INDIANAPOLIS – “Be. Hope.” was the theme of the 2016 Indiana Annual Conference held Thursday through Saturday, June 9-11, at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. The three-day event focused on three prongs of embracing, living, and realizing hope in communities around Indiana and also throughout our world. During this time two scriptures were used to center the body on HOPE:

  • For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
  • But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  -Romans 5:3-4

During the opening worship service, Thursday, June 9, Bishop Michael J. Coyner and other conference leaders used a unique mission and ministry weaving to announce the official open of the Conference. 

“Hope. It’s quite a theme isn’t it,“ remarked Bishop Coyner. He continued, “if there is anything our world needs, it’s hope.” He also said that true hope is more than wishful thinking.

As the service continued, Coyner invited retired clergy and Theologian in Residence at St. Luke’s UMC, Dr. Adolf Hansen, to share his story of how tragedy can be turned to hope. Hansen began with a simple story, “It began on Georgia Street…” Georgia Street is a familiar street for Annual Conference-goers as it runs perpendicular to the Indiana Convention Center. Twenty years ago, Hansen’s 31-year old daughter, Bonnie, was killed while crossing that street. Bonnie died the next day on May 11, Adolf’s birthday and the eve of Mother’s Day. The days that followed were full of chaos, disbelief, and painful moments no parent desires to experience. “It seemed so unfair, unwarranted, unreasonable,” said Hansen.

Not long after Bonnie’s death, Hansen and his wife decided to return to the place where the accident occurred. They embraced each other, cried, and barely uttered a word as they watched the wheels of busses go by. As they imagined what it was like for their daughter that day they relied on hope in a moment of extreme grief.

On the anniversary of Bonnie’s death, Hansen and his wife will often return to that same spot on Georgia Street. On the 20th anniversary of her death as they returned to Georgia Street they were able to reflect on Bonnie’s life, all God had done in the time since her death and give thanks to a God, who doesn’t disappoint.

Hansen ended by sharing three truths that he and his wife clung to that provided them with hope during those years. “God is good always, God works for good always, and we can trust God always." 

Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion

Rev. Dr. Aleze Fulbright, Director of Leadership Development, and Bishop Mike Coyner celebrated the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion, Thursday evening, June 9, 2016. Branching from the Annual Conference's theme of "Be.Hope," Fulbright delivered a spirited message titled “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” 

In summation, the message focused on the need for and the power of maintaining steadfast faith in God’s eternal love and goodness. “We may feel limitations, but we serve a limitless God,” exclaimed Fulbright. The message included concepts that were witty, yet easy to attain, with one of the crowd favorites being, “When life gets you down, what do you do? Just keep swimming!” a highly recognizable line from Pixar's “Finding Nemo.” 

Forty-three clergy and 34 clergy spouses were remembered during the service. Holy Communion was delivered immediately following the sermon.

Read more about the Service of Remembrance & Holy Communion


This year, the Conference created a new format for sharing stories called “HopeTalks” modeled after the widely popular TEDTalks. The format showcased a variety of speakers, with each sharing a story of hope from around the Indiana Conference. After each talk, a series of questions were posted on the screen for discussion followed by a Q&A session featuring questions submitted from the body via social media using the hashtag #behope, to spark much-needed conversations about hope and its role in our ministry with others, as well as in the life of the Indiana Conference. 

Experience all three HopeTalks below: 

HopeTalk #1 with Mark Ellcessor: Are you going to get in the game?

HopeTalk #2 with Rachel Metheny & De’Amon Harges: The Power of Listening

HopeTalk #3 with Steve Mekaru: The Hope of Presence

Conference Business 

During the official business session of the 2016 Indiana Conference, held Friday, June 10, members heard from a variety of ministry areas geared toward connecting the church to the world and improving the vitality of our churches, as well as developing fruitful leaders.

