The 2016 Fall Mission Center Conference was once again held at Saginaw Valley State University.  On Friday, Nov. 4 registration opened and a worship experience helped the nearly 100 people gathered to focus on the theme “A Future of Hope” and center on Community of Christ scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a. “God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering.  Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children.  Do not turn away from them.  For in their welfare resides your welfare.”  Following the worship people enjoyed refreshments and had the opportunity to greet guests Lachlan Mackay, Apostle for the Northeast USA Mission Field, and John Wight, Senior President of Seventy.

Registration opened once again at 7:30am on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Curtiss Hall.  Early arrivers had time to visit the display tables with information about youth camps, youth ministries, Park of the Pines, Sanford Campground, the Woodlands, Journey House Campus Ministry Center, Gay and Lesbian Acceptance (GALA) and Welcoming Community Network (WCN).  The 9:00am worship experience included a presentation from Suzanne Greenberg, CEO of the Child Abuse and Neglect Council for the Great Lakes Bay Region, that help create awareness about the harm done to children in our state and how congregations can get involved with child abuse prevention efforts with their local CAN councils.  Leaders from the Otter Lake, Waterford, Blue Water, and Shabbona congregations also shared stories about how they are developing relationships with individuals and groups in their communities that live out our enduring principles and mission initiatives.

The business session began with conference organizing actions including announcements, greetings from the world church, adopting the credentials report and standing rules, and review of the meeting outline and procedures.  The Mission Center President (MCP) Team provided highlights of its written report and shared information about events planned for 2017.  Jack Tigner provided highlights of the printed Mission Center Financial Officer (MCFO) report and the auditor’s report for 2015 was adopted.  Reports were then shared by the presidents of the elected boards (Blue Water, Park of the Pines, Park of the Pines Endowment Fund, Sanford, the Woodlands, Journey House Campus Ministry Center and Community Outreach Services Corporation (COSC).  Tammera Bollman, COSC Board President, explained the separation of COSC as a legal affiliate of Community of Christ due to a pending tax credit transaction that will result in new ownership of Restoration Tower by a private partner.  She also shared excited news that COSC intends to provide a gift of $100,000 to the Michigan Mission Center upon completion of the project in recognition of the $15,000 investment made by the Detroit Stake at the start of the project decades ago.

Highlights of written reports were shared for the Youth Ministries Team, Disciple Development Fund, Earth Stewardship Team, Campground Sales Team, and the Finance Committee.  The proposed 2017 Mission Center Operating Budget was approved as printed.  The MCP Team of Adam Bouverette, Dan Nowiski, and Dianna Vanderkarr was sustained along with Jack Tigner as MCFO.  Apostle Mackay provided information about the Invitation Support Minister position being implemented in USA mission centers, and Nan Anderson was sustained to serve in that role.  The Mission Center Council Members proposed by the MCP Team for 2017 were sustained.

The following individuals were elected to serve on elected boards:
Journey House Board (3 year terms starting 7/1/2017): Carole Dudley, Richard Hawks, Tim Ross
Blue Water Board (3 year terms starting 1/1/2017): Rich Allen, Tom Banks, Richard Herr, Russell Knight, Troy Piper
Park of the Pines Board (3 year terms starting 1/1/2017): Darrin Carter, Megan Hacker, Carol Harrison, James Sweet, Nadine Volz
Park of the Pines Endowment Board (3 year term starting 1/1/2017): Carla Parkes
Sanford Board (3 year terms starting 1/1/2017): Ben Crowley, Joey Kernstock, Rick Ludy, David McDonald, Joel Sentz
Woodlands Board (partial term ending 12/31/2018): James Barr, Sam Bellinger, Dale Volz, Lori White
Woodlands Board (3 year terms starting 1/1/2017): Tom Banks, Kathy Erwin, Ervin Haley, Ronald Rousse, Deloris White

The business session recessed from 12:00 to 2:00pm for lunch.  Pastors met briefly during the lunch break to receive information about new priesthood status categories that will go into effect July 1, 2017.  The body joined in a prayer for peace offered by Winnie Johnston, Youth Camp Coordinator.  Donations in the amount of $2606.76 were received for the youth camp scholarship fund.  Diane McNeil, Seventy, and Al Dieterman, High Priest, were recognized for the honor of superannuation granted to them as world church ministers.  SALT program graduates, first time conference attendees, and congregations celebrating 100 year anniversaries (Muskegon, Croswell, and Lake Orion) were also recognized for their achievements.

Calls to world church minister priesthood offices were presented and considered by the conference.  The calls for Josie Dalton to Seventy, Mindy Jeffires to High Priest, and Dan Nowiski to High Priest were approved.  Delegates then considered the five resolutions submitted to the conference.  Following discussion and some proposed amendments resolutions 1, 2, 3, and 4 failed.  Resolution 5 outlining use of the net proceeds from the Contemporary Christian Ministries congregation passed.  The conference adjourned and a presentation about e-tithing was shared by Dena DeVormer, Field Support Minister for the Northeast USA Mission Field, prior to the break for dinner.

World Church Ministers (Seventies, High Priests, Bishops, and Evangelists) were invited to fellowship with Lach Mackay and John Wight during dinner.  The Saturday evening worship experience was focused on the ordinations for Josie Dalton, Mindy Jeffries, and Dan Nowiski and the setting apart of Nan Anderson to serve as Invitation Support Minister.

Sunday morning began with a question and answer period with mission center and field leaders.  Information was shared about Go Fund Mission, efforts to abolish poverty, and Apostle Mackay’s personal and faith story.  A class session was held with three presentations focused on invitation and hospitality.  Erin Cavanaugh, GALA President and Otter Lake congregation CFO, shared about Welcoming Community Network and the resources available to help congregations through the process of including all in becoming a welcoming congregation for LGBT people.  Lach Mackay shared about Latter-day Seekers and the resources available to help ministers and congregations provide ministry to those who have left the LDS church and are seeking a spiritual home.  John Wight shared about tools for surveying community members and gathering demographic information through Percept reports.

Throughout the weekend donations were collected for the Shabbona Baby Pantry.  Several members of the Shabbona congregation have been instrumental in supporting and growing the Huron County Baby Pantry for many years.  This past year the Shabbona congregation decided to sell it’s building to a private owner who has agreed to maintain the space and rent it to the newly formed Shabbona Baby Pantry and to the congregation.  Several members of the congregation serve on the board for the new pantry and the congregation applied for and received a Tangible Love grant from Community of Christ to support this ministry partnership.  Congregation members gather for worship in Shabbona about once each month while also supporting ministry in nearby congregations on Sunday mornings.  The donations gathered represented one way to respond to the scripture and theme for the weekend.

The final worship experience of the weekend included celebration and sharing of the Lord’s Supper.  Generous contributions in the amount of $1331.36 were received for world mission tithes to help abolish poverty, end suffering.  Apostle Mackay gave a sermon that connected our story as a people of faith with Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a.  He pointed out that we were the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world in places like Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, and Nauvoo, so we must listen anew to the people today who suffer just like we once did.  We were sent forward by Lach’s blessing and challenge to live Christ’s mission!

Over 400 people registered for the conference, including 360 delegates.  Many more attended portions of the weekend for ordinations, worships, meals, and more.  The conference handouts are available online for those who would like to review the reports.  Minutes will be posted to the fall conference webpage when they are reviewed and approved by the minutes review committee.  Mark your calendars now for the 2017 Fall Conference to be held November 3-5 once again at SVSU.  Thanks to all of the volunteers, staff, and participants who helped make this a great conference!


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