The Monthly Update

August 2004 Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This mailing to you of our August Update gives information on the actions from the various annual conferences held around the country and the world.

There is continuing fallout from actions taken at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. Others in the renewal movement see this event as the "positives" outweighing the "negative." We are guarded in our assessment but are doing all we can for the orthodox faith.

We have a continuing interest in what is happening to St. Paul [UM] Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, and are providing all of the assistance we can. The latest is that the people have been forced to turn over control of both the church and the parsonage to representatives of the Alaska Missionary Conference. The case has been appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. Please keep these godly people in your prayers as they continue the fight for their property.

While speaking to churches in Virginia I came across the following in one of the bulletins for the Sunday morning service:

The Warrior’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, your warrior, a soldier for Jesus Christ, prepares for battle. Today I claim victory over Satan by putting on the whole armor of God.

I put on the Girdle of Truth! May I stand firm in the truth of your Word so I do not become a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness! May it guard my heart from evil so I will remain pure and holy, protected under the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Shoes of Peace! May I stand firm in the Good News of the Gospel so Your Peace will shine through me and be a light to all I encounter.

I put on the Shield of Faith! May I be ready for Satan’s fiery darts of doubt, denial and deceit so I will not fall victim to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation! May I keep my mind focused on Jesus so Satan can not gain a stronghold in my thoughts.

I take up the Sword of the Spirit! May the two-edged sword of Your Word be sharp and ready in my hands so I can expose the lies of Satan.

By faith I have put on the whole armor of God and I am prepared to live this day in spiritual victory.


How appropriate at this time!

We are experiencing what most Christian organizations do in the summer with people on vacation and a decline in our support. We ask that you would continue to remember us in your prayers, and provide financial help as the Lord leads you.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

We are not at our best perched at the summit; we are climbers, at our best when the way is steep.

– The Daily Walk, December 30/31, 1992.

* * * * *

Of Interest. Stand against gay ordination upheld

Presbyterian Church (USA) Assembly turns back bid to set aside ‘78 ‘authoritative interpretation’

RICHMOND, July 2nd, The 216th General Assembly voted Friday evening to retain an "authoritative interpretation" of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that forbids the ordination of "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals" as officers of the church. The Assembly’s Committee on Church Orders and Ministry had proposed that the interpretation, adopted in 1978 and re-affirmed several times by General Assemblies and church courts, be declared to be no longer binding on sessions and presbyteries. A minority report urging that the interpretation be maintained while the church continues in a period of "discernment" under the leadership of its Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church (TTF) was substituted for the committee's recommendation by a vote of 259 to 255 - 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent. The minority measure was then approved by a vote of 297 to 218. [Note: This is of interest since it parallels what is happening in our own United Methodist Church.]

- by Jerry Van Marte; Note #8417 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS; GA04120; July 2, 2004.

Annual Conference Reports

The Update continues the summaries of the annual conferences that have met during this time period around the country and in various parts of the world. Often the actions are reported without editorial comment. One cannot help but notice, though, that some of those conferences that have a flowery theme or go to great effort to have elaborate symbolic ceremonies are those same conferences that suffer consistent decline. There is more to true disciple-making than elaborate symbolism.

