North Central Jurisdiction Mission Council Meeting – Chicago, IL

May 18 to 19, 2023

Meeting Notes

Bold names in attendance.

Conference Elected:

Beata Ferris – Dakotas

Laura Witkowski – Michigan

Kelly Brown – East Ohio

Eric Swanson – Illinois Great Rivers

In Suk Peeples – Indiana

Nitza Dovenspike – Iowa

Walker Brault – Minnesota

Chris Winkler – Northern Illinois (on Zoom)

To Be Named – West Ohio

Kady Herr Yang – Wisconsin


Gifty Smith – Illinois Great (on Zoom)

Ryan Russell – Iowa

Dominic Mejia – West Ohio

Nathan Lundy – Indiana

Brian Hanner – East Ohio (on Zoom)

Rita L. Smith – Northern Illinois

Paige Boyer – East Ohio

Andrea Hult – Dakotas

Gordon Grigg – Michigan

Directors of Connectional Ministries: Named by NCJ DCMS

Curtis Brown

Cindy Gregorson

College of Bishops Representative: Named by NCJ College of Bishops

Bishop Julius Trimble

NCJ Coordinator of Communications: Jim Searls

NCJ Treasurer: Lonnie Chafin

NCJ Secretary: Diane Brown

Out going Mission Council Secretary present Thursday only: Gail Burgess

Summary of action items:

  • Officers elected
  • Survey of delegation travel plans/needs – Diane, NCJ Secretary
  • Allocate $30,000 for a fall 2023 delegate gathering
  • Allocate $5,000 annually from the Mission Council budget for BIPOC delegate gathering with College of Bishops
  • Working Groups Named
  • Connect with COE on strategic conversations to be had around Regionalism and jurisdictions – Beata
  • Reconnect with the episcopacy task force (with COE and COB) to be in conversation about the impact of regionalization on jurisdictions – Ryan
  • Delegate Gathering – October 20 at 1 PM until October 21 at Noon EST

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Mission Council chair Ryan Russell (Iowa) called the meeting to order at 2 PM.

Ryan Russell and Bishop Trimble welcomed everyone to the meeting and Lonnie Chaffin explained logistics for the next day and a half. Then all members introduced themselves, explaining their role on the council and within their conferences and sharing their favorite snack, what they are passionate about, their understanding of Mission Council and their hope for Mission Council over the next 14 months.

Bishop Trimble then offered devotions using a passage from Philippians to remind everyone that God cares about the details. He asked that everyone consider how The United Methodist Church can make real the love of God and neighbor. He urged members to get to know one another and share their stories. He then offered Communion to all present.

Following a twenty-minute break, a brief ceremony of Installation of Leaders was conducted by Bishop Trimble. Next, past Jurisdictional Secretary Paul White was introduced and shared a brief history of the Mission Council, noting that at one time it functioned primarily as a funding agency. In 2016 some changes occurred in the jurisdictional structure (e.g. elimination of the Rules and Order Committee and the Journals Committee) and greater cooperation between the College of Bishops, the Committee on the Episcopacy and the Mission Council was encouraged. Others also contributed, telling more of the history and sharing some specifics from the online journal such as membership and how members were to be selected. (It was noted that some work would be done on Friday to suggest revision of some items in the Journal impacting Mission Council.)

Mission Council Past Activities and Recent Accomplishments

Vice-chair Laura Witkowski reviewed some of the recent accomplishments of the Mission Council. This included a revision of the process for receiving grants as well as helping to host Delegate Gatherings in 2018 (at Wespath) and 2019 (at First Korean UMC) and the 2021 online conference. Mission Council also helped to plan and participated in the 2022 NCJ Conference in Fort Wayne and helped in planning conversations on LGBTQ rights and anti-racism.

Illinois Great Rivers DCM Curtis Brown provided a diagram that showed that various components of the North Central Jurisdiction (College of Bishops, Committee on Episcopacy, Mission Council) and their responsibilities. He noted that the Mission Council helps to fund Native American Course of Study, Midwest Mission and NCJ Volunteers in Mission and others while collaborating with the College of Bishops and the Committee on the Episcopacy, working on the budget, maintaining the website, working with the Host Committee and hosting other delegate gatherings. In 2021 they were tasked with developing a racial audit and have been working with GCORR to get the necessary information.