Africa University

During Opening Worship, Annual Conference attendees celebrated how far we have come in our commitment to transforming lives with Africa University. Rev. David V.W. Owen shared stories of the transformation he has seen in Africa through Africa University. The Indiana Campaign for Africa University began in 2014 and will end on December 31, 2016. To date, $1.3 million has been raised of our $1.6 million goal.

Though there was one who’s presence and efforts with the Africa University Campaign were missed but not forgotten. We were reminded of the legacy that was created by James William “Bill” Keith Jr. and his passion for Africa University. To honor Bill Keith’s memory, Owen announced the creation of the J. William Keith Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund. Donations for this fund can be given or pledged through the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana.

Read Transforming Lives with Africa Universityhere

New Intentional focus on Discipleship Development

The newly formed Discipleship Development Team/Ministry, formerly CONNECT, shared their plans for an improved and efficient operation through the work of the Transformative Ministry Team, by refining their focus into a four-prong mission. This area will include; Health and Wellness, Justice and Equality, Education, and Equipping and Training for service, this is a four-year plan, kicking off in 2017. Children, youth, and family ministries, an area of Discipleship Development, intends to introduce the Family Ministry Cohort, an association of 12 churches devoted and working towards developing actionable and promising programs and resources for families.

Read more on the Discipleship Development Report

Highlighted ministry of Leadership Development in areas of 

  • Called to Fruitfulness
    • Rev. Dr. Aleze Fulbright, along with Chair of the Leadership Development Operational Team, Tony Johnson, introduced the mission focus of Leadership Development as striving to “discover, develop, and deploy fruitful leaders in and throughout the Indiana Conference.” During the presentation, Elders and Deacons of the Called to Fruitfulness initiative celebrated the five-year milestone of their commitment to ministry. The purpose of Called to Fruitfulness is to recognize, renew, reflect, resource, and rejoice with each pastor celebrating that accomplishment.   
  • Francis Asbury Award
    • Dr. Fulbright, along with the Leadership Development Team, awarded the Francis Asbury Award to the Rev. Dr. L. Lang Brownlee. Brownlee is the University Co-Chaplain and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Indianapolis. 

Read Leadership Development Report

Special Recognitions

The Board of Ordained Ministry also took moments to recognize the 60th Anniversary of full Clergy Rights for Women, as well as celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Deacons.

Church Development celebrated and chartered two churches 

The Church Development team, led by the Rev. Steve Clouse, commemorated the chartering of two new United Methodist churches; Gateway UMC in Indianapolis, led by Pastor Matt Lipan; and The Branches UMC in Plainfield, led by Pastor Alex Hershey. During the Church Development report Friday morning, June 10, the team shared information regarding the strides and impact of church revitalization programs, Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ), and other church planting initiatives around the Conference. In regards to the goal of establishing 30 new church plants by 2020, the Church Development Team reached an incredible feat of 21 active church plants, with plans to launch three more in the near future. In closing, Clouse noted the vibrant need to share the word of God consistently, and facilitate entry-points for the 1.5 million Indiana residents who have yet to know Christ or The United Methodist Church.

Learn more about the Church Development Report

Africa University Prayer Breakfast

Matt Landry, Senior Pastor of Meridian Street UMC, kicked off the Africa University Prayer Breakfast, Friday morning, June 10. The Africa University Campaign has been a continued effort of The United Methodist Churches of Indiana. Founded March 1992, Africa University is Zimbabwe’s first private higher education institution, drawing an eclectic pool of students from throughout the continent year after year. The AU student body is compiled of more than 1,200 students from 22 African countries. The mission of the organization is to grow sustainable leaders for the betterment of Africa. Landry shared, humbly, his regard of the institution on a recent visit to Africa. When he stepped off his plane, he was greeted with, “welcome home.” Though he was far from his house, Landry would soon learn that Africa University is an extension of his home. 

