus year tradition Jan. 8, delivering the sermon at Topeka First United Methodist Church.  From its days in the former Kansas East Conference through its time in the Great Plains Conference, the downtown Topeka church has traditionally hosted the new bishop for that person’s first sermon as episcopal leader.  Bishop David Wilson delivers the Jan. 8 sermon at Topeka First UMC. Photos by David Burke The tradition began in 1972, shortly after the Rev. Dr. E....

David Burke


Grants targeted at self-care for clergy in Great Plains

Grants targeted at self-care for clergy in Great Plains

1/4/2023
The Great Plains Conference will continue to provide clergy an opportunity to choose their own means of self-care.  Launched as a pilot program in 2021, clergy well-being grants will continue in the new year with a handful of changes, including a limit of $400 over a two-year period and two grant cycles, one Feb. 1 to May 1 and the other from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1.  “The goal is for those who are actively serving in ministry is to be thinking, ‘What can I do for my soul in an intentional way?’ This ...

David Burke


New bishop praised for compassion, connection

New bishop praised for compassion, connection

12/14/2022
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Those who have known and worked with Bishop David Wilson describe him with various combinations of three C’s: Caring, compassion and connection.  Bishop Wilson, who will begin as episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference on Jan. 1, has been assistant to the bishop of the Oklahoma Conference since 2021, and before that served 19 years as conference superintendent for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, or OIMC. The OIMC is 81 Native American churches, mostly in ...

David Burke


Bishop Williamston looks back at time in Great Plains

Bishop Williamston looks back at time in Great Plains

12/13/2022
Sixteen months isn’t very long on the job.  But it was that time frame as director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop of the Great Plains Conference that gave Bishop Dee Williamston the courage and the confidence to make advances in the denomination.  “It was fast,” she said with a laugh.  The 57-year-old Topeka native was elected as the first Black female bishop in the South Central Jurisdiction on Nov. 2 during its conference in Houston, chosen on the first ballot, along with ...

David Burke


Church court: No new elections needed for GC2024

Church court: No new elections needed for GC2024

12/13/2022
The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that new delegate elections “are not required” for the long-delayed and potentially pivotal General Conference, now set for 2024. “The delegates duly elected to the 2020 General Conference for the 2020-2024 Quadrennium stand as submitted and certified by the annual conference secretaries,” the Judicial Council said Tuesday in Decision 1451. In practice, this means that the same delegates elected in 2018 or 2019 to a General Conference facing ...

United Methodist News Service


Conference bids farewell to Bishop, Mayé Saenz

Conference bids farewell to Bishop, Mayé Saenz

12/12/2022
With waves of laughter and tears, the Great Plains Conference bid farewell to Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and his wife, Mayé, on Dec. 9.  About 150 clergy, laity, cabinet, retirees and staff members gathered at Topeka Countryside United Methodist Church to honor Bishop Saenz, who will begin Jan. 1 as the episcopal leader of the North and Central Texas conferences.  Those attending the farewell service for Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and his wife, Mayé, offered them a blessing. Photos by David Burke ...

David Burke


Bishop Wilson gets sendoff from Oklahoma, OIMC

Bishop Wilson gets sendoff from Oklahoma, OIMC

12/6/2022
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the blessings of dozens of Native American tribes, Bishop David Wilson was sent off from the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary conferences in a Dec. 4 ceremony at Mosaic United Methodist Church.  “He made a pathway to You to become the first OIMC bishop,” Rev. Mike Svitak, OIMC district superintendent, said in an opening prayer for Bishop Wilson, who will begin at the Great Plains Conference at the first of the year.  Svitak sang a Kiowa hymn, one of five hymns by ...

David Burke


Lincoln’s new justice group sets name, priorities, leader

Lincoln’s new justice group sets name, priorities, leader

11/15/2022
LINCOLN – In the space of a 70-minute community problems assembly, Lincoln and Lancaster County’s new justice organization determined its two top priorities, elected officers, selected its name, and announced a Great Plains Conference clergy as its lead organizer. Justice in Action, the name selected by the 300 people attending the assembly at Eastridge Presbyterian Church — over Justice Coalition and Stronger Together — on Nov. 10, is partially funded by the conference’s $2.1 million Doing ...

David Burke


New bishop, colleague get close shaves

New bishop, colleague get close shaves

11/15/2022
As a candidate for bishop in The United Methodist Church this summer, the Rev. Dee Williamston got a wild hair. The director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop at the time, she was talking to the Rev. Jeff Clinger, director of congregational excellence, at the conference office in Topeka. The Rev. Jeff Clinger and Bishop Dee Williamston show off their new cuts. Photos by David Burke “We were just bantering because I just got my hair cut,” she said. “I said, ‘Maybe if I get ...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz names Crawford, Reece to interim roles

Bishop Saenz names Crawford, Reece to interim roles

11/9/2022
Two veteran Great Plains Conference clergy will temporarily fill the positions of the departing Bishop Dee Williamston, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. announced Wednesday. The Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford will be the interim clergy excellence director, and the Rev. Dr. Mitch Reece will be interim assistant to the bishop. They will temporarily take over the position previously held by Bishop Williamston, who was elected to the episcopacy last week and has been appointed to lead the Louisiana Conference. ...

David Burke


New governance system, new director for GP camps

New governance system, new director for GP camps

11/8/2022
A 30-year veteran of camp leadership through both the YMCA and The United Methodist Church will be the first director of camping services for GP Camps.  Bob Kahle is currently director of programs and operations for SC Camps and Retreat Ministries in the South Carolina Conference, including managing the largest of its three camps, Asbury Hills. He previously worked for YMCA camps in New Jersey, California, Michigan and North Carolina.  “We thought he could bring a new, fresh perspective as we ...

David Burke


New bishops look back at historic jurisdictionals

New bishops look back at historic jurisdictionals

11/7/2022
HOUSTON -- As the newly elected and veteran bishops prepared for the consecration service that concluded the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, all of them reflected on a historic, whirlwind week.  “It’s surreal, it’s surreal,” said Bishop Dee Williamston from the Great Plains, assigned to the Louisiana Conference. “It’s so exciting and I am just happy, speechless most of the time, but I am just thinking, ‘Look what God has done.’”  Bishop Dee Williamston and Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell ...