Election of Officers

At 4:25 Bishop Trimble shared with the group nominees for the three offices of the Council. These included Chair: Ryan Russell, Vice-Chair: Eric Swanson and Secretary: Laura Witkowski.  Ryan had been elected as vice-chair in 2016 but when the previous chair resigned, he assumed the position of chair. Laura had stepped in as vice-chair at that time and is willing to serve as secretary until her term expires (Gail Burgess was elected secretary in 2016 and her term on the Mission Council has expired.) Eric Swanson is new on Mission Council and will have the opportunity to participate on the executive team for the next 14 months. MOTION: Rita L Smith moved that the nominated slate become the elected slate. Nathan Lundy seconded. The motion carried.

In small groups of 3, the council shared a little about what is happening in their annual conferences. People shared about disaffiliations, conference morale, resources (budget, people), energy level, and where do they see hope.

Prior to the break before dinner and for the evening, Curtis introduced the topic for tomorrow – pivoting into the future.

The Mission Council dismissed for dinner around 5 PM

Friday, May 19, 2023

Paige Boyer began our morning with devotions at 9:30 AM. Then everyone moved into small groups and shared in a getting-to-know you activity.

Finance Report

Lonnie, NCJ Treasurer, shared the finance report, see PDF titled NCJ Mission Council Financials May 2023.

Highlights include:

2022 Apportionments = $218,000

2022 Uncollected apportionments= $1300

Due to the postponement of GC2020, Minnesota gave back unused funds due to not hosting GC2020. THANK YOU!

Mission Council line-item expense includes speaker fee for JC 2022 LGBTQ conversation time.

Explanation of JC Expenses

  • $225,000 spent on JC 2022
  • Delegate Expenses category is the per diem
  • Expenses are things like venue, AV/tech, band, etc.
  • Journals
  • Travel is delegate travel

2023 to date items of note:

  • Other meetings line item is the cost that GCFA didn’t quite cover for the COB and COE meeting expenses.
  • Investment account is going up!
  • At one time NCJ Congregational Developers collected money and needed a bank account to put it in and NCJ is holding it at $18,000.
  • Reserve policy is to have enough money in the bank to cover a special session of NCJ (just one overnight), and could be used for committee on investigations and appeals if needed.

It’s important to note that Financial Budget provided has income and expenses are over four years. It is presented as 2021-2024. In 2021 there was a running balance of $371,000. By the end of 2023 there will likely be a running balance of $67,000.

A few other notes on expenses. The Mission Council meeting moved from a hotel near O’Hare to downtown Chicago. Overall, conventions drive hotel costs, so a current convention increased the hotel costs near O’Hare. It costs only $25 more a night per room to be downtown. Then, the hotel meeting rooms near O’Hare are $700 a day, downtown it is free because we used the Northern Ill Conference Office. Food at hotel is more expensive at O’Hare and at the Conference Office we could save on food by not using hotel catering. Example: COE O’Hare lunch $40, MC dinner in downtown Chicago was $45. This also allowed people to fly into both Midway and O’Hare depending what needs. Overall and in general, Chicago airfare is cheaper.

NCJ 2024

Travel costs for JC 2024 in South Dakota are a bit of a concern. What can we explore for group travel options? Some ideas:

  • Group purchases for flights for delegation.
  • Charter flights from hub delegation locations.
  • Fly to MN and charter bus to SD.

The mission council agreed to move forward on looking at all options for travel to SD. It was also noted that we will need to communicate that if you do not use these travel plans you will not be reimbursed.

Diane, NCJ Secretary, will do a survey of delegations and travel plans – are you flying and/or what city makes sense for you OR driving?

Another consideration for SD is food costs. We discussed provided food onsite rather than people finding restaurants, which means no per diem.

There was a discussion on vacant delegate elections and election of vacant reserves.

  • AC’s can elect to fill vacancies but not reserves.
  • A recent communication from GC General Secretary Gary Graves was discussed also, but no conclusion was made.

Outlining the Grant process

Ryan Russell shared the history of Mission Council grants. The Mission Council began as a funding and distribution body as its main responsibility. In 2016 the process changed to a granting application process rather than legacy funding. Over the years that process has developed. The current process now is that ministry groups in the jurisdiction are invited to submit an application for funding that is jurisdictional in nature. The Executive Committee meets to review the application, ask questions of those applying and give feedback as necessary. The Executive Committee offers recommendations to the full Mission Council for approval of grants. Some grants are multi-year, some grants are one year. For multi-year grants the Mission Council receives Progress Reports so that the next year’s funds can be distributed. Application material is on the NCJ website. The information is sent to Annual Conference Communicators and Director’s of Connectional Ministries.