Read more on AU Prayer Breakfast

Building Discipleship Centers 

As of Tuesday, June 28, the Building Discipleship Centers Campaign, with a project goal of raising $9 million, reached a new milestone of $8 million. The campaign, which was approved at the 2015 Annual Conference, was strategized to develop new and well-equipped discipleship centers in Indiana. The centers, which often serve as a focal point for youth and young adults in search of their calling and ways to deepen their connection with God, will provide an opportunity for churches to embody God’s love and guidance beyond church walls. When accomplished, the Campaign will accommodate renovations to Epworth Discipleship Center and auditorium, Buck Lodge, Camp Indicoso Lake, and the Scholarship Endowment Fund. The current aggregate of gifts and donations includes a $1,675 collection from a retirement dinner for Bishop Mike and Marsh Coyner, hosted last Saturday, June 25.

Read more campaign developments


Members of the 2016 Indiana Annual Conference passed a budget of $13,864,261 which includes a 3% increase in income from the 2015 actual expenses and a slight reduction from 2016 program dollars to fund the General Church apportionment at 100%.

General Conference Report

Members of the 2016 Indiana Delegation presented a report on the work of General Conference through a live presentation and video report available here:

Watch General Conference Delegation Report

Beard Tapped as Episcopal Nominee 

The 2016 Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church approved the nomination of the Rev. Dr. Frank Beard – delegation chair and lead pastor of Castleton United Methodist Church – as Indiana’s episcopal nominee.

Dr. Beard’s nomination was presented to his fellow clergy during the Clergy Executive Session and to the laity of the Conference during the Laity Session, both of which were held Thursday, June 9. During these meetings members expressed their support for Beard’s leadership and gave nods for the official nomination, which was approved during the Annual Conference Business Session, Friday, June 10. 

Click here to read more or here to watch video.

Lay Session and L3 Leadership Process

Scott Reed, East District Lay Leader, presented redesign plans for the Indiana Conference Board of Laity during Thursday afternoon’s lay session. During the next six months, the laity board will be implementing a leadership procedure named the L3 Process.

The L3 process involves three principles of lay leadership, each principle starting with the letter ‘L’. The first principle is loving, a way of ensuring laity are Christ-centered in their work. The second principle is learning, a way for laity to grow together. The third principle is leading, a way of laity sharing Christ that enables others to do the same.

The laity board plans on being an active directional team to provide guidance and resources to further equip and advance laity leadership throughout the Indiana Conference. 

“It will take a while,” Reed stated in reference to the presented process. “Learning to live the L3 process takes practice and putting resources together takes time.”

Continue reading

Laity Manuscript Contest Winner: Kristi Mahoney 

During her acceptance speech to the laity, Mahoney, who is the Director of Student Ministries at Muncie High Street UMC, expounded on the current depiction of this generation’s Millennials, and how they are the most studied demographic of this period. Millennials are viewed as ungodly, misdirected, and tech-dependent. Mahoney’s acceptance speech unveiled that although today's Millennials rely significantly on their i-gadgets, the focus of Millennials reflects less of a change in ideal and more of a societal transformation.

Read Laity Manuscript

Retirement of Bishop Mike and Building Discipleship Centers

The bulk of Friday evening, June 10, was spent celebrating cherished memories collected during the tenure of Bishop Mike and Marsha Coyner. Commemorations for the Bishop and his wife were presented by clergy, lay members, colleagues, former coworkers, and friends from all walks of their ministry. It’s quite evident that Bishop Mike’s legacy will continue, but it was the moments that revealed his genuineness and quality that were rejoiced Friday night. Among a slew of ‘thank you’ and ‘farewell’ speeches, the Bishop received several gifts to help make his send-off all the more memorable.  

Purdue Pete, the mascot for Purdue University Athletics, stopped by the celebration, to gift Bishop Mike with season passes. The Bishop was also given several touching gifts from the Annual Conference youth, who gave the Bishop and Marsha vouchers for dance lessons, tacos, and led a short dance party for the entire Annual Conference crowd to commemorate the Bishop’s transition. 