David Burke


Sibling delegates look back at historic week

Sibling delegates look back at historic week

11/4/2022
HOUSTON — They’re not quite sure who had the idea first. Siblings Roy and Abigail Koech pose for a photo at First United Methodist Church's west campus in Houston, the venue for the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Abigail Koech was encouraging friends in 2019 to nominate themselves as delegates to the General and Jurisdictional conferences during the Great Plains Annual Conference session, and reluctantly decided to put her own name in. Her brother Roy, meanwhile, was ...

David Burke


Wilson named as next Great Plains bishop

Wilson named as next Great Plains bishop

11/3/2022
Bishop-elect David Wilson waves to attendees from the Great Plains Conference after he was named as the next episcopal leader of the conference beginning Jan. 1, 2023.   First Native American bishop 'elated' to serve in Kansas and Nebraska HOUSTON — The first Native American bishop in the history of The United Methodist Church will become the episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference effective Jan. 1, 2023. Bishop-elect David Wilson’s assignment was announced ...

David Burke


Williamston to serve as bishop in Louisiana

Williamston to serve as bishop in Louisiana

11/3/2022
Twenty-four hours after her monumental election as the first Black female episcopal leader in the South Central Jurisdiction, Bishop-elect Dee Williamston is still being cheered on by her colleagues in the Great Plains Conference.   Bishop-elect Dee Williamston stands with representatives from the Louisiana Conference after she was announced as the new episcopal leader there during the South Central Jurisdictional Conference on Thursday in Houston. “Dee is an awesome leader,” said the ...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz puts eye on future in episcopal address

Bishop Saenz puts eye on future in episcopal address

11/3/2022
Capped by a rousing standing ovation, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asked the South Central Jurisdiction to look beyond the turmoil of the present and ahead to the church of the future. “For too long, but particularly the past six years, we have been consumed with the present as a denomination,” the leader of the Great Plains and North Texas conferences said during the episcopal address. “In fairness, we have had difficulty focusing on anything else, given all the successive shocking events we’ve ...

David Burke


Jurisdiction passes measure to empower LGBTQIA+ persons

Jurisdiction passes measure to empower LGBTQIA+ persons

11/3/2022
The South Central Jurisdiction overwhelmingly approved three resolutions Thursday morning, including asking those who are considering leaving the denomination to step back from church leadership roles, showing support for regional conferences, and giving justice and empowerment to United Methodists who are LGBTQIA+. Jesi Lipp presents a resolution meant to empower LGBTQIA+ persons in local churches and throughout the United Methodist connection Thursday during the South Central ...

David Burke


Newly elected bishops discuss historic vote

Newly elected bishops discuss historic vote

11/2/2022
Rev. Dr. David Wilson and Rev. Laura Merrill both were elected on the first ballot Tuesday at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.     The Rev. Dr. David Wilson was one of two history-making elections Tuesday at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. He is the first Native American bishop in The United Methodist Church — which he believes is the last denomination in America to choose an indigenous leader. He joins fellow bishop-elect Rev. Dee ...

David Burke


Williamston reflects on making history

Williamston reflects on making history

11/2/2022
  Rev. Dee Williamston waves to the crowd after receiving her bishop's pin minutes after being elected on the first ballot Tuesday during the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Houston. Clergy excellence director becomes 1st African-American woman elected in South Central  The Rev. Dee Williamston hopes her history-making election at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference will pave ways and open doors. “It’s been incredible to have the opportunity. God just showed up ...

David Burke


Williamston among 3 elected on 1st SCJ ballot

Williamston among 3 elected on 1st SCJ ballot

11/2/2022
HOUSTON – Delegates to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference elected three candidates, filling all of its vacant bishop seats, on the very first ballot Tuesday. The Rev. Dee Williamston, director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop of the Great Plains Conference, received 141 votes. The Rev. Laura Merrill, district superintendent in the Rio Texas Conference, received 99 votes.  And the Rev. Dr. David Wilson, assistant to the bishop of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian ...

David Burke


Bishop Jones previews SCJ ‘22

Bishop Jones previews SCJ ‘22

11/2/2022
  The 2022 South Central Jurisdictional Conference is the second in a row that Bishop Scott Jones has hosted. The former Great Plains Conference bishop, now the episcopal leader in the Texas Conference, also oversaw the 2016 conference in Wichita. Bishop Jones gave a preview of the 2022 SCJ to communicators from the jurisdiction on Wednesday morning, prior to the opening worship and start of the first session at 3 p.m. He said that although three bishops are retiring — Arkansas’ Gary ...

David Burke


Candidates answer questions prior to jurisdictional opening

Candidates answer questions prior to jurisdictional opening

11/1/2022
HOUSTON — Candidates for bishop introduced themselves to the delegations from the South Central Jurisdiction on Tuesday night, answering random questions from their favorite hymns and pastimes to disaffiliation discernment and whether they would agree to ordain LGBTQ+ clergy. Although individual delegations had met privately with the candidates, the night-before-opening of the jurisdictional conference was a gathering of all the groups in one room at the west campus for First United Methodist...

David Burke


Papillion church debuts first creative arts academy

Papillion church debuts first creative arts academy

10/31/2022
For an hour, the sanctuary at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Papillion turned into an art gallery, photo display, theater and comedy club.  It was the culmination of the first semester of the Papillion Creative Arts Academy at St. Paul’s UMC, where children and youth from preschool through middle school showed off their newfound talents.  A young girl shows off her ribbon twirling skills during the "Music & Movement" presentation. Photo by Diane Adams “It’s a beautiful expression of...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz to receive distinguished alumnus award from Perkins/SMU

Bishop Saenz to receive distinguished alumnus award from Perkins/SMU

10/25/2022
The Perkins School of Theology Alumni/ae Council has selected Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. (M.Div. ‘97; D. Min. ‘09) as the 2022 recipient of the Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. He will be honored Nov. 14 at SMU.  Saenz, a native of south Texas and lifelong United Methodist, was elected bishop in 2016 at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and assigned to the Great Plains Conference, based in Topeka, Kansas. In his role as episcopal leader in Kansas and Nebraska, Saenz has worked to ...

