Grace and peace! As we journey through the season of Lent and approach Palm Sunday and Easter, leaders in our Iowa Annual Conference have been diligently praying about our ongoing staff alignment, engaging in holy conferencing, and taking next steps. I am writing to give you an update on our progress.

  1. In February, we invited conference clergy to submit names of clergy who might be qualified to serve as our new Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence, and clergy or laity who might be qualified to serve as our new Director of Congregational Excellence. After consultation with the appointive cabinet and a lay/clergy Review Team, I am very pleased to let you know that I will be appointing Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck, Lead Pastor of Broadway UMC in Council Bluffs, to this position beginning July 1, 2018. Lanette has a long history of fruitful and innovative ministry that transforms lives and strengthens congregations.
  2. I’m also excited to announce that I will be appointing Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson, currently Field Outreach Minister for the South Central District, to be the new Director of Congregational Excellence beginning July 1, 2018. For the past four and a half years, Jaye has very effectively served congregations throughout Iowa in the area of congregational vitality through the Healthy Church Initiative and has made this area of ministry his specialty. 
  3. In addition to their specific responsibilities, Lanette and Jaye will collaborate with our Director of New Communities of Faith, Rev. Bill Poland, to formulate a strategy for clergy and congregational excellence that aligns with our new mission, vision, 2019 Iowa Conference goal, and strategic priorities. They will also work with the current Field Outreach Ministers, who will become Interim Associates of Congregational Excellence over the next year as we transition to four Associates.
  4. Rev. Karen Dungan, who has served passionately and effectively as our Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries for eleven years, will finish her ministry in this role later this month. I thank Karen for her faithful service and commitment to the ministry of the Iowa Annual Conference.
  5. Beginning April 1, 2018, Rev. Jerry Oakland, retired clergy in the Iowa Annual Conference, will serve as a transitional Director of Connectional Ministries on a part-time basis while our Bishop’s Operational Team determines how these responsibilities will be cared for moving forward.
  6. Interim Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, Rev. Dr. Bob Burkhart, and Appointive Cabinet Dean, Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie, will shepherd the ongoing staff alignment. This work includes the development of appropriate on-boarding plans for new staff members, defined as the integration of new staff members into the Conference and its culture.   
  7. We are working closely with the Conference Council on Finance and Administration around the financial implications of this staffing alignment. We do know that the July 1 staffing changes will not increase the approved 2018 budget, and a small decrease in the overall staffing cost through December 31 is anticipated. The newly aligned structure reflects a missional Iowa Annual Conference committed to the faithful stewardship of our resources and a focus on our strategic priorities. Salary and benefit projections for future years indicate greater savings after the new structure is fully implemented. 

Thank you for your partnership in ministry as we seek to live out our vision to be God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leaders, fruitful communities, and fire-filled people; and our mission to inspire, equip, and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Laurie

From the Office of the Bishop of The Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church