Alabama-West Florida met June 6-9 in Montgomery, Ala., at Frazer Memorial UMC, under the theme "You Are the Light of the World," taken from Matthew 5:14-16. James Moore, senior pastor of St. Luke's UMC, Houston, Texas, delivered the sermon for the Monday morning worship service. One of the most significant parts of the 2004 conference was the first-ever Annual Conference Mission Day on June 8. Delegates reached "Out of the Pew & into the World" by participating in hands-on mission work benefiting the conference area and beyond. Ten mission projects, varying in type and skill level, took place either on the Huntingdon campus or in the greater Montgomery area. Projects included flood bucket assembly, Habitat for Humanity pre-fabrication work, children's carnival, on-site home repair, nursing home visitation, layette kit assembly, food distribution, and servant evangelism. Members came to conference bearing more than 60,000 pounds of non-perishable food for distribution to those needing assistance. Another mission project was a 40,000-pound Sweet Potato Drop through a partnership with the Society of St. Andrew. All together, more than 1,000 Montgomery-area residents received food from UMs on Tuesday. Among many agenda items during the four-day event, the conference: 1) received a report from the task force considering consolidation of conference offices; 2) received a presentation on the reconfiguring of eight district lines; 3) announced that five new churches will be started in the next year; 4) celebrated the ministry of the laity; 5) established a $14.3 million budget for mission and ministry for the next year; and 6) recognized 26 churches as a "Church for All God's Children." Membership is 146,813, up 94. - Meredyth Earnest, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Arkansas met June 9-12 in Hot Springs, convened by Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. The session marked the reduction from 12 to nine districts in the conference. Members called for a study of benevolence giving and stewardship and asked that a task force examine the conference pension and health insurance plan. The body approved a $12 million budget, an increase of less than 1% over the previous year. Members approved resolutions that: 1) oppose capital punishment and urge its elimination from all criminal codes; 2) denounce the mistreatment of prisoners of war; 3) call on six institutions related to the conference to study their calling as UM entities; 4) require proceeds from the sale of church buildings or land to be used for the establishment of new churches or revitalization of existing churches; 5) reiterate the church's opposition to legalized gambling and call for educational events focusing on the dangers of legalized gambling; 6) call church members to be aware of and support environmental justice issues; and 7) express support for a proposed amendment to the state constitution that defines marriages as "the union of one man and one woman." Membership is 139,139, down 924. - Jane Dennis, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

California-Nevada met June 16-19 in Fresno, Calif. Bishop Beverly Shamana opened the session with a welcome to Bishop Gaspar Joao Domingos (West Angola Area) and his wife, Lucrecia Alexandre. Bishop Domingos came to celebrate the partnership between the California-Nevada and Western Angola conferences. Bishop Shamana proposed that by 2006 every church in the conference should have made some direct connection to the partnering effort between the two conferences. "Full Inclusion of All God's Children," a resolution submitted by the delegation to general and jurisdictional conferences, was passed in amended form by a vote of 328-58. The measure says that the conference "will continue our efforts to fully include all God's children, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, in the life and ministry of our church." In other action, the conference: 1) extended a boycott of Coca-Cola due to employee rights abuses in bottling plants in Colombia; 2) approved a Conference Abuse Prevention Policy for all conference activities involving children, youth, and vulnerable adults and extending provisions and requirements of the policy to every local church; 3) established Children and Poverty Sunday; 4) expressed opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement; 5) supported legislation to establish a single-payer healthcare system; and 6) established a conference board of laity. A total budget of $8.796 million was adopted. Conference officials told of diminishing apportionment payments over the past several years. Statistician Scott Allread documented a membership decline for the sixth straight year and a drop in worship attendance during four of the past five years. Membership is 89,115, down 1,181. - Loren Jenks, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

California-Pacific met for its 20th annual session June 17-21 at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California, convened by Bishop Mary Ann Swenson. Gathering around the theme "Leading in the Name of Christ: Call, Covenant, and Connection," the conference explored aspects of leadership. The areas of leadership included vision and purpose, prophecy, integrity, power and authority, and nurturing future leaders. Robert W. Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, spoke about the healthcare crisis in the United States for the conference board of church and society's report. In other business, the conference approved a $12,023,309 budget for 2005, representing an 11.18% decrease. The conference nominated Grant Hagiya, superintendent of the Los Angeles District, for the episcopacy. Membership is 93,128, down 1,610.

- Larry Hygh, Jr., as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Central Pennsylvania met June 10-12 at Messiah College in Grantham under the theme "Letting Go: Building Bridges to the Future" for its 216th session. In his keynote address, Bishop Neil L. Irons called on the churches to engage in serious discussion about their congregation's mission over the next five years and then let go of anything standing in the way of reaching the lost. The conference approved resolutions opposing gambling, the death penalty, and the legalization of slot machines. Also approved was a resolution supporting legislative measures that would prevent underage drinking. Conference members approved a resolution calling for the observance of TV Awareness Week. A resolution that would have created a committee to address the moral decline of the entertainment industry was referred to the conference board of church and society. The conference formally nominated Lewis Parks, associate dean for church leadership development and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Wesley Theological Seminary, for the episcopacy. Membership is 152,632, down 2,536. - Skip Spangler, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Desert Southwest met June 10-13 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Retiring Bishop William W. Dew Jr. called the session to order for the last time. The conference was focused on "Child of God," the concluding phrase of the vision statement adopted in 1998 (Bold in Christ, Abounding in Love, Grounded in Scripture, Disciplined in Ministry, Together We Fan into Flame the Gifts of God Within Every Child of God). Storytelling sermons from Grace Imathiu (Brown Deer UMC, Milwaukee, Wis.) said that no matter our age, we are all children of God. The conference mission effort also focused on "Child of God." Each congregation was asked to bring stuffed animals for distribution to organizations that minister to or serve children in need. Additionally, monetary donations were aimed at the purchase of an Ark of Animals through Heifer Project International. During the business sessions, the conference: 1) approved a $5.6 million budget for 2005, an increase of 3.95%; 2) nominated Jane Tews for the episcopacy; 3) passed a resolution calling for faith-based principles in dealing with immigration reform and humane borders; 4) recognized the chartering of Mosaic UMC in Tucson; 5) rejected participation of active clergy in health insurance payments; 6) created a Young People's Ministry Task Force for better alignment with action taken at General Conference; and 7) approved a reorganization plan for the conference center staff. Membership is 44,778, down 326. - Wally Athey, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

