The Monthly Update

July 2004 Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This mailing to you for our July Update gives information on the Iraq War from an "insider perspective," Judicial Council decisions, and the Mt. Olive Pickle Boycott. The rest of the Update summarizes some of the actions from the various annual conferences being held around the country and the world.

The death of President Ronald Reagan during this month brought to mind his accomplishments and various anecdotes from his life. He was truly a great man, not only for what he did but also for who he was. I remember when he was the president and the media would give him a hard time on some issue or ask how he thought he had the right answer. President Reagan said more than once, "You can find most of the answers in this book right here" holding up the Bible.

That he and Pope John Paul did more than anyone else to bring down the Soviet Empire is pretty much a reality. Never in my military career up to that point did I ever dream that would happen. Yet, President Reagan’s efforts to build up the military and then to develop the "Star Wars" technology that would neutralize the Soviet missile threat effectively drove that country into a fiscally bankrupt future. The collapse of the Soviet system was predicted by dissident Andrei Amalrik over 20 years ago - yet I did not deem that possible; President Reagan made it happen. For that I along with every other person who has worn this country’s military uniform should be grateful.

On a personal side, he was very self-assured with an humble sense of who he was. Once when his governor’s office had been invaded by a 1970’s-type hippie group, then-Governor Reagan returned to confront them. He did so by listening to their complaints, with the leader finishing with, "You’re just an older generation. We have modern planes, computers, satellites, and FAXes. With all of these inventions, what makes you think you are relevant to our society?" Governor Reagan responded with, "Because we were the ones who invented them for you."

When he was president the Secret Service agents engaged in a game among themselves to see who could best imitate President Reagan in his mannerisms and speech. Once one of the agents called out to the barn to talk with the man there. After several minutes of conversation, he said, "Boy, you do a really good job of sounding like Ronald Reagan." To which the voice on the other end of the telephone responded, "You know, a lot of people tell me that." It was in fact President Reagan who had been in the barn and picked up the phone.

Let us continue to pray for President Reagan’s family as they mourn his loss.

Again, we thank you for your faithful prayers and would ask that you continue to remember us as we continue sorting out the implications of the 2004 General Conference.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. - Inscription on the Liberty Bell

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Of Interest.

+ Iraq. No One Asked Us George Bush coalesced American support behind invading Iraq, I am told, using two arguments: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the capability to deliver them, and Iraq was a supporter of Al-Qaeda terrorism, and may have been involved in the attacks of 9/11. Vicious words and gratuitous finger-pointing keep falling back on these points, as people insist that "we" were misled into what started as a dynamic liberation and has become a bloody counterinsurgency. Watching politicians declaim and hearing television experts expound on why we went to war and on their opinions of those running the White House and Defense Department, I have one question.

When is someone going to ask the guys who were there?

What about the opinions of those whose lives were on the line, massed on the Iraq-Kuwait border beginning in February of last year? I don¹t know how President Bush got the country behind him, because at the time I was living in a hole in the dirt in northern Kuwait. Why have I not heard a word from anyone who actually carried a rifle or flew a plane into bad guy country last year, and who has since had to deal with the ugly aftermath of a violent liberation? What about the guys who had the most to lose? What do they think about all this?

I was there. I am one of those guys who fought the war and helped keep the peace. I am a Major in the Marine Reserves, and during the war I was the senior American attached to the 1 Royal Irish Battlegroup, a rifle battalion of the British Army. I was commander of five U.S. Marine air/naval gunfire liaison teams, as well as the liaison officer between U.S. Marines and British Army forces. I was activated on January 14, 2003, and 17 days later I and my Marines were standing in Kuwait with all of our gear, ready to go to war.

I majored in Political Science at Duke, and I graduated with a Masters degree in government from the Kennedy School at Harvard. I understand realpolitik, geopolitical jujitsu, economics and the reality of the Arab world. I know the tension between the White House, the UN, Langley and Foggy Bottom. One of my grandfathers was a two-star Navy admiral; my other grandfather was an ambassador. I am not a pushover, blindly following whoever is in charge, and I don¹t kid myself that I live in a perfect world. But the war made sense then, and the occupation makes sense now.