Recent grants include: Volunteers in Mission Youth Event (multi-year), Committee on Native American Ministries Course of Study (multi-year), Midwest Mission Distribution Center (Multi-year, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary Latinx Focus (1 year), Grace Pictures, creating a documentary (multi-year), NCJ Water Summit (1 year), BIPOC Delegate Gathering with College of Bishops (1 year) and Annual Conferences/NCJ Racial Data Study (1 year)

Remaining grant funds for 2023 and 2024 = $65,000

Fall Delegation Event

What is our why? To create relationships and so GC agencies could travel to one place rather than multiple to share about legislation coming before GC.

In the past NCJ covered travel and the delegations/conferences covered lodging.

In order to discuss a fall delegation event and decide if one should be offered a timeline was shared.


2022    November – NCJC, MC Elected

2023    May – Mission Council

June – Annual Conference’s

2024    April – GC 2020

June – AC’s

July – JC (If this is called as a regular session, then a new MC Elected, a regular session was done in 2022)

2025    June – AC’s

2026    May – GC 2024 (possibly 5 days)

June – AC’s

July – JC, if a regular session, then new MC Elected

2028    May – GC

June – AC’s

July – JC, if a regular session, then new MC Elected. (West Ohio?)

Mission Council needs to be prepared to fund the JC’s noted above. We should be open to a shorter JC, less days and could a special session be online.

The conversation on a fall Delegate Gathering and Mission Council gathering had these highlights:

  • Do we need to have a hybrid situation?
  • Have a defined agenda with robust discussions via zoom prior to gathering in person
  • Tone shift of being neutral to advocacy
  • Use 2 or 3 goals/GC legislation to focus the time
  • How do delegations coalesce at GC to be sure delegates know how to organize on the floor?
  • On the other side of GC this is who we want to be, in other words, what is The UMC going to be post disaffiliation?
  • How do we keep moving legislation through committee and on the floor so that we have the focused petitions passed we are looking for.
  • What are our core values as a Jurisdiction?
  • It’s important to think about and discuss actually doing as often as writing statements. We need to be sure to attach action and doing to the writing statements.

The pros of having a delegate gathering are:

  • Building relationships across the jurisdiction
  • Organize around legislation already submitted: removing restrictive language, regionalization
  • Name priorities of the jurisdiction
  • Engagement of delegates
  • (Remember) There still have new delegates

The Mission Council and jurisdiction have worked hard to build relationships, we need to be able to work together as a jurisdiction so that we can achieve something different at GC.

Bishop Trimble invited everyone to be sure the vision is bigger vision than singular legislative issue. Also, cultivate joy!

Lonnie moved to allocate $30,000 for a fall 2023 delegate gathering. It will be organized with a focus on building relationships, training on how to organize around a few pieces of legislation for GC and to talk about who The UMC will be. Each delegation will be asked to name a person to be on the planning team. Ryan, Cindy and Rita from the mission council will be on the planning team with delegates. Curtis seconded the motion. Motion passed.

Throughout the conversation, Nitza raised the questions of the BIPOC delegating gathering with the College of Bishops and how that was expected to be an annual event.

Cindy moved to allocate $5,000 annually from the Mission Council budget for BIPOC delegate gathering with College of Bishops. Eric seconded. Motion passed.

The Mission Council took a break for lunch from 11:30-12:30pm

Strategic Visioning Conversation

Curtis and Eric led in a facilitation conversation around how to pivot, mission and vision and restructuring the jurisdiction to live into the new reality.

We began by reviewing page 71 of NCJ Journal. “The Mission of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church is, by the call of God, to make disciples of Jesus Christ by providing spiritual leadership.” “The Vision of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church is of holy, bold disciples of Jesus Christ living in unique and connected faith communities energized by dynamic spiritual leadership, both lay and clergy.” “The Core Process of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church is to: Provide connections for unique leadership, spiritual and outreach development across the North Central Jurisdiction, and Provide for the election and assignment of bishops in the North Central Jurisdiction.”

Mission Council Tasks

  1. Support the vision and mission of the Church and the development of models for that mission within the jurisdiction.
  2. Constantly test the structures against the stated vision and mission.
  3. Establish criteria for funding and evaluation of programs receiving funding.
  4. Make annualized budget allocations to programs in the jurisdiction.
  5. Prepare a financial budget for the succeeding quadrennium to submit for NCJ Conference action.
  6. Oversee the investments within the jurisdiction.
  7. Review, each quadrennium, the NCJ Plan of Organization and Rules of Order and propose amendments to the same to the Jurisdictional Conference for its consideration.