Connecting council approves expansion of diversity task force

Connecting council approves expansion of diversity task force

10/25/2022
What began last year as a short-term Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity Task Force could become a permanent committee next June, based on a vote by the Connecting Council during an online meeting Oct. 22.  Members of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion task force at their first meeting in October 2021. File photo The council brings together conference staff, district superintendents, and clergy and lay committee leaders at least twice a year to make recommendations to the annual conference session ...

David Burke


Capital matching grants available from conference; Nov. 15 is deadline for ‘22

Capital matching grants available from conference; Nov. 15 is deadline for ‘22

10/25/2022
Prompted by a motion from the floor of the 2022 annual conference, the Great Plains Conference board of trustees has established matching capital improvement grants for churches.  “The matching grant component helps the church demonstrate their long-term commitment to the project and accompanying ministry,” the Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, chair of the board of trustees, wrote in an email.  Grants of up to $25,000 are available from the conference. No church may receive more than $50,000 in a ...

David Burke


Podcast spotlights SCJ candidates for bishop

Podcast spotlights SCJ candidates for bishop

10/25/2022
The “In Layman’s Terms” podcast, hosted by Todd Seifert, Great Plains Conference communications director, has provided a short series of brief interviews involving the seven known candidates for bishop in the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.   Each of the candidates was asked the same questions to help laity and clergy across the Great Plains and the jurisdiction get to know the candidates a little better prior to the elections Nov. 2-5 in Houston. Each episode is 22 ...

Camp Horizon celebrates 75th anniversary

Camp Horizon celebrates 75th anniversary

10/19/2022
Marjorie Hunt Utt has 75-year-old memories of being a happy camper.  “A couple in Belle Plaine brought me down, and there weren’t many attendees here,” the 93-year-old recalled while waiting for the beginning of the 75th anniversary celebration at Camp Horizon. “There wasn’t much here. We had a building and that was it.”  But Utt, one of four generations attending the anniversary, still had a fondness for being in the first group of campers.  “I loved it,” she said. “The peacefulness and the ...

David Burke


Childcare center gives new life to former central Nebraska church

Childcare center gives new life to former central Nebraska church

10/19/2022
The building’s exterior still has the shape of the late 19th-century churches of its time.  Small touches of the stained glass in its windows provide a reminder of nearly 150 years of mission.  But inside the former sanctuary of the Kenesaw United Methodist Church is a modern, bustling community daycare for the central Nebraska town of 1,100.  Director Megan Krous, left and Pastor Kathy Uldrich talk to a visitor at the Kenesaw United Child Care open house on Oct. 8. Photos by David Burke “...

David Burke


Group holds rallies to encourage payday loan reform

Group holds rallies to encourage payday loan reform

10/19/2022
“Stop the debt trap!” was a common refrain during the first rally by Kansans for Payday Loan Reform, a grassroots organization protesting the 391% interest rate that can be charged by lenders.  “Today we are sending a message to Kansas lawmakers that enough is enough,” Deacon Anne Flynn, archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, said at the Oct. 9 rally at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka.  The Rev. Sarah Marsh, conference mercy and justice coordinator, speaks at the rally. ...

David Burke


Group wants awareness of family care options instead of orphanages

Group wants awareness of family care options instead of orphanages

10/5/2022
During Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute, those with an interest in missions to orphans were asked to a dinner.  Participants joined around tables that contained Bible verses about caring for widows and orphans, as well as questions about perceptions about orphanages.  It was one of the first gatherings called “Breaking Bread from House to House,” conversations about the role of churches in the United States in caring for global orphans.  Dr. Laura Horvath of Helping Children ...

David Burke


Hamilton counters GMC claims in videos, Leadership session

Hamilton counters GMC claims in videos, Leadership session

10/5/2022
The Rev. Adam Hamilton reiterated his devotion to The United Methodist Church during a Leadership Institute session on the future of the denomination.  In a largely autobiographical presentation, Hamilton, who founded United Methodist Church of the Resurrection 32 years ago, told about wavering between Pentecostal and Catholic upbringings before becoming acquainted with Methodist theology as a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.  “As a Methodist, I didn’t have to check my brain at the ...

David Burke


Leadership Institute includes guidance, hope -- and tractors

Leadership Institute includes guidance, hope -- and tractors

10/5/2022
Part of the mission of this year’s Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection, the Rev. Adam Hamilton said, was to give encouragement to pastors and churches in a post-COVID world, where attendance levels aren’t what they were before the pandemic.  “A lot of pastors in this room feel like they’re failing right now,” Hamilton, founding pastor of the 32-year-old church, told the 1,600 attending in person in Leawood, Kansas, and nearly 1,000 watching online.  Rev. Adam Hamilton makes an ...

David Burke


Bishop makes plea for hurricane relief

Bishop makes plea for hurricane relief

10/3/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter asking United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference to donate money for relief for people impacted by Hurricane Ian.  Download a printable PDF version. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference:   Debris spreads across the Fort Myers, Florida, landscape in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Photo Courtesy Live Storm Chasers Grace and peace in the name of Jesus Christ. I know you have been joining me in prayer for the people ...

Rugby is an exciting sideline for Baptist-turned-UMC pastor

Rugby is an exciting sideline for Baptist-turned-UMC pastor

9/27/2022
When it came time for the Rev. John Sievering to record a welcome video for his new congregation at Omaha St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, he had to postpone.  He had a black eye.  Rev. John Sievering sports a black eye after a rugby match. Photo courtesy John Sievering “We had to sort of push that off a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “Got some good pictures out of it.”  Sievering, who began at St. Andrew’s in July as executive pastor of discipleship and congregational care, finds a...

David Burke


Omaha St. Andrew's looks back at 30 years

Omaha St. Andrew's looks back at 30 years

9/21/2022
Three decades ago, the former Nebraska Conference began a concerted drive for new church starts and chose Rev. Dr. Al Winseman to launch one in northwest Omaha. Now a burgeoning suburban area with busy shopping centers and restaurants, the spot that would become St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church was in the middle of farmland. “I was appointed to come here basically with a vacant lot and a phone book,” Winseman recalled with a laugh. “Our whole plan all along was that we weren’t going to be ...