East Ohio met June 21-25 at Lakeside on the shores of Lake Erie for its 35th session, convened by Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton. Conference action included restructuring the conference from 12 districts to ten. The 2005 conference budget, which reflected a 10% decrease from the previous year, was approved. In other business, the conference adopted these resolutions: 1) implementation of flat-rate billing for clergy pension and hospitalization; 2) a complete systematic overhaul of the way Ohio public schools are funded; and 3) members of the conference are to contact elected officials to urge their support of the Fair Trade for Our Future resolution regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The conference did not endorse an episcopal candidate. Membership is 185,041, down 2,313. - East Ohio Conference Communications Staff, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Eastern Pennsylvania met June 16-19 at Messiah College in Grantham, with Bishop Peter D. Weaver presiding. In one ballot, the conference formally nominated John Schol, senior pastor of West Chester UMC, for the episcopacy. In other business, the conference passed resolutions relating to: 1) the opposition to gambling and its expansion in Pennsylvania; 2) the accountability for attending Healing the Wounds of Racism training; 3) the prevention and elimination of underage drinking; and 4) Northeast Jurisdiction Korean-American Mission Sunday. Membership is 130,386, down 1,029. - Suzy Keenan, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Florida met June 3-6 in Daytona Beach at UM-related Bethune-Cookman College, with Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker presiding. More than 2,000 clergy and laity gathered under the theme "A Light to the Nations." Members approved the cabinet's Connecting for Transformation proposal, which will reduce the conference's districts from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster group of churches, and change the responsibilities of district superintendents. More than 400 people took part in a mini-Celebrate Jesus mission as they canvassed the streets surrounding Daytona's Community and Stewart Memorial UMCs, praying with people and inviting them to a Family Fun Day held the next evening. Members approved increasing the salary of district superintendents to $79,850, an increase of about $5,000. Members approved the recommended budget of a little more than $18.8 million, a 0.7%, increase over the 2004 budget. Membership was 329,018, a decline of 3,106.

- Janice Buchholz and Michael Wacht, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Germany East met May 12-16 at the Church of Peace in Chemnitz under the chair of Bishop Walter Klaiber. Following years of steady increase of income, the conference income stagnated once again. Economic circumstances in eastern Germany are at least one reason for this. The conference also discussed an existing project to renovate and improve the Meeting and Learning Centre in Scheibenberg. More than 800,000 euros of church resources were to be required for this project. The conference decided against the project with a narrow majority vote. Membership is 9,743 confessing members, 116 less than in the previous year, and 4,192 baptized members, 55 more than in the previous year. - Friedbert Frohlich, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Greater New Jersey met June 17-19 at the Atlantic City Convention Center, with Bishop Alfred Johnson presiding. Resolutions passed included: 1) encouraging the use of fair-trade coffee during conference sessions; 2) abolishing sweatshops and not using products produced in sweatshops; 3) affirming the Clean Air Act and adopting Nov. 14 as Smoke-Free Sabbath; 4) affirming the use of all means to avoid church trials; and 5) encouraging support of bills in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to abolish the death penalty. Responding to news of U.S. hostage Paul Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia, the conference paused to pray for his family. Johnson was from Egg Harbor, N.J. The conference passed a $10.2 million budget. The conference nominated Jeremiah Park, superintendent of the Palisades District, for the episcopacy. Membership is 107,837, down 1,238.