From NCJ 2021 the BeLoved Community Covenant Priorities (core values)

  1. Anti-Racism
  2. Commitment to Inclusion
  3. Regional Structure for UMC
  4. Cultivate Joy (Bishop Trimble reminder and addition)

We are encouraged to not be limited by what has been named above and designated to the Mission Council. Everyone moved into pairs to identify what we’d like to see at the UMC level, AC level and local church level. What are 2-3 impacts (or dreams, hopes, longings) that could be done to move forward on each of the priorities above. Ex. Gather and connect BIPOC delegates or organize around a specific legislation. What is it that could make a difference?

Each idea was place on a post it note and categorized in the 3 levels of UMC, AC, and Local church. Below is what was written on post-it notes.


  • Anti-racism data collection sponsored by jurisdiction
  • Structural – commitment to multi-cultural organization – that changes how we structure/operate embed diversity language
  • Not reinventing the wheel around this work
  • Provide an example to UMC of openness and inclusion
  • Joy is celebrated at every UMC gathering
  • A movement that redeems the nation
  • Should power devolve away from central conference and can jurisdiction be a place of grass roots organization to help air returning to a movement
  • Regional structure doesn’t erase jurisdictions
  • How to modernize UMC structure for 21st century
  • Organizing around removing ‘incompatible’ language
  • Pressure the denomination to move from anti-racist words to anti-racist action.
  • In times of gathered worship, center joy as an expression of grace
  • Inclusion means all means all…traditionalist and progressives
  • GC/JC delegate relationship building
  • Educating GC delegates by delegate training
  • Creating meaningful spaces for connection across the jurisdiction
  • Being intentional of addressing and changing harmful systemic polices at jurisdictional conference
  • Convenor for NCJ in order to help share future of UMC
  • Healthy experience of US regional conference – how not to lose geographical identity
  • Culture and context *regional structure


  • Change our meetings to work with laity and young adult schedules moving from the 9-5 schedule to evenings and weekends
  • Educating ACs on the impact of jurisdictions
  • At every AC gathering of Ums joy is celebrated
  • Provide an example to ACs of resources or pathways to openness and inclusion
  • Anti-racism data through jurisdiction can help the ACs understand what is really happening at home
  • Walk the learning curve together if one AC/staff figured something out – all could do it
  • Share curate cultural brokers interpretations for ACs
  • Help ACs develop partnerships with other organizations doing the work of inclusion
  • Collaborate so no reinventing the wheel in each AC regarding Anti-racism
  • Standards/minimums for anti-racism work for all ACs in NCJ
  • Identifying jurisdictional opportunities for mission (like the youth mission opportunity) to promote connection
  • Encourage ACs to adapt DEI statements as an AC = to include traditionalists  progressives
  • Cultivating joy, even in spaces where it is hard
  • Leadership training from conference staff to local church pastors (and laity) in inclusion and anti-isms training
  • How can the Jurisdiction listen, connect to where the energy and spirit is mainly across our area and help center those voices
  • Creating a space (inclusion)
  • Provide information and support AC in explaining regional structure meaning to AC & local churches
  • Find way to empower and develop leaders in marginalized communities within our jurisdiction such that their voices can become part of the larger conversation
  • Relational connection between local church /districts
  • Address spiritual issue, we vs them (anti-racism)

Local Church

  • Helping local churches understand connectionalism
  • Joy is celebrated whenever Ums gather locally
  • Provide to local churches resources or pathways to openness and inclusion
  • Discipleship, gratitude, practice, joy (local church)
  • Anti-racism: JC data can help local church folks understand what racism is and how they can move forward
  • Joy, celebrating their accomplishments more clearly withing local church
  • Create innovation labs to experiment with new models for ministry beyond building and full-time clergy
  • Connection includes the church up the street
  • Connected doesn’t mean just up the road
  • The whole jurisdiction does a sermon series on all priorities
  • Encourage DEI support conversation in local church settings
  • Going back to the basics and creating programs on feeding the hungry, helping the poor, turning the community into church family
  • Asking members where they see God in their lives, glory sightings
  • Teaching what Methodism and putting it into action in the local community, going out in the community
  • Create clear channels of communicating between the mission council and local churches to promote the grant program

Reflection on post-it note ideas:

Tension of two post it notes: “Local church connection of includes the church up the street” and “Connection doesn’t mean only the local church up the street.”

Everyone moved into groups of 3 to discuss:

  • 2 to 3 ideas that MC could do in the next year
  • 2 to 3 ideas that MC could do in the next 2 years

that would further any of the hopes/dreams/impacts/goals, etc. of the post it notes

Below are what was moved/named in each category of Next year- 1) Yes, 2) Ok, I guess, 3) I mean sure, if there’s time. The same categories were used for the next 2 years.

Practical – what should we do?

