Boundaries set for new districts
By HOLLY McCRAY
The bishop and Cabinet have mapped out the shape of things to come for the Oklahoma Conference.
They determined boundaries for eight new districts, a key task during this year of transition. At the 2014 Annual Conference in late May, delegates voted by 81 percent to realign from 12 to eight districts, effective June 1, 2015.
In mid-September, Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. announced new boundary lines had been set. A reconfigured Conference map and list of churches in each new district were made available.
As assigned by the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the bishop and Cabinet establish district borders. But "this has not been about us putting a dart board on the wall," said the bishop.
"It’s all about missional purposes. We tried to determine what areas can work together fruitfully."
During the summer, superintendents invited input by hosting gatherings and listening posts in each of the current districts.
"I want you to know we heard you loudly and clearly," said Bishop Hayes. "We heard you say that when we assign churches we should do so not just by highway but by affinity."
Superintendent Greg Tener of OKC-South District said, "People want something that is dramatic and effective in living out the Gospel, in reclaiming the Great Commission."
Lawton District Superintendent Chris Tiger heard this: Don’t make cosmetic changes; make real changes for the sake of the Church’s mission in the world.
"I think people realize the definition for insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results," he said.
Rev. Tiger senses excitement about Missional Areas, which will connect neighboring UM churches within a district. He has established six temporary ones. Facilitated by a Missional Elder, each group will gather this fall for a worship service and meal.
Twelve transition teams, with both laity and clergy members, also formed in summer. By Oct. 15, transition teams for each new district should be operating. These groups are determining assets and liabilities, discussing property matters. Legal framework must start by early January.
John Wesley would be proud of us, in the sense that there’s method to all this," Hayes commented. "And all along the way, we’ve got to keep communicating with one another."
"There are no districts being incorporated into another district," Enid District Superintendent Donna Dodson emphasized. "We’re doing away with all 12 and creating eight new."
Rev. Tener asked for creative input in naming districts, too. He especially welcomes substitutes for the proposed "Central Area South."
The bishop said he and the Cabinet "leaned into" the Holy Spirit’s guidance as they worked. "Without that, we would be lost."
And he thanked all the people within the districts who are discussing property and finances, continuing to advance the transition work, spending the hours "to make sure we get it right. This is a labor of love."
Find a new video of Bishop Hayes speaking about the district boundaries at www.okumc.org/OKVideo.