Bishop’s Message

Meet the Michigan Conference 7 Districts ~~


January 17, 2023 Message ~~

Dear Friends in Christ in the Michigan Conference,

Greetings in this new year and grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.

At our last annual conference session, we approved the reduction in the number of districts in the Michigan Conference from nine to seven. This change is being made in light of shifting financial realities, particularly related to the reduction in the number of congregations in the Michigan Conference due to both closures and disaffiliation.

The Book of Discipline authorizes the bishop “to form the districts after consultation with the district superintendents” (¶415.4) while giving the annual conference the authority to determine the number of districts. The task force I established in 2021, which brought the proposal for seven districts to the 2022 annual conference, looked at several models for seven districts. Working with the district superintendents, we used one of those models and have been modifying it. While some minor changes in the boundaries and churches in each district may yet be made, I wanted to provide you with information about the new districts along with the names of the district superintendents who will be appointed to serve them. Attached to this letter you will find both a map and a list of churches in each of the seven districts. Here are the persons who will be serving as district superintendents:

  • The Northern Skies District will extend further into the northern lower peninsula.  The Rev. Scott Harmon will be the district superintendent.
  • The Central Bay District will extend west to include more of the center of the lower peninsula.  The Rev. John Kasper will be the district superintendent.
  • The Western Waters District (new name) will extend along the shores of Lake Michigan and include both the Traverse City and Grand Rapids areas.  The Rev. Jodie Flessner will be the district superintendent.
  • The East Winds District will now include the entire thumb area of the state and some more of the northern Detroit metropolitan suburban areas. The Rev. Dr. Margie Crawford will be the district superintendent.
  • The Greater Southwest District will extend more into the south-central part of the lower peninsula.  The Rev. Dwayne Bagley will be the district superintendent.
  • The Heritage District will extend into the Lansing metropolitan area.  The Rev. LuAnn Rourke will be the district superintendent.
  • The Greater Detroit District will extend south to the Michigan-Ohio state line.  The Rev. Dr. Darryl Totty will be the district superintendent.

As has already been announced in their respective districts, the Rev. John Hice and the Rev. Dr. Jerome DeVine will be retiring at annual conference. I want to express my deep and profound appreciation to both for their faithful service to Jesus Christ as district superintendents in the Michigan Conference. It has been my privilege and pleasure to work with them in these roles. Both brought a wealth of experience and a depth of knowledge to the work of the superintendency. Both have keen minds, large hearts, and profound souls, and yet each expresses these qualities in unique ways. John’s attention to detail and thoughtful historical perspective have benefitted the cabinet. Jerry’s rich history with anti-racism work and connections with the larger United Methodist Church are significant and have been deeply valued by the cabinet. I will miss them but know that we remain connected in this connectional church of ours.

There will be additional opportunities to celebrate their ministries, and I know you will join me in taking advantage of those opportunities.

It is important to note that as we move to seven districts, we are thinking anew about the work of superintendency. We do not want to simply expand territory without revising the essential work of the district superintendent. This will be ongoing work for the cabinet and me.

As we begin this new year in ministry together as a conference, may God’s wisdom guide us and deepen our thinking, may God’s Spirit empower and enliven us, and may the heart of Jesus expand our hearts for compassionate and caring ministry.

Grace and Peace,





Northern Waters District