David Burke


Partnership brings FHSU literacy center under campus ministries’ roof

Partnership brings FHSU literacy center under campus ministries’ roof

9/21/2022
Fort Hays State University’s Language and Literacy Institute was looking for a new home.  FHSU’s United Methodist Campus Ministries was looking for students with a reason to enter its building.  Both of those needs are being met with a marriage of the two, stoked by the marriage of their leaders. Dr. Sarah Broman Miller is assistant professor of teacher education and director of the institute, and Troy Miller is campus pastor at Fort Hays State.  “My basic strategy, if you will, for outreach, ...

David Burke


Salina churches work together to bolster youth groups and beyond

Salina churches work together to bolster youth groups and beyond

9/14/2022
It’s just past 7 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and the Family Life Center at Salina Trinity United Methodist Church is filled with raucous laughter. A dodgeball-type game called “Protect the President” is being played, with two people in the center of a circle made up of other youth. Look closer at the circle, and you’ll see middle schoolers next to high schoolers next to college students. Ask around a little bit, and you’ll find out the youth are from both Trinity and Salina University UMCs, ...

David Burke


Special session approves 55 disaffiliations, increased budget for '23

Special session approves 55 disaffiliations, increased budget for '23

9/13/2022
Preparing for the special session of the annual conference Sept. 10, at the Great Plains Conference studio, are Lori Richey, secretary, left; Lisa Maupin, conference lay leader; Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.; Jesi Lipp, parliamentarian; and the Rev. Dee Williamston, assistant to the bishop and director of clergy excellence. Photo by David Burke After a special session vote of 96.5% to approve the disaffiliation of 55 churches from the Great Plains Conference, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. urged those ...

David Burke


Topeka’s Tabernacle & Table finds a new home

Topeka’s Tabernacle & Table finds a new home

9/6/2022
When it came time for Marshall Larson to make a presentation on his ministry plans at the conclusion of a New Church Development workshop 2½ years ago, he winged it.  A longtime guitar player, he talked about bringing a small praise band to neighborhood parks in Topeka, followed by a short sermon and interaction with everyone involved.   “I had no idea they would accept, because we were in the middle of COVID,” he recalled. “This ministry’s all about gathering people together, and here we are ...

David Burke


Bishops urges prayer, action on gun violence

Bishops urges prayer, action on gun violence

9/5/2022
Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference, Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. Reports of the Uvalde High Coyote’s last second win of its first home football game since the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary found its way to the top of my news feeds. While the stories of celebration and moments of joy by and for the Uvalde community are well received, the reason why a high school football game in South Texas made national news is a sobering call to action.  Gun violence...

Kansas lay servant conducts funeral for Pearl Harbor victim in Missouri

Kansas lay servant conducts funeral for Pearl Harbor victim in Missouri

8/29/2022
On a picturesque country hillside just outside of Mound City, fresh soil that does not yet grow grass indicates a newly dug grave in the cemetery called Mount Hope. The grave is that of Wilbur Francis Newton, buried there on Memorial Day weekend, May 28, 2022. Newton served in the Navy and was killed when his ship was bombed. His ship was the USS Oklahoma, which was attacked in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Many military markers in the cemetery, including a large veterans’ memorial and ...

Connecting council approves increased budget to be sent to annual conference

Connecting council approves increased budget to be sent to annual conference

8/24/2022
A $13.2 million budget – a 3.5% increase from the current year, despite losing 67 churches to disaffiliation – for 2023 was approved for recommendation to the Great Plains Annual Conference for its upcoming special session by the Connecting Council at its online meeting Aug. 20.  The council brings together conference staff, district superintendents, and clergy and lay committee leaders at least twice a year to make recommendations to the annual conference session and to handle business that ...

David Burke


Topeka couple uses balloons as ministry

Topeka couple uses balloons as ministry

8/24/2022
Balloons have always been a part of Randall and Marlana Hodgkinson’s lives. While students dating at Wichita State University nearly 30 years ago, he led her on a balloon-themed scavenger hunt for her birthday, which ended with her arms full of balloons — and a proposal. They even rode off from their wedding in a hot-air balloon. “It became a thing for us,” Marlana said. “He’s surprised me with balloons many times.” They kept their affection for balloons to themselves for many years, until they...

David Burke


Epworth Village campus sold; offices to move to church

Epworth Village campus sold; offices to move to church

8/23/2022
After more than 130 years of serving children and families in York, Nebraska, Epworth Village’s campus is being sold and its offices moved to York United Methodist Church. A sale price was not disclosed, but the purchase had to be approved by the denomination’s United Women in Faith, formerly United Methodist Women. Epworth Village opened in 1889 as the Mothers’ Jewels Home for orphans and through the years became a group home for youth. United Women in Faith had to approve the sale because of ...

David Burke


Eudora church channels VBS into one-day food-themed event

Eudora church channels VBS into one-day food-themed event

8/17/2022
  Barb Keltner greeted members and visitors to Eudora United Methodist Church with a promise.  “We’re gonna have some fun today,” she enthusiastically declared before the start of 9 a.m. services on Aug. 14.  Twins Landry and Maris Plegge prepare pizza at the food-themed event Aug. 14 at Eudora UMC. Photos by David Burke Indeed, at the beginning of the service the Rev. Ross Baker warned that no one was too young, too old, too big, nor too small for the events of the next few hours, where ...

David Burke


After one year, Café Quetzal connects with coffee, Christ

After one year, Café Quetzal connects with coffee, Christ

8/16/2022
As Topeka’s Café Quetzal celebrates its first anniversary, founders of the coffeeshop ministry see it as a triple success — as a business, as a church and as a community center.  “We feel like we have a good flow now,” said the Rev. Christine Potter, who opened the doors at the strip mall at 21st and Belle on Aug. 2, 2021. “We’re really confident in what we’re doing, we have a good following of people who come in regularly, and new people discovering us all the time.”  Rev. Christine ...