Next year


  • Call together DEI workers in each AC to share best practices/ideas
  • Create opportunities for relationship building across the jurisdiction; Have gathering to equip spiritual leadership, jurisdictional delegate gathering
  • Celebrate joy at every gathering, jurisdictional; celebrate grantees
  • Share language translated materials across jurisdiction and beyond
  • Expand NCJ communication platforms and plan; request and share glory sightings that are happening across the jurisdiction on the NCJ social media and website; quarterly NCJ enews sent to all ACs communicators to share with churches with anti-racism, inclusion, GC info and celebrations of joy; website show gathering so more people can join; collaborating and sharing resources that conferences have created

Ok, I guess

I mean sure if there’s time

  • Discern what joy means for us now. Doctrinal, relational, aesthetic; work with communication partners to develop joy-centered campaigns
  • Monthly DEI leader meetings

Next 2 years


  • Incorporate priorities into NCJ worship
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities of what jurisdictions can and should do and be in the United states regional conference; Name interests in regionalization – concerns, protect, ‘not all southern bishops’
  • Connect rework of mission council with local church, How?, make it more real; Ideas: presentations at AC, videos on work with delegations, clear promotion of grant progress
  • Create a tool-box for inclusion resource that is updated and promoted with easy and understandable directions; Creating tool boxes of resources on anti-racism and keep the tool box updated and promote with easy and understandable directions; use umc resources to have these/links on website.

Ok, I guess

  • Grant writing workshop at NCJ 24
  • Time for lament, recognize trauma of disaffiliations and COVID
  • Send out resources to local churches to have everyone in jurisdiction do same sermon series

I mean sure if there’s time

  • ‘Sibling churches’ from other ACs, partner with church in another AC to share joy and ministry ideas

The Mission Council’s ongoing tasks are:

  • Grants
  • Budgets
  • Rules
  • Delegate Gatherings
  • Exec Team meeting with College of Bishops

A conversation was had on overall communication at the jurisdiction level. What’s the plan? – who are our contacts, how are we networking them? Who do you call and who is doing x? For being a connectional organization, we don’t really connect our groups. Jim shared that there’s not much inter-conference communications. There is not always value seen in communicating with each other.

The Mission Council formed new working teams with the hope that everyone will have a little something to do to make the involvement on Mission Council worthwhile. Below are the teams with the bold person taking the lead in meeting.

  1. Rules – Nitza, Diane, Nathan, Ryan, In Suk, Kelly
  2. Communications – Paige, Beata, Gordon, Jim, Ryan
  3. Joy – Rita, Dom
  4. Delegate Gathering – Ryan, Cindy, Rita
  5. Connecting DEI/AR leaders/Data Collecting – Curtis, Nitza
  6. Roles and Responsibilities of Jurisdiction (be able to speak to the value and benefits of a jurisdiction) – Eric
  7. Granting Process – Jim, Beata, Eric (need to reinstate the liaison and they become the sub committee
  8. Worship at NCJ Priorities included – Beata
  9. Budget – committee as the whole and Exec committee

Relationship between Mission Council, Committee on Episcopacy and College of Bishops

The role of the episcopacy conversations will need to continue among MC, COB and COE. It was noted that regionalization and role of episcopacy might be intertwined, but should they be. Would it be helpful to separate them? Facilitating and curating strategic conversations could be important – what if elections of bishop is different with the US has a regional conference. What does it mean for jurisdictions? Conversations that include MC, COE, COB and delegates. The Mission Council concluded that we need opportunities for high level and deeper conversation about regionalization. Beata will connect with COE on strategic conversations to be had around Regionalism and jurisdictions.

Eric moved that the Mission Council authorizes Ryan, on behalf of the Executive Team, reconnect with the episcopacy task force to be in conversation (with COE and COB) about the impact of regionalization on jurisdictions. Seconded by Dom. Motion passed.


The Mission Council representatives for this task force along with Ryan will be Eric (as vice-chair) and Walker.

Next steps

  • See action summary at top of minutes
  • Review the ‘practical, what should we do?’ tasks.
  • Task forces will begin to come together in the coming months

Fall meeting and Delegate Gathering

  • Mission council will meet directly before the delegate gathering.
    • 19 Noon (MC), Oct. 20 – 1 PM – 21 until Noon (Delegate Gathering)
      • Please submit an update on task force groups a week a head of time to prepare for meeting
      • Will need to confirm per diem for NCJ2024
      • Legislation for NCJ2024 is due May-ish 2024
    • Probably Chicago and meet at a local church
    • Mission Council – Spring Meeting March 7, 2024 on Zoom 4-6 PM CT (5-7 EST)

Meeting adjourned and ended with prayer at 5 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Laura Witkowski, Mission Council Secretary

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