Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. released the following letter today — Feb. 22, 2021 — regarding the way the Great Plains Conference will conduct this year's annual conference session.
Download a printable version of the letter.
Dear Clergy and Lay Members to the Annual Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our wellspring of life and hope.
I am writing today to inform you that we will conduct the coming 2021 annual conference session entirely online. The theme for this annual conference session is: “Love me … and know that I am God” (Psalm 46; John 21:15-19).
As we enjoy warming temperatures, spring moves closer on our horizon, and the COVID-19 pandemic appears finally to be easing across Kansas and Nebraska, vaccinations across our two states lag. Put simply, with us coming so close to overcoming the virus, now is not the time to put down our guard or put people at risk. This is why we will not meet in person on May 26-29 in Grand Island, Nebraska, as previously planned.
I know some people will be disappointed with this decision. After nearly a full year of sheltering in place and curtailing travel outside our homes, we yearn to see each other in person, shake hands, and give hugs. Borrowing from the words of the apostle John, we do not want to use Zoom and livestream, instead we hope to visit and talk to each other face to face, so that our joy may be complete (2 John 1:12).
But I defer to John Wesley and the first of his general rules for the people called Methodists: Do no harm. That is my goal behind this decision.
The sessions planning team, ministry area directors and I did consider a hybrid model, in which people who wanted to attend in person in the arena in Grand Island could do so, with everyone else taking part online. But I believe it to be important — as best we can and as technology allows — to provide everyone with a uniform experience.
In truth, much still needs to be determined, and much work will be done in the next few weeks to address how we will conduct the conference, including clergy and laity sessions, ordination, business motions, reports, floor debate and voting on resolutions that come before the body. We are in contact with other annual conferences that conducted fully online annual conference sessions in 2020 to learn from their successes and challenges.
We are actively considering regional locations to allow for full participation for people who do not have good Internet connections in their homes. However, such arrangements may not be possible. It is highly recommended that voting members have a computer or tablet on which to register their votes when that time comes.
Much more information will be shared in the weeks ahead as our planning team does its work to sort through logistics for this all-virtual annual conference session. Please keep an eye on your email and our weekly GPconnect newsletter for details as they become available.
My hope and prayer is that we will finally be able to meet face to face for smaller events later this year and, of course, for the 2022 annual conference session.
Thank you for your many fruitful and compassionate ministries across Kansas and Nebraska. Your outreaching ministries and missions on behalf of the risen Christ bless your communities and make real God’s love, mercy, and justice.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.