David Burke


Haitian church leader shares highs, lows of country

Haitian church leader shares highs, lows of country

8/10/2022
Though he spent two days in the Great Plains Conference in early August, Rev. Gélin Rosamour’s thoughts weren’t too far from his home in Haiti.  Since the country’s president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated 13 months ago, the Caribbean country has continued to erupt in chaos, he said.  Rev. Gélin Rosamour talks with Sheryl Crooks of Alta Vista, Kansas, as a reception at Topeka Susanna Wesley UMC. Photos by David Burke “Since the president passed, the country has become hell on earth,” he ...

David Burke


Atchison church engaging all generations

Atchison church engaging all generations

8/9/2022
At one United Methodist Church in Kansas, when the worship stops the engagement begins. Atchison UMC has started a first-Sunday-of-the-month pilot program this summer called Engage. With a different theme every month, those attending go downstairs from the sanctuary after an abbreviated service for an hour of intergenerational learning and activities, as well as food. Rev. Cyd Stein explains the activities for the August session of Engage at Atchison UMC. Photos by David Burke August’s ...

David Burke


Longtime UMC pastor Holland wins U.S. Senate nomination

Longtime UMC pastor Holland wins U.S. Senate nomination

8/3/2022
The United Methodist pastor who won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday believes the high voter turnout for the failed Value Them Both amendment helped his campaign. The Rev. Dr. Mark Holland received 96,832 votes, or 38% of the Democratic votes in the primary, more votes than the next two of the six contenders for the nomination. Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, here speaking at a rally in Topeka in 2020, topped six candidates in the Aug. 2 primary for the Democratic nomination for U.S. ...

David Burke


Institute numbers down, but spirit still high

Institute numbers down, but spirit still high

8/1/2022
The first in-person United Methodist Youth Institute in three years may have lacked the hundred-plus attendees of previous versions, but not its spirit.  About 35 youth attended Institute, whose roots go back a century, at Baker University in Baldwin City from July 25 to 30.  “They’ve really formed a nice community together, and it might even be tighter-knit because there’s less of them,” said Heather Fischer, stepping in for her brother, the Rev. Kurt Cooper, as community life director.  ...

David Burke


Ukrainian finds love, hope in UMC pastor's family

Ukrainian finds love, hope in UMC pastor's family

7/27/2022
John Finch doesn’t watch the news.  “We made an agreement,” his adoptive mother, Meagan Finch, said.  “It was too much trauma,” his adoptive father, the Rev. Andrew Finch, continued.  The Rev. Andrew Finch, left, John and Meagan Finch, along with their dog, Chloe, in the living room of their Omaha home. Photo by David Burke The 20-year-old was born in Ukraine, and by the time he was 1, his parents and sister were thrown into jail. He grew up in an orphanage — with countless tales of ...

David Burke


Micah Corps interns look back at memorable summer

Micah Corps interns look back at memorable summer

7/20/2022
The five young people who comprised this year’s Micah Corps spent the summer learning a lot about justice ministries – and just as much about themselves. “I think I’ve learned more about being Methodist than I ever thought I would in my whole life,” said Charlotte Carroll, a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an Omaha native. “I like the benefit of that, because I was doing this to challenge my faith journey, so I’m excited I had the time to experience that this summer.”   ...

David Burke


SW Kansas church stays on side of UMC

SW Kansas church stays on side of UMC

7/13/2022
Within 18 miles of Dodge City, the Rev. Jerre Nolte says, are six churches that have announced their intention to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. But Dodge City First UMC, where Nolte is entering its eighth year as pastor, is bucking the trend in southwest Kansas by declaring it will stay with the UMC. At a special called charge conference in June, church members voted nearly unanimously to stay with the denomination. “We want to be proactive in becoming a beacon of hope and a ...

David Burke


Bishop formally calls for special session in September

Bishop formally calls for special session in September

7/7/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter July 7, 2022, formally calling a special session of the Great Plains Annual Conference for Sept. 10, 2022. Download a printable copy of the letter. Dear Clergy and Lay Members to the Great Plains Annual Conference:                                                 July 7, 2022   In accordance with our standing rules and ¶603.5 of the Book of Discipline, I hereby call for a special session of the Great Plains Annual Conference on Sept. 10, ...

UMC issues state of the church report

UMC issues state of the church report

7/5/2022
NASHVILLE – The United Methodist Church has released the 2021 State of the Church Report, which centers around the theme of claiming our identity. Beginning with Jesus' question to Peter in Matthew 16, "Who do you say that I am?" the question is posed to the UMC, "Who do we say that we are?" as the church seeks to affirm the basis of their identity in faith and service to Christ.  “This State of the Church Report is about how The United Methodist Church over the past year has sought to better ...

Jurisdiction recommends electing 3 bishops in November

Jurisdiction recommends electing 3 bishops in November

6/30/2022
The South Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy has decided, in consultation with the College of Bishops, to recommend that the Jurisdictional Conference elect three new bishops in November 2022. With three elections, the SCJ would have a total of nine bishops available to be assigned to nine of the 10 current episcopal areas. The tenth episcopal area will be left open with episcopal coverage to be determined by the Council of Bishops upon recommendation from the SCJ College of Bishops ...

Wichita church victim of copper theft from AC units

Wichita church victim of copper theft from AC units

6/29/2022
The Rev. Kevass Harding and his congregation at Dellrose United Methodist Church were ready for a celebration of the beginning of his 25th year at the Wichita church on the first Sunday of July.  But because of the theft of copper from the 10 air conditioning units surrounding the church, those plans are on hold.  All 10 of the air conditioning units at Wichita Dellrose UMC were stripped of their copper parts. Contributed photo “We don’t know if we’re going to or have to go virtual,” Harding...

David Burke


Bishop issues statement on Roe-v-Wade ruling

Bishop issues statement on Roe-v-Wade ruling

6/25/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter today in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision June 24, 2022, that overturned the landmark Roe-v-Wade decision from 1973. Download a printable version. Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference: The June 24, 2022, Supreme Court decision overturning the historic Roe-v-Wade abortion-rights ruling is being met with mixed and strong emotions. Pro-life advocates cheered the ruling as a victory for the unborn, while ...