As dawn broke on March 22, 2003, I became part of one of the largest and fastest land movements in the history of war. I went across the border alongside my brothers in the Royal Irish, following the 5th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton as they swept through the Ramaylah oil fields. I was one those guys you saw on TV every night- filthy, hot, exhausted. I think the NRA and their right-to-bear-arms mantra is a joke, but by God I was carrying a loaded rifle, a loaded pistol and a knife on my body at all times. My boots rested on sandbags on the floor of my Humvee, there to protect me from the blast of a land mines or IED.

I killed many Iraqi soldiers, as they tried to kill me and my Marines. I did it with a radio, directing airstrikes and artillery, in concert with my British artillery officer counterpart, in combat along the Hamar Canal in southern Iraq. I saw, up close, everything the rest of you see in the newspapers: dead bodies, parts of dead bodies, helmets with bullet holes through them, handcuffed POWs sitting in the sand, oil well fires with flames reaching 100 feet into the air and a roar you could hear from over a mile away.

I stood on the bloody sand where Marine Second Lieutenant Therrel Childers was the first American killed on the ground. I pointed a loaded weapon at another man for the first time in my life. I did what I had spent 14 years training to do, and my Marines - your Marines - performed so well it still brings tears to my eyes to think about it. I was proud of what we did then, and I am proud of it now.

Along with the violence, I saw many things that lifted my heart. I saw thousands of Iraqis in cities like Qurnah and Medinah - men, women, children, grandparents carrying babies - running into the streets at the sight of us, the first Western army to arrive. I saw them screaming, crying, waving, cheering. They ran from their homes at the sound of our Humvee tires roaring in from the south, bringing bread and tea and cigarettes and photos of their children. They chattered at us in Arabic, and we spoke to them in English, and neither understood the other.The entire time I was in Iraq, I had one impression from the civilians I met: Thank God, finally someone has arrived with bigger men and bigger guns to be, at last, on our side.

Let there be no mistake, those of you who don't believe in this war: the Ba'ath regime were the Nazis of the second half of the 20th century. I saw what the murderous, brutal regime of Saddam Hussein wrought on that country through his party and their Fedayeen henchmen. They raped, murdered, tortured, extorted and terrorized those in that country for 35 years. There are mass graves throughout Iraq only now being discovered. 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, liberated a prison in Iraq populated entirely by children. The Ba¹athists brutalized the weakest among them, and killed the strongest.

I saw in the eyes of the people how a generation of fear reflects in the human soul.

The Ba'ath Party, like the Nazis before them, kept power by spreading out, placing their officials in every city and every village to keep the people under their boot. Everywhere we went we found rifles, ammunition, RPG rounds, mortar shells, rocket launchers, and artillery. When we took over the southern city of Ramaylah, our battalion commander tore down the Ba'ath signs and commandeered the former regime headquarters in town (which, by the way, was 20 feet from the local school.) My commander himself took over the office of the local Ba'ath leader, and in opening the desk of that thug found a set of brass knuckles and a gun. These are the people who are now in prison, and that is where they deserve to be.

The analogy is simple. For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused; but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis.

None of us had even heard those arguments for going to war until we returned, and we still don't understand the confusion. To us, it was simple. The world needed to be rid of a man who committed mass murder of an entire people, and our country was the only one that could project that much power that far and with that kind of precision. We don't make policy decisions: we carry them out. And none of us had the slightest doubt about how right and good our actions were.

The war was the right thing to do then, and in hindsight it was still the right thing to do. We can¹t overthrow every murderous tyrant in the world, but when we can, we should. Take it from someone who was there, and who stood to lose everything. We must, and will, stay the course. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to the world.

Stan Coerr is a SuperCobra attack helicopter pilot and Forward Air Controller, and was recently selected for

Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He lives in San Diego. He can be reached at Received by e-mail.

+ Judicial Council Receives Five Conference Requests in Final Days.

The 2004 General Conference sent five requests to the Judicial Council that were not addressed during the spring meeting, including two requests made in the 2004 General Conference's final minutes.

