Common Table reviews camping strategy and Wesley Center plan
February 7, 2012
Minnesota United Methodist camps and retreats will take place at Northern Pines Assembly Grounds (Park Rapids) and Koronis Ministries (Paynesville) beginning in 2013, the Retreats and Camping Ministry Team has determined.
Common Table (lay and clergy leaders of Minnesota Conference teams and commissions), meeting Feb. 2, affirmed this plan.
The team had earlier determined that its most effective role in the overall Minnesota United Methodist mission is to provide faith-nurturing classic residential camps for youth and children. Camps and retreats for special activities or other ages would be secondary priorities.
Property analysis from an independent consultant led RCMT to base all its programs at these two sites.
“We’ve discovered we can’t afford to own five properties and lease one,” said Rocky Wilson, director of retreats and camping ministries. “The overhead cost is too high and revenue is not meeting the cost. We need to let go of some property so we can continue this ministry into the future.”
The team is recommending that the Minnesota Conference divest of Camp Kingswood (Mound) and Star Lake Wilderness Camp (Pequot Lakes), to maximize resources for future camping and retreats ministry.
Decisions on how to release the properties will be make according to annual conference values: history of the property, stewardship of creation, and financial stewardship concerns of the cost to maintain the properties and the market price on the properties.
Divesting of the properties could take different forms—sale is only one option that will be considered. It is not expected that any of the properties could be sold quickly.
Operations at a fifth site, Decision Hills Campground (Spicer), were suspended for 2012. That property may also be released or could be held for future youth camp development.
Adventure camps led from KoWaKan, a leased site near Ely, would continue only if financially viable.
The camping consolidation is part of RCMT’s strategic plan to offer excellent children and youth ministries and operate a financially viable ministry. For more information, read “Minnesota camping ministry consolidated to Northern Pines and Koronis Ministries.”
Wesley Center developing plans
A 12-person board is proposed to oversee a multi-use plan for the Wesley Center, the building which formerly housed the Wesley United Methodist Church faith community in downtown Minneapolis, Dennis Alexander, director of Minnesota Conference urban and multicultural ministries, reported to Common Table.
“This would be an indigenous ministry to the community,” Alexander said. “Residency in downtown Minneapolis is expected to double to 70,000. We want to have a witness there.”
The center’s purposes would be to preserve a national landmark; house ministries like new faith communities, weekly community meals, employment training, and Twelve-Step meetings; and provide space for community meetings, performances, education, and more.
A committee exploring viable uses for the historic building has identified some possible revenue sources: events contracted through the adjacent Minneapolis Convention Center (anticipated to fill one-third of the time the building would be open), weddings and other one-time events, job training in the food service industries, arts performances, grants, and sustaining members.
New Harmony United Methodist Church and Twelve-Step groups already meet in the building. Representatives from Council on Administration and Finance, Board of Trustees, and Congregational Development Ministry Team will meet Feb. 7 to discuss the committee’s proposal before sending it on to the Common Table, Board of Trustees, and others who may have a role in making the decision about this building’s use and ministry deployment.
Alexander pointed to similar uses for large, historic church buildings in cities like Denver and Philadelphia.
2013 budget request near ceiling
Common Table voted to restore $62,000 to the Budget Process Team’s requested 2013 Minnesota Conference budget. The new requested amount, for Council on Finance and Administration’s consideration, comes to $6,298,788.
The Budget Process Team’s request—based on projected general church apportionment figures for denomination wide ministries—was held to the conference ceiling, or maximum, amount (a calculated limit on budget growth from year to year).
On Feb. 2, the General Council on Finance and Administration submitted estimated general church apportionments, assuming that the budget recommended to 2012 United Methodist General Conference passes. These estimates fall below BPT’s earlier speculations by $87,000, reported Barbara Carroll, director of finance and administration.
The general church budget is not finalized until General Conference, which meets April 24-May 4, approves it.
If General Conference approves the recommended budget, the Common Table’s requested additions ($30,000 returned to web development and $32,000 returned to Investing in Congregations grants) would place the budget request below the ceiling limit by $25,000 and lower than the 2012 budget by $150,000.
Common Table agreed to reexamine the budget request with CFA should the General Church budget result in apportionments that would raise the conference requested budget over ceiling.
Shared giving is declining
Minnesota United Methodists’ contributions toward their shared mission and ministry fell in 2011 to $320,000 less than their 2010 giving, reported Barbara Carroll.
The apportionment receipt rate for 2011 came to 84.2 percent of the total apportioned to the churches—as opposed to the 86 percent of recent years.
Apportionment receipt rates had steadily come to close to 86 percent most of the year; remittances decreased significantly in December.
Bishop Sally Dyck noted that bishops in other conferences had observed the same development.
Decisions facing General Conference
“There is a lot of hope invested in the 2012 United Methodist General Conference,” said Bishop Sally Dyck of the upcoming denomination-wide gathering of policy-making, worship, and celebration.
“It seems like more work has taken place leading up to 2012 than between previous General Conferences,” she said.
She highlighted these decisions facing the international church body of 1,000 delegates, which meets every four years.
- Organizational changes that would streamline the board structure that governs the denomination’s various ministry areas. “This has raised anxiety, but it should be a better way to make decisions between General Conferences,” Bishop Dyck said. She said she hoped that General Conference would consider some of the proposed improvements upon the plan.
- Establishing a new role nonresidential bishop. This bishop’s primary responsibility would be to provide accountability for the bishops toward the United Methodist mission, and ensure more alignment and coordination. “It is impossible for the president of the council of bishops to also lead an annual conference,” she said. “One of those roles suffers.” A nonresidential bishop is not like a pope, she said.
- Changes to the ordering of ministry. One change (among many others) would remove the expectation that all elders can expect to receive an appointment.
- The recommended budget for the denomination for 2013-2016, which is 6 percent smaller than the current budget.
- A plan to direct $60 million toward resources for vital congregations, lay leadership development among young people, debt reduction for students, and more.
- A covenant to commit to continued work on giving all the international bodies of the United Methodist Church equal status, with some rights to govern themselves in ways that makes sense in their cultural contexts. Interests and perspectives of the United States conferences currently dominate.
- Social justice resolutions, including one proposal that the denomination divest from Hewlitt-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola for business practices that negatively affect Palestinians.
The legislative proposals facing General Conference can be found in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate.
The Common Table has been examining a board model for policy governance. Cindy Gregorson, Minnesota Conference director of ministries, reported that a small group researching such a model has discussed some foundational concerns. They concluded:
- The “owner” of the conference is its mission
- The values of the conference are active engagement (social holiness), lived spirituality (personal piety), and connectional empowerment (accountability and collaborative ministry structures).
The abovementioned values would serve as the foundation of a board, and the board would develop policies.
Under board governance, Gregorson said at the October 2011 Common Table meeting, the board becomes a leadership team, gains clarity about where to go and how to get there, is more focused on outcomes, grants freedom to those taking action toward the outcomes.
Conference board functions are now divided among Council of Finance and Administration, Board of Trustees, and the Common Table, which work independently of each other.
“We would want a board to help us be flexible and pragmatic in achieving clearly articulated and agreed-upon ends,” she said. “We also expect it to help us act as the body of Christ.”
The Common Table next meets on April 12 at the Minnesota Church Center, Minneapolis.