Williamston instrumental in getting historic marker for lynching victim

Williamston instrumental in getting historic marker for lynching victim

6/21/2022
While a pastor at Mentor UMC in central Kansas in 2007, the Rev. Dee Williamston read a book titled “Fire on the Prairie: Methodism in the History of Kansas.” The book included a brief mention of the lynching of a Black man in Salina, a story the Kansas native had never heard. “A Methodist documented it, but nothing else was said,” Williamston recalled. “It intrigued me. … During this time there were church meetings happening, but the situation with ‘the Negro,’ as they have termed it in that ...

David Burke


GCUMM shares a new path forward for Scouting ministry

GCUMM shares a new path forward for Scouting ministry

6/14/2022
Men’s & Scouting Ministries: General Commission on United Methodist Men Nashville, TN – The long-anticipated wait is coming to an end as a new era of Scouting ministry in The United Methodist Church makes its way forward. A highly skilled team of chancellors, insurance risk advisors, and UMC leaders have forged a path through a difficult landscape to provide a safer way for Scouting ministry to continue within local United Methodist churches. After months of negotiation between the Ad Hoc ...

Interns bond before being sent out to GP churches

Interns bond before being sent out to GP churches

6/7/2022
When it came time to pose for a group picture at the end of their three-day orientation, the youth ministry and pastoral interns for the Great Plains Conference instinctively locked shoulders as a demonstration of the closeness they felt after their experience. Their leaders say it’s indicative of the nearly instant bond they shared. Youth/children interns and churches they’re serving: Katelyn Ellis, Lincoln Horizons Community UMC; Ali Griswold, Omaha Urban Abbey; Garrett Heersche, Mulvane; ...

David Burke


UMC bishops agree to call jurisdictional conferences, Nov. 2-5

UMC bishops agree to call jurisdictional conferences, Nov. 2-5

5/27/2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to Judicial Council decision 1445, the Council of Bishops (COB) has formally set the dates for regular sessions of the Jurisdictional Conferences of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be convened November 2-5, 2022. During a special COB meeting held today, the bishops approved a motion that the jurisdictional conferences will meet for purpose of the election and assignment of new bishops for the limited purpose of effectuating the continuance of the episcopacy ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Author, expert to ask Great Plains to rethink discipleship

Author, expert to ask Great Plains to rethink discipleship

5/25/2022
Rev. Alex Absalom thinks we’re not doing a good job of discipling.  “I think one of the reasons we’re not any good is that we’re intimidated by it,” the author and consultant said in a phone interview. “We think we have to be experts before we start discipling people. But actually, I would argue the way Jesus sent his disciples out to go disciple others was completely irresponsible. When He sent them out, they probably weren’t even saved, and they clearly don’t know a lot. And yet He empowers ...

David Burke


Busy band of VIMs looking for more volunteers

Busy band of VIMs looking for more volunteers

5/25/2022
The cover photo of the Volunteers in Mission is from the group's Facebook page, used by permission. VIMs in the picture are Rick Holbrook, left, Annette Holbrook, Marlin Brown, Janet Ward, Bill Ward, Bob Moore, Linda Buchmueller and Chuck Buchmueller. The children and youth who descend on the camps in the Great Plains Conference this summer might not notice how clean the facilities are or that new structures have been built.  But the cleanup and construction are thanks to a dedicated — but ...

David Burke


Ruling opens door for bishop elections in 2022

Ruling opens door for bishop elections in 2022

5/20/2022
The United Methodist Council of Bishops has the authority to call jurisdictional conferences this year to elect and assign new episcopal leaders in the U.S. However, that authority does not extend to changing the Sept. 1 date when church law says newly elected U.S. bishops officially take office, the denomination’s top court ruled in Decision 1445. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., with his back to the camera, is welcomed by his new colleagues at his consecration service in July 2016 in Wichita. Bishops...

United Methodist News Service


Conference purchases new offices in downtown Topeka

Conference purchases new offices in downtown Topeka

5/11/2022
A downtown Topeka building constructed as a factory in the 1940s and renovated in the mid-2010s will be the new home of the Great Plains Conference.  The conference entered into a purchase contract for the building at 100 S. Kansas Ave., on May 5. Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, says staff should be able to move into the new facility by May 2023.  The cost of the purchase is $2.6 million, all from the conference’s reserve funds.  Conference staff ...

David Burke


Connecting Council hears of progress in justice ministries

Connecting Council hears of progress in justice ministries

5/11/2022
Three years after hearing the first proposals regarding justice ministry improvements in the Great Plains Conference, the Connecting Council received progress reports on them during its May 6-7 meetings in Topeka.  The Rev. Sarah Marsh, mercy and justice coordinator, introduces Ben MacConnell, Plains State coordinator for Direct Action & Research Training Center, at Connecting Council. Photos by David Burke The council is comprised of about 50 people who make timely decisions between annual ...

David Burke


Church court: Conferences can't exit unilaterally

Church court: Conferences can't exit unilaterally

5/10/2022
Key Points: The Judicial Council, The United Methodist Church’s top court, ruled that current church law doesn’t allow U.S. annual conferences to leave the denomination.  The church court said that annual conferences have a right to vote on disaffiliation, but only General Conference can set the process for doing so.  The ruling answers questions from the United Methodist bishops, who are dealing with the ramifications of a splintering in the denomination. U.S. annual conferences have no ...

United Methodist News Service


Topeka JUMP moves forward on mental health, affordable housing

Topeka JUMP moves forward on mental health, affordable housing

5/10/2022
At its Nehemiah Action Assembly on May 9, Topeka JUMP members received a commitment from a representative of a local mental health association to implement crisis stabilization units in Shawnee County.  It fell short, however, of receiving a commitment from the mayor of Topeka to add $5 million to a trust fund meant to implement more affordable housing in the city. Mayor Mike Padilla did agree to consider a $1 million addition.  Topeka JUMP, the Justice Unity & Ministry Project, is a mission of...