- David Malloy, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Holston met June 13-16 at Lake Junaluska Assembly in Lake Junaluska, N.C., with Bishop Ray W. Chamberlain presiding. The conference approved a 2005 budget of $14.88 million, reflecting a 2.9% increase over the previous year. The conference approved a 2005 past service retirement rate of $425 per year of approved pre-1982 ministerial service, an increase from $411. Conference members approved resolutions to discontinue St. Andrews UMC and Washington Chapel UMC and to arrange for the sale of abandoned Fleming UMC. Membership is 168,121, down 84.

- Annette Spence Bender, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Illinois Great Rivers was held in Peoria June 10-13 under the theme "Standing on the Promises." Capt. Robert Phillips, Navy chaplain, blessed an offering of phone cards for soldiers with a total of 686,883 calling card minutes. This offering was in response to a call published in the conference newspaper, The Current, and on the conference Web site, which included an article from Capt. John Read, an elder from the conference stationed in Iraq. Guest speaker was Tom Albin, dean of The Upper Room. In business, members: 1) approved a budget of $17,774,301, a 4.73% increase over 2004; 2) approved a budget of $1.5 million for congregational development and created a position of part-time associate director; 3) approved a new apportionment formula based on church expenses (excluding benevolence or capital funds); 4) agreed to continue to meet in Peoria for 2005 and 2006 but seek alternatives for 2007 after discussion concerning the 2004 General Conference resolution, Respecting the Native American Legacy and Tradition; 5) formally transferred oversight of the new UM Center from the Design Team to the Board of Trustees; and 6) tabled all motions containing the word "homosexual" or "heterosexual" until the next quadrennium. The conference nominated Timothy L. Bias, directing pastor of First UMC, Peoria, for the episcopacy, and also affirmed the endorsement of Beverly L. Wilkes by the Black Clergywomen of the UMC. Membership is 155,264, down 4,308. - Susan J. Meister, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Kansas East met June 3-6 at Baker University in Baldwin City, with Bishop Fritz Mutti presiding. The conference council on finance and administration presented a $4 million budget, a decrease of 5.62%. A petition for creation of one conference in Kansas, amended by the Kansas West Conference, was approved on the consent calendar. Therefore, there will be a "Day of Partnership" between now and the end of 2006 where both conferences will meet in the same location. Several smaller churches had asked for the option of not carrying full replacement coverage on their facilities, as they believe they would not replace them if they were destroyed. This is now possible for churches with membership of fewer than 50 or in zip codes of fewer than 500 people, and several of the 116 churches eligible for this exception have used it.. A late petition that generated much discussion called for the conference to express its disagreement with the General Conference's position on homosexuality, approved by a vote of 206 to 199. Two district superintendents presented resolutions to close Sycamore and Stephens UMCs. - Julie Buzbee, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

 Kentucky met June 2-6 in Louisville, with Bishop James R. King, Jr. presiding. Conference speakers included Al Gwinn, Kentucky Conference episcopal nominee. The conference adopted an apportioned budget of $9.5 million (representing an increase of 1.71%). A motion that all administrators and faculty of UM schools in Kentucky be professing Christians failed; however, delegates later approved a statement expressing the desire of the conference that trustees and the administration of the three area UM colleges give policy preference to hiring professing Christians. Membership is 151,887, up 509.

- Harrison Zoercher, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Louisiana met June 9-12 at the Lafayette Convention Center with Bishop William W. Hutchison presiding. The theme was "The Embrace of God-Hospitality that is Holy." More than 1,000 conference attendees came together for the first time in 41 years outside of Shreveport. Four petitions were brought before the conference. A petition to encourage federal acknowledgement of the United Houma Nation passed. A petition to oppose the Southern Decadence Festival in New Orleans also passed. A petition asking each district superintendent to meet annually with each pastor to update their profiles for the appointive process failed since it was reported that this is presently being done. A petition requesting that full-time clergy be paid twice a month was withdrawn when the council on finance and administration added this request to its report. The conference nominated Marie Williams, superintendent of the Monroe District, and Don Avery, senior pastor of St. John's UMC, for the episcopacy. Membership is 126,846, up 239.

