The 256 delegates to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference unanimously approved a resolution to establish the boundaries of the new Great Plains Annual Conference to encompass Kansas East, Kansas West and the Nebraska annual conferences, excluding the congregations in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC).
OIMC has a number of Native American congregations within the bounds of the current Kansas East and Kansas West conferences and is looking forward to establishing new ministries in Nebraska.
Tom Watson, lay delegate to jurisdictional conference and chairperson of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition team, spoke in favor of the resolution.
“We have worked hard over the past two years,” Watson said. “We are excited about our future.”
Rev. Adam Hamilton, head of the Kansas East delegation and senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, thanked the members of the transition team for taking what some might have seen as a negative and turning it into a positive.
Hamilton said there are many challenges for the new conference, particularly the geography involved. Combining the three conferences will create the largest geographic conference in the jurisdiction.
“The people of Kansas and Nebraska looked at the challenge and said, we can do that,” Hamilton said. “We are looking forward to becoming a new annual conference and leading the South Central Jurisdiction.”
Rev. Mark Conard, head of the Kansas West delegation and pastor at Hutchinson First UMC, also affirmed the work of the transition team.
With no one else at the microphone, Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones, presiding officer for the morning session, called for a hand vote.
“I believe that was unanimous,” Jones said.
The room erupted into applause, and Jones and his assistant presiding officer Nebraska Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson stood and congratulated each other as Paula Severe moved to replace the three conferences on the jurisdiction map behind the bishops with the new annual conference.
“We truly are excited about this,” Jones said.
The petition to change the boundaries of the annual conferences was submitted by the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska annual conferences following a positive vote at all three conferences in May and June to become one annual conference Jan. 1, 2014.
In 2009, the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops announced that beginning Sept. 1, 2012, the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska annual conferences would share a bishop. A transition team was formed to study and recommend the best way of becoming one episcopal area. Their work resulted in a recommendation to become one new annual conference.