But the climax of the evening came from an update from Executive Assistant to the Bishop, Cindy Reynolds, on the status of the Building Discipleship Centers Campaign. The campaign, which was approved at the 2015 Annual Conference, was projected to raise a total of $9 million dollars for the development and renovation of discipleship centers in Indiana. By that night, the campaign had assembled over $7 million.

 A $148,329 collection was gathered during the assembly of the retirement celebration. It was also unveiled that in celebration of the Bishop’s retirement, the new center will be named the “Bishop Mike and Marsha Coyner Epworth Discipleship Center,” with a ground breaking ceremony scheduled 4 p.m. Sunday, August 7, 2016. 

Read more and watch the videos

Indiana Conference and Community Prayer Breakfast

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a lifelong United Methodist and member of Indianapolis Robert Park UMC, spoke at the annual prayer breakfast Saturday, June 11, and shared scripture from the book of James, chapter 1, verse 22, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” His way of soliciting United Methodists to not simply watch idly as our city is ravaged by horrendous crimes, poverty, and injustice, but to seek action, prayer, and positive influence. 

Read more about the Mayor’s address

Celebration of Ministry: Ordination and Commissioning service

During the 2016 Celebration of Ministry: Ordination and Commissioning service, Saturday, June 11, Bishop Michael Coyner shared a message reminding the congregation that the individuals being commissioned and ordained, during the service, were broken and flawed human beings. However, these individuals are masterpieces of God’s grace and love working in their lives, evidence of the artistry and beauty of God’s handiwork.

“Ministry begins when the minister knows that they are the product of God’s handiwork,” Coyner stated. “All of you are the handiwork of God.”

The conference ordained one deacon and nine elders, as well as commissioned two provisional deacons and nineteen provisional elders and recognized two members from different orders. The conference also retired 46 elders, deacons and local pastors from active ministry.

In addition to the Ordination and Commissioning service, Bishop Coyner baptized five children during Saturday’s service: Xavier Thomas Howard, son of Rev. Jill and Cory Howard; Jovie Danielle Newton, daughter of Pastor Lance and Rachelle Newton; Lauren Ann Rochelle, daughter of Reverend Amanda and Steve Rochelle; Obadiah Cartwright Roth, son of Pastor Bill and Shana Roth; and Hannah Jean Swisher, daughter of Reverend Matt and Katie Swisher.

Click here to see the service or here to view pictures.

Technology at Conference

Throughout the meeting members were wowed by a new format and design for the Annual Conference Session which included a 100-ft screen, star drape, and social media walls to continue the conversation with those actively engaged in social media and those who are not. Social media hashtags #INUMC#INAC16, and #BeHope, were all used to fuel conversations surrounding the 2016 Annual Conference highlights and developments. Participants near and far were continually engaging using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to follow on-going events throughout the conference. 

View social media wall and live stream information

Daily video recaps were available to tell the story of Conference, as well as videos that shared our mission and ministry throughout Indiana. 

Videos available:

Day 1: Welcome

Day 2: Recap

Day 3: Recap

2016 Annual Conference Video Wrap-Up

Other videos also available:

Church Membership 

Membership stands at 190,911 down 1% from the previous year; average worship attendance stands at 99,050, down 3% from the previous year; Christian formation groups, 89,523 down 11%; Professions of Faith, 3,060 down 9%; Baptisms, 15,126 down 7%.

For more on the events of 2016 Annual Conference, you can:

  • View photos on the INUMC account
  • View captivating footage from AC and other events on the INUMC vimeo account
  • Read and view the Annual Conference “Daily Wrap-Ups”
  • Keep the conversation going on social media at #INUMC

2017 Indiana Annual Conference Session

Remember, the 2017 Annual Conference is scheduled for June 8 – 10. More information to come.