- Betty Backstrom, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Nebraska met June 10-12 in Lincoln with Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure Jr. presiding. A resolution was passed supporting a variety of no-smoking policies across the conference and state and asking people to take an active role in ensuring smoke-free environments. The conference approved a resolution for a collective weight-loss goal for all clergy of 2,000 pounds by next year's annual conference. In an important courtesy presentation, Nebraska congressman and former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne was featured in a video asking UMs to organize and to stand firm against expanded gambling in Nebraska, noting the high costs that result from an increase in social service needs and a decline in people's quality of life. The vote on expanded gambling comes before the populace in the November election. Jean Mohring, chairperson for the nominations committee, presented a full slate of candidates to fill more than 400 positions of leadership within the Nebraska Conference. Highlights of the committee's work included: 1) moving closer to one-third lay men, one-third lay women, one-third clergy in leadership positions; and 2) increasing ethnic representation from 30 persons (7%) in 2000 to 43 persons (10.5%) in 2004. Charlotte Abram was elected as the chairperson for the council on ministries, the first African American woman in the conference to hold the position. The approved budget total is $6,630,919 for 2005, which is a 2.35% increase from last year. - Kathryn Witte, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

North Georgia met June 15-18 in Athens, convened by Bishop Lindsay Davis. The theme was "A New Generation of Servant Leaders." The conference preacher was William H. Hinson, former pastor of Houston First UMC. The council on finance and administration presented a new plan to reduce unfunded liability on the Retiree Medicare Supplemental Insurance. A larger financial participation by retirees and their spouses according to years of service was adopted. Upon council recommendation, the conference set the 2005 budget at $23,051,600 (which is a 3.3% increase-lowest in ten years). A resolution to encourage support of the proposed marriage amendment to the Georgia constitution passed. John Simmons, Athens-Elberton District superintendent, requested a ruling of law of Bishop Davis concerning its legality in relation to Discipline ¶ 162H. Jonathan Holston, superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District, was endorsed for the episcopacy. Membership is 333,664, up 5,399.

- Ed Tomlinson, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Northern Illinois met June 10-12 in St. Charles, Ill., convened by Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, who is retiring Aug. 31 after eight years as the conference's episcopal leader. Zan Holmes, retired senior pastor of St. Luke Community UMC in Dallas, Texas, preached at the opening worship service for the session. In legislative business, conference members voted to: 1) adopt the statement of unity approved at General Conference; 2) approve a resolution condemning the U.S. military action in Iraq and calling on the U.S. government to plan an orderly transfer of power to legitimate Iraqi leadership under U.N. security arrangements, to plan an orderly withdrawal of all U.S. forces, to end the privatization of Iraqi oil and allow a sovereign Iraq to make all decisions about its national resources, to apologize for violations of the Geneva Convention, to offer a multi-billion-dollar no-strings-attached humanitarian and economic aid package to Iraq, and to resume efforts to defend our nation "within the bounds of our own Bill of Rights and stated values"; 3) boycott Taco Bell in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers migrant farm workers; 4) urge President George W. Bush to sign the Landmine Ban Treaty and encourage members of Northern Illinois churches to write members of Congress urging them to work toward the signing and ratification of the treaty; and 5) oppose the Medicare Prescription Bill recently passed by Congress and signed by Bush and support Governor Rod Blagojevich's attempts to decrease the cost of prescription drugs by implementing a plan to obtain prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. A resolution to boycott Wal-Mart was referred back to the conference board of church and society so it could be rewritten in a form that complies with the Discipline and resubmitted at the special session of Northern Illinois Conference scheduled for Nov. 6. Membership is 114,151, down 1,812 from the previous year.

- Linda S. Rhodes, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Northwest Texas met June 9-12 on the campus of McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, with Bishop D. Max Whitfield presiding. A major action of the conference was to reduce the number of districts from six to four by 2005. Steve Harper received the Francis Asbury award for higher education. Membersihp is 67,740, up 266. - Eddie Allsup, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference was convened in Preston, Okla., June 10-13, with Bishop Bruce Blake presiding. Conference members passed a balanced budget of almost $1.5 million dollars, which reflected continued increases in health insurance. The conference expressed its appreciation to the General Conference for passing the World Service Fund budget, which included $1.9 million for OIMC salary and pension aid. Bishop Blake ordained the conference's first deacon in full connection, Rick Gassaway, who works with the Volunteer and Community Services of the Cherokee Nation. Membership is 6,232, down 50.