David Burke


Good Faith Network gets commitments from officials at first Nehemiah Assembly

Good Faith Network gets commitments from officials at first Nehemiah Assembly

5/4/2022
The first Nehemiah Assembly for the Johnson County-based Good Faith Network included commitments for improved mental health services and decreased homelessness by county officials, with some efforts already underway.  A product of the Direct Action & Resource Training network, or DART, the Good Faith Network consists of 20 congregations in Johnson County, including nine United Methodist Churches. It began as a part of the conference’s Doing Justice Initiative.  Ali Haynes, pastor of ...

David Burke


Bishop announces special session of annual conference

Bishop announces special session of annual conference

4/18/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. released a letter this morning to all clergy and lay members to annual conference explaining the need for a special session of annual conference, which will be conducted online via Zoom on Sept. 10. This session will be in addition to the regularly scheduled session June 8-11 in La Vista, Nebraska. Download a printable copy. Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,   Grace and peace to you in the name of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. I am writing today ...

K-State Wesley dedicates its campus home

K-State Wesley dedicates its campus home

4/12/2022
Many of the 100 people gathered to celebrate the building dedication for Wesley House at Kansas State University were asked to stand if they had been involved in the facility’s governing boards.  One by one they introduced themselves as they stood around the perimeter of the room and passed along a reproduction of a page with the word “mortgage” in large type.  The last in line was Dr. Dirk Hutchinson, immediate president of the Wesley Foundation, who took a lighter to the parchment and tossed ...

David Burke


United Women in Faith leaders reflect on name change

United Women in Faith leaders reflect on name change

4/6/2022
It’s more than just a name change, say leaders of United Women in Faith. The former United Methodist Women, whose change in name and adjustment in focus were announced last month, are set to cast a broader net and especially try to reach new generations, according to Lisa Maupin of Lincoln, chair of the organization’s nominations committee for the South Central Jurisdiction. “It’s a response to the change and the growing needs of women, not just in our congregations but in our communities,” said...

David Burke


GP communications team wins 4 first places from UMAC

GP communications team wins 4 first places from UMAC

4/1/2022
   The Great Plains Conference Memorial Tribute to Rev. Junius B. Dotson, produced by Eugenio Hernandez, won first place for best visual news story.     The Great Plains Conference’s communications team won eight awards, including four first-place honors, during the United Methodist Association of Communicators awards gala, conducted online March 31.  McFarland Awards were presented from McKendree United Methodist Church in Nashville.  Winning first place among all ...

Assistant promoted to director of Camp Norwesca

Assistant promoted to director of Camp Norwesca

3/25/2022
Brandi May, here with her husband, Josh, is the new director of Camp Norwesca. Contributed photo Brandi May has gone from stumbling onto Camp Norwesca to leading the Great Plains Conference camp near Chadron, Nebraska. Her husband, Josh, was hired as one of the superintendents at Chadron State Park in 2017. “We didn’t even know Chadron existed until he came up here for his interview,” said May, a native of Axtell, Nebraska, south of Kearney. “We didn’t realize there were so many trees that ...

David Burke


Laity Summit introduces Learning Lab

Laity Summit introduces Learning Lab

3/23/2022
The third annual Laity Summit followed the lead of its two predecessors with an entirely online gathering.  “We hope to be in person one of these years,” Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator, said at the onset of the laity showcase, March 19.  Mary K. Feit, director of Lay Servant Ministries for the conference, dedicated the Laity Summit to the memories of Scott Barnum, Colby, the Hays District director of lay servant ministries, who died Nov. 17; and the Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of ...

David Burke


Stanton’s dedication to family, mission, colleagues recalled

Stanton’s dedication to family, mission, colleagues recalled

3/19/2022
Family, friends and colleagues remembered the encouragement, humility and sly sense of humor of the Rev. Nathan Stanton during a celebration of his life March 18 at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina.  “He never stopped doing what he did or being who he was,” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said in eulogizing Stanton, Great Plains Conference congregational excellence director, who died March 12 at age 52 of complications from ALS.  When Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asked the audience at the funeral who ...

David Burke


Bishops discern ways for churches choosing to separate from UMC

Bishops discern ways for churches choosing to separate from UMC

3/16/2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Bishops of The United Methodist Church in their March 15 called meeting discerned pathways for churches choosing disaffiliation and separation. The bishops have met two consecutive weeks to discern pathways forward in these changing times.   The bishops affirmed by an overwhelming majority that paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline would be the primary paragraph used for disaffiliation and separation. It is understood that different contexts may require utilization of ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Nebraska City couple funds NUMF grants for mission work

Nebraska City couple funds NUMF grants for mission work

3/16/2022
Dr. Dean and Keitha Thomson want others to get the satisfaction that they receive from mission work.  So much so that they’ve established a grant through the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation to fund mission work by individuals and organizations throughout the Great Plains Conference.  Keitha and Dr. Dean Thomson are benefactors of a new mission fund from Nebraska United Methodist Foundation. Contributed photo “We consider it a brand-new program,” NUMF Executive Director Jackie Urkoski ...

David Burke


Stanton remembered for encouragement, humility, supporting ministries

Stanton remembered for encouragement, humility, supporting ministries

3/15/2022
  Celebration of Life The Rev. Nathan Stanton's Celebration of Life was held Friday, March 18 at Kansas Wesleyan University. Watch the recording here. Read coverage from the Celebration of Life here. Read the obituary of Nathan Stanton. View photos of Nathan Stanton here. Tell us your remembrances of Nathan here (please keep entries to about 200 words). The Rev. Nathan Stanton was determined to make his final months count, a longtime friend and colleague says, despite a diagnosis of ALS. ...

David Burke


Stanton dies after battle with ALS

Stanton dies after battle with ALS

3/12/2022
The Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference, died Saturday morning, March 12, 2022.   Stanton, 52, was diagnosed in August 2020 with bulbar-onset ALS, which began limiting his speech and swallowing while also causing the loss of use of extremities. He suffered from respiratory ailments in recent days but worked to fulfill his conference duties until just days before his death.   Rev. Nathan Stanton “I am deeply saddened by the passing of ...

Bishops seek ruling on whether an annual conference can exit UMC

Bishops seek ruling on whether an annual conference can exit UMC

3/8/2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on whether an annual conference can separate from the denomination under the provision of the Book of Discipline.  During a special meeting COB held via Zoom and through electronic balloting, the bishops approved a request to ask the church’s top court to address six questions: Question 1: May an annual conference of the United Methodist Church (“UMC”) within ...

