This news will probably not come as a surprise given the current COVID-19 situation: The Dakotas and Minnesota Cabinets and respective Sessions Teams have made the decision to cancel the joint Dakotas-Minnesota Annual Conference, scheduled for June 10-12, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As we consider the guidance of the North Dakota and South Dakota Departments of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” it’s evident that it will be some months before it is safe for large gatherings to take place. This reality is disappointing given that this event was to be a unique occasion to gather as an episcopal area for celebration of our shared ministry over the past eight years. So, the decision was made to cancel our joint event, and for each annual conference to determine how to do its own essential business that requires annual conference action.
What does that mean for the Dakotas Annual Conference Session? At this point, our plan is to meet for 24 hours from a Friday noon to Saturday noon the first or second weekend of October, at Legacy United Methodist Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. We are working to confirm the specific dates. In order to do this, we will substantially pare down our session to focus on what is essential. We are still confirming details and will let you know the agenda and other details, as soon as the pieces are in place. We will spend the coming months preparing a much shorter, yet still engaging, efficient, and uplifting annual conference session, around our theme “Be the Light: Live Hope!” and our gospel imperative to heal a broken world.
We are planning a virtual clergy session for June 11. We are working with various vendors that will help us manage the technical pieces and ensure things go smoothly.
Flexibility and being able to pivot as circumstances change will shape our Annual Conference Session planning and delivery, just as they have shaped local churches’ planning and delivery of worship and other gatherings during this season.
Here are the answers to some questions you might be asking:
I already registered and paid for Annual Conference Session. How do I get a refund?
If you registered but have not yet paid, no action is necessary.
If you paid by check, you will receive a reimbursement check in May.
If you paid by credit card, a refund will be issued to your card in May.
What should I do about my hotel reservation in Sioux Falls?
You will need to call the hotel directly to cancel. There will be no cancellation fees if you cancel by May 31, 2020.
I am supposed to go to a new appointment or retire July 1. What happens now that Annual Conference Session is not until October?
You still move, and you still can retire! Appointment changes will still be effective July 1, 2020. Moving companies (including the one we use, Jobbers) are considered essential businesses and will be moving our clergy in June.
I have been approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) for a change of relationship, such as licensing, leave of absence, commissioning, or ordination. When do those take effect?
All relationship changes, with the exception of commissioning and ordination, will go into effect on the effective date of the approval by the BOOM and Cabinet. They will be considered interim appointment changes until clergy session meets and can ratify them. Commissioning and ordination requires clergy session approval, as well as the laying on hands by the bishop. So while the BOOM approval stands until that can occur, those individuals will continue in their current status until we determine how to make that happen given our current restrictions on meeting in-person.
What do I need to know or do about the virtual clergy session?
We are still in the design phase. What we know at this point is that there will be limited interaction given that there will be more than a hundred of participants, but we will be able to conduct essential business. The best way you can prepare for this virtual event is to make sure that, if you are a member to the clergy session, you have device with a strong Internet connection that facilitates videoconferencing. A dial-in option will be available for those without Internet access, but it will result in a more limited experience as you will not be able to see the presenters and materials on-screen.
What else do I need to know now?
We will send more information as details are finalized. Expect that there will be digital pre-conference information about legislation so you can be informed and have the opportunity to ask questions in advance of the actual session.