- David Wilson, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Oregon-Idaho met June 9-12 in Salem, Oregon, with Bishop Edward W. Paup presiding. Minerva Carcano and Steve Sprecher were both nominated as candidates for bishop. Conference members adopted action items to: 1) make a visible public witness against gun violence; 2) support community-based rehabilitation for those convicted of crimes; 3) oppose refurbishing the nuclear test site in Nevada and the Star Wars National Missile Defense System; 4) call for cuts in military spending and an end to the embargo of Cuba; 5) support socially responsible investing; and 6) work for a new foreign policy that promotes peace. Membership is 35,247, down 915.

- Linda Sullivan, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Pacific Northwest gathered at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho with Bishop Elias Galvan presiding. In legislation, the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference: 1) called on the U.S. Congress to resist any attempt to extend the life of the controversial Section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act beyond its sunset period in 2005; 2) called for a permanent ban on assault weapons when the current federal ban expires on Sept. 13, 2004; 3) reaffirmed the church's responsibility to take affirmative, faithful action to prevent and respond to acts of hate or violence in communities within the conference; 4) voted to affirm gay laity and clergy members of the conference and to recognize their right to participate fully in leadership and ministry within the conference; 5) encouraged the honoring of Earth Day by churches and called for the reduction of fossil fuel use to protect our world from global warming; 6) agreed on a new structure of organization for the annual conference that better fits the mission and vision of its work together; 7) reaffirmed the primacy of Scripture as foundational to faith; and 8) adopted a proposal to begin building a new conference headquarters in a more cost-effective location. The body nominated two episcopal candidates, Robert Hoshibata and Craig Parrish. Conference membership is 60,495, down 1,072 from 2002. - Tricia Schug, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope

Rio Grande met June 10-12 at First UMC, Corpus Christi, Texas, with Bishop Joel N. Martinez presiding. A plan for restructuring, which called for two districts instead of four, was tabled until next year. Membership is 14,927, down 212.

- Arturo Mariscal, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Rocky Mountain met June 16-19 in Denver, Colorado with Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. presiding. In business sessions, the conference: 1) nominated J. Charles Schuster, pastor of First UMC, Fort Collins, Colo., for the episcopacy; 2) adopted a new vision/mission statement and a new leadership structure; and 3) adopted a budget that is up 3.3% from the current budget and includes support for camping and retreat programs. Membership is 69,608, down 1,009.

- Ron Hodges, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope

South German met June 23-27 in Reutlingen and Ulm, Germany, with Bishop Walter Klaiber presiding. For the second year in a row, the theme considered in the first part of its title, "Coming Together," the unification of the Southwest German Conference and the South German Conference to form one new conference, called the (new) South German Conference. In other business, the conference nominated two pastors for the position of superintendent of the Nurnberg District. Of the two nominees, Wolfgang Rieker was appointed by the bishop to the position. The location of the superintendent's office will be moved from Ansbach to Nurnberg. Membership (confessing members) of the newly formed conference stands at 18,576, down 338 members, or 1.79%. The number of baptized members in the new conference remained relatively stable at 15,337.

- Jonathan Whitlock, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Texas met May 30-June 3 at First UMC, Houston, West Campus. The conference was preceded by an evangelism worship service featuring conference preacher Walter Kimbrough on May 30. In conference business, a "Conference and District Safe Sanctuary" policy was adopted. Also, a task force was appointed to study a congregational development plan. The task force will prepare a report for the 2005 conference. Membership is 290,227, up 2,747. - David W. McKay, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Troy met for its 172nd session Ju4ne 9-12 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., convened by Bishop Susan Morrison. The biblical images of "Healing Waters" came to life through dance, music, and preaching in a worship setting centered around a lush garden pond. In legislative action, members: 1) voted to change the conference's status with the denominational health plan, becoming a mandatory-enrollment conference instead of a voluntary-enrollment conference (Troy was one of only two remaining voluntary-enrollment conferences); 2) voted to continue the work of the conference Theological Diversity Team; 3) approved a resolution requiring every charge to provide basic Internet service in the pastor's office; 4) resolved to oppose the expansion of gambling through video lottery terminals in local municipalities and to encourage churches to provide ministries of healing for problem gamblers; 5) voted to request

