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 remaining to strengthen their missions for Jesus Christ.
“While some have chosen to go a separate way, we belong to Christ,” the bishop said Sept. 10, following a 579-12 vote, with nine abstaining. “The church will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us.”
Bishop Saenz outlined seven “emerging signals” for the church, including missions toward a growing retirement community; reaching younger generations with an intentional discipleship model; focus on a hurting world; championing the welfare of children; getting people engaged in worship, Bible studies and fellowship; finding innovative ways to help people grow in their faith; and experiment with a mixed ecology of in-person worship, Fresh Expressions, small discipleship groups and online church.
“As despairing as we might become over the church’s future, we must remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours,” the bishop said. “We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share His love for a broken world.”
Fifty-five churches were approved for disaffiliation during the special online session, joining the 12 that were approved during the annual conference in June.
The churches disaffiliating:
In Kansas: Ashland, Attica, Belle Plaine, Bentley, Bethany (Abilene), Bucklin, Chanute Otterbein, Cheney, Cherokee, Cimarron, Conway Springs, Corbin, Elk City, Fort Scott St. John’s, Hammond (Fort Scott), Havana, Holton Evangel, Industry (Abilene), Kalvesta, Kingman, Leoti, Macksville Grace, McCune, Moscow, Prairie View (Waverly), Protection, Salem (Iola), Sedgwick, Sycamore, Talmage, Thayer, Towanda, Trousdale, Udall, Weir, Wichita Asbury, Wichita Korean, Zenda.
In Nebraska: Arapahoe, Arcadia, Ashland, Barada, Beaver City, Cedar Hill (Ashland), Chambers, Clearwater, Culbertson Trinity, Elgin, Falls City Bethel, Mira Valley Evangel (Ord), Neligh, Oakdale, Sidney, Trenton, Valentine.
Clergy and laity in the special session also approved the 2023 budget by a 537-34 vote, with 24 abstaining. The $14.35 million budget is a 3.5% increase over the current $13.86 million.
Conference treasurer Scott Brewer said during the Connecting Council meeting in August that even with the reduction of $480,000, or 3.3%, because of disaffiliating churches, the 2023 budget is still an increase over the current year, reflecting increased giving to local church operating budgets in 2021, gains of investments experienced through the end of that year, and increased participation in Mission Shares giving by churches experienced in 2021 and 2022.
Also approved, by a 526-14 vote with 35 abstentions, was a new governance model for the Great Plains Camps, dubbed GP Camps 2.0.
The change calls for installation of a director of camping services who will be in charge of operational support and supervision, program support, staff and site council training, American Camping Association compliance support, program and facility assessment, marketing and communications, and fundraising support.
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