Maidstone Mulenga


Texas man puts bishop's prayer to music

Texas man puts bishop's prayer to music

3/8/2022
It only took about 90 minutes, Tom Lough said, for him to turn Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s “Prayer for Peace” into a hymn.  Lough, a retired high school and college educator, saw the prayer in the newsletter of his church, Round Rock First UMC, located north of Austin in the Central Texas Conference, where Bishop Saenz started serving in addition to the Great Plains on Jan. 1.  Tom Lough “I just clicked on it and started reading it, and something came over me,” said Lough, who turns 80 in July. “...

David Burke


Bishop urges focus on mission amid postponement of General Conference

Bishop urges focus on mission amid postponement of General Conference

3/3/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter Thursday, March 3, 2022, in response to the announcement by the Commission on General Conference to postpone the August 2022 worldwide gathering of United Methodist delegates. Download a printable version of the letter. Read the press release from United Methodist Communications. Dear Faithful Sisters & Brothers of the Great Plains Conference:   The grace of Jesus Christ be with your spirits.   The Commission on General Conference ...

General Conference further postponed to 2024

General Conference further postponed to 2024

3/3/2022
NASHVILLE — As the pandemic continues and the wait time for visas stretches to over two years in some countries, the Commission on the General Conference announced today that the 2020 General Conference cannot be held in 2022 due to COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints.   Commission members received a report based on conversations with multiple officials of the U. S. Department of State outlining the massive backlog of visa applications in some areas. This backlog has led to wait ...

Bishop asks for prayer, financial help for Ukraine

Bishop asks for prayer, financial help for Ukraine

3/2/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has written a prayer and encourages United Methodists to print it out and to say it daily until armed conflict ceases in Ukraine. Download it here. Print out a two-per sheet prayer for bulletins. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has made a plea to United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference to provide financial assistance for refugees fleeing Ukraine because of the Russian invasion into the country. The letter below shares the details of how to donate money to help refugees. ...

Conference introducing new leadership model for youth

Conference introducing new leadership model for youth

3/2/2022
A new model for youth leadership in the Great Plains Conference is being launched this year.  Leadership Lab is a successor to the Conference Council on Youth Ministries, which included representatives from each district in the conference. The Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator, said that between graduations, the pandemic and a lack of recruitment for CCYM, only four students were active at the conference level.  “Over the past three years, we’ve seen a ...

David Burke


GPARCS event to look at effect of past two years

GPARCS event to look at effect of past two years

3/2/2022
The first meeting of the Great Plains Association of Retired Clergy and Spouses in three years will attempt to bring some discernment about the past 24 months.  “Journeys of the Soul” will be online March 21-22, and the keynote speaker will be Dr. Lallene Rector, president emerita and associate professor of psychology and pastoral psychotherapy at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Watch Todd Seifert’s video interview with Rector.  Switching to an online webinar made the most sense ...

David Burke


Bishop Saenz asks for prayers for Ukraine

Bishop Saenz asks for prayers for Ukraine

2/24/2022
Today, Russia launched an unprovoked military invasion against the people of Ukraine. United Methodist Church Bishop Christian Alsted - of the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area - is asking for United Methodists to stand with the United Methodists in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in intercessory prayer for protection, reconciliation and peace. We pray especially for Bishop Eduard Khegay, bishop of Russia and Ukraine, for wisdom and grace as he shepherds congregations on both sides of ...

Bishop announces annual conference to be hybrid event

Bishop announces annual conference to be hybrid event

2/21/2022
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following letter Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, to all clergy and lay members to annual conference informing them that this year's session will be a hybrid event. Many logistical details are being worked out, so please watch your email and the weekly GPconnect email newsletter for details as they become available. Download a printable PDF of the letter. Dear Clergy and Lay Members to the Great Plains Annual Conference: Grace and peace to you in the name of ...

New Wichita church start is unintentionally multicultural

New Wichita church start is unintentionally multicultural

2/16/2022
Sunday morning services at Wichita House of Liberty United Methodist Church have all the fervency of a Black church experience, with a congregation that’s mixed race.  “We may be smaller in numbers, but we are mighty in the kingdom,” worship leader Claire Jobe told about 30 people at the beginning of the service.  House of Liberty, 1140 E. 47th St. S, opened at the beginning of the year as a multicultural church — albeit unintentionally.  Joseph Moore is the pastor of Wichita House of Liberty...

David Burke


Clinger selected to lead congregational excellence team

Clinger selected to lead congregational excellence team

2/9/2022
The Rev. Jeff Clinger says that getting the call to become the Great Plains Conference’s director of congregational excellence was “absolutely unexpected” and that he was “incredibly humbled” to receive the appointment from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. Rev. Jeff Clinger Clinger, who turned 42 on Valentine's Day, has been the senior pastor at Topeka First United Methodist Church since 2015. He succeeds the Rev. Nathan Stanton, who is stepping aside from the position after a diagnosis of ALS in ...

David Burke


Stanton to step down from congregational excellence role July 1

Stanton to step down from congregational excellence role July 1

2/7/2022
Rev. Nathan Stanton, right, eats with Great Plains Conference pastors while attending a church planter conference. Submitted Photo After five years as director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference, the Rev. Nathan Stanton will step back from the position at the beginning of the appointive year July 1. Stanton, 52, was diagnosed in August 2020 with bulbar-onset ALS, which began limiting his speech and swallowing. In an email interview for this article, Stanton ...

David Burke


Justice group gets jump-start from Topeka church

Justice group gets jump-start from Topeka church

2/2/2022
Topeka Asbury Mount Olive UMC has had strong connections with Topeka Justice Unity & Ministry Project, or JUMP, for as long as the Rev. Harry Christian has been pastor at the church. “Asbury Mount Olive has always been involved in social justice,” said Christian, who began as pastor of the Topeka church in 2013. “They’ve always been involved with seeing how they can improve our community. I don’t think there’s a day in our lives when we don’t think about justice.”   First in a series This is ...

David Burke


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