that all local churches and conference groups serve fair-trade coffee at gatherings; and 6) called on the U.S. government to work toward nuclear non-proliferation. Membership is 54,446, down 631. - Holly Nye, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Virginia met June 13-16 at the Hampton Coliseum addressing the theme "Transformed and Scattered: Christ's Ambassadors in the World," with Bishop Joe E. Pennel Jr. presiding over the 222nd session. In other business, the conference: 1) endorsed Clarence R. Brown for the episcopacy; 2) approved the Common Table Task Force report providing for a streamlined governing body, a Leadership Discovery and Development Team, and a reconfigured conference staff structure; 3) sent funds received from the UM Publishing House to the central conference pension fund; 4) passed several resolutions, including advocacy for service for individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, support for fair trade and the UM Committee on Relief coffee project, abolishment of the juvenile death penalty, opposition to Virginia's Marriage Affirmation Act, and creation of a conference task force on "Peace and Global Security"; and 6) received a report from conference treasurer James Branscome. Membership is 342,106, up 785. - Carole Vaughn and Brenda Capen, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Western New York met June 11-13 in Buffalo for its 195th session, with Bishop Violet L. Fisher presiding. A significant portion of the annual conference session focused on providing information on education, poverty, substance abuse, justice, prison ministry, our global connection, child exploitation, children of war, and mission. Action during this session included a vote to reduce the number of districts from five to four, to establish a Volunteers in Mission Awareness Day, and to move to a conference-wide insurance program. The conference nominated three persons for the episcopacy: Robert Hill, Ramon Evangelista, and Sudarshana Devadhar. At the end of 2003, the total membership reported in the Western New York Conference was 58,592, a decline of 1,453 members.

- Marilyn J. Kasperek, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

Western Pennsylvania met June 10-12 at Grove City College, with Bishop Hae-Jong Kim presiding. Conference members approved a plan for funding ministry, including a mission share control budget of nearly $7.4 million that could rise proportionately to $8.76 million as income is available. Conference members also adopted resolutions: 1) opposing expansion of gambling; 2) calling for a death penalty moratorium; and 3) endorsing efforts to keep alcohol from minors. The conference was shortened to two-and-a-half days this year because of resources committed to hosting General Conference. Lay members participated in a Lay Academy, choosing from various classes. Membership is 195,537, down 2,201. - Jackie Campbell, as reported in the July 9th edition of Newscope.

Wisconsin met June 13-16 in Madison. Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader presided. The 2004 budget was adopted at $7,354,901, a 0.3% increase over 2003. The conference also welcomed 16 clergy and lay guests from the Dongbu (East) Conference of the Korean Methodist Church. Together, Bishop Rader and Bishop Oh-Suh Kwon shared in the covenant bringing the two conferences together in a sister relationship. Legislative action included: 1) decreasing retiree health benefit payments by the conference from a maximum of 72% to 65%; 2) clarifying the insurance coverage provided for surviving spouses and dependent children following the death of a fulltime, active clergy under appointment; 3) changing the media resource center from an ecumenical ministry to a UM ministry; 4) establishing a covenant relationship with a newly developed ministry, Harbor House Crisis Shelter, Superior, Wis., a shelter for homeless parents and children; and 5) affirming a continuing partnership with the Methodist Church in Cuba. In cooperation with the Midwest Mission Distribution Center, a UM agency located near Chatham, Ill., 289 of the 500 conference churches brought items including 280 flood buckets, 34 sewing kits, 2,598 school bags, and 6,538 health kits. Most of the flood buckets were immediately distributed to families in central Wisconsin suffering from devastation of the June floods. Members of the conference unanimously nominated Hee-Soo Jung for the episcopacy. Membership is 98,078, down 2,188.

- Jane Follmer Zekoff, as reported in the July 2nd edition of Newscope.

Yellowstone met June 10-13 on the campus of Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana with Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. presiding. In legislative action, the conference unanimously approved a petition to make new church development a higher mission priority and supported a variety of structural changes designed to make the conference healthier, including the addition of a full-time director of connectional ministries position. In offerings during the session and collections taken by member churches, Yellowstone celebrated the partnership with East Angola Conference by collecting more than $11,540 to provide water wells and other support. Several additional pledges of $100 per month each served to "adopt" an Angolan pastor by paying his or her salary. The conference continued to use Christian Conferencing Circles as part of the members' spiritual discernment process, and "academies" offered opportunities for learning on a variety of subjects. The conference nominated Rachel Lieder Simeon for the episcopacy. Membership is 17,120, down 150. - Waveland King, as reported in the July 16th edition of Newscope.

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There are two ways to get enough; one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less. -- G.K. Chesterton [As received from Mrs. Barbara Lynn Cooper]