That [final] evening of the General Conference], delegates debated a petition affirming "commitment to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the Scripture and in The United Methodist Articles of Religion and in the sermons of John Wesley." After the resolution was passed 570-334, John Edgar of West Ohio made a motion to request the Judicial Council to rule if John Wesley's sermons "are to be included as parts of our doctrine." Edgar’s request of the Judicial Council was supported 587-305. In the 1972 Decision 358, the Judicial Council refused jurisdiction "over questions which demand of it theological interpretations." It further stated that "General Conference is competent to make this decision."

After the final piece of legislation had already been approved by General Conference, Anne L. Burkholder of Florida rose to request that the Judicial Council consider the constitutionality of having a lay person vote on a committee of investigation for a clergy member. She specifically referenced ¶ 31, which describes the annual conference and prohibits lay members from voting "on matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy," with only a couple of exceptions.

The final General Conference request for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council was in regard to the constitutionality of adding a conference scouting coordinator to the lay membership of an annual conference. Charles D. White Jr. of Western North Carolina specifically questioned whether adding a category under ¶ 602.4 but not under ¶ 30 of the Constitution is in contradiction. Less than an hour before, delegates approved adding the coordinator to the lay membership by a 467-315 vote. Both paragraphs also say that additional lay membership may be determined by the annual conference according to its own formula in order that there may be equal lay and clergy membership. The request of the Judicial Council was approved 699-56. - Newscope, June 4, 2004.

+ The United Methodist Church Joins Mt. Olive Pickle Boycott. In the last few hours of the 2004 General Conference, delegates voted 446-391 in favor of joining a boycott of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. According to the adopted resolution, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) and Agricultural Missions Inc., part of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), has examined the labor situation in compliance with the Book of Resolutions and endorsed the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO's boycott. The UMC is to support the boycott "until the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Mt. Olive Pickle Company reach a collective bargaining agreement." Speaking against the resolution, Thomas R. Wussow of North Texas talked about the effect boycotts have on communities. He stated that many of the company's employees are UMs, including the president, and that the North Carolina Conference, where the company is based, does not support the campaign. Duke University and North Carolina Conference have been participating in the negotiations with Mt. Olive. Duke had joined the boycott in 2002 but withdrew later that year after certain items were addressed. [Note: This reflects one of the misguided actions by our denomination's top legislators at the Pittsburgh conference as a result of influence from our church's bureaucrats. Both the NCC and the GBCS have poor records when it comes to partisan advocacy. They have never called for Cuba to provide more humane working conditions for the workers, who are mistreated severely, in their fields. North Korea is brutal to its people - yet the NCC and the GBCS have never called for just treatment for them. The Mt. Olive Pickle Company itself does a lot of good where it is. People of North Carolina are confused and irritated by this action. This issue has raised questions in the minds of many non-United Methodists and made us to appear ridiculous on this issue.] - Newscope, June 4, 2004.


Annual Conference Reports

The rest of this Update will contains summaries of the annual conferences that are meeting during this time period around the country and in various parts of the world. Often the actions are reported without editorial comment.

Alaska Missionary Conference met May 28-30 in Chugiak (near Anchorage), with Bishop Edward Paup presiding, with the theme of "A Century of Connections - A Song in the Key of C," recognizing 100 years of Methodist presence in Alaska. Sandra Lackore, general secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration, was the guest speaker at the opening plenary session. The conference recognized the chartering of the First Samoan UMC of Anchorage. Membership is 4,044, down 88. - Brenda Wingfield; as reported in Newscope, June 8, 2004.

Baltimore-Washington met with Bishop Felton Edwin May presiding on May 27-30 for its 220th annual session at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Meeting under the theme "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: Relay the Faith," members spent much of their time celebrating mission and ministry. Letters from two prominent UMs-President George Bush and Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland-were read during the celebration. Conference members: 1) adopted a budget of $17.8 million, including $1.5 million in new money to begin to replenish health insurance claim reserves and other funds; 2) voted to fund a conference-level position of young adult coordinator and to make permanent an interim Hispanic ministries coordinator position; 3) chartered one new congregation, the FaithPoint UMC in Urbana, and affirmed the establishment of the new Myanmar fellowship; 4) received a report from the Commission on the Status and Role of Women on a conference-wide survey of clergy, part of which showed that twice as many male pastors than female earn salaries greater than $50,000; 5) spent time in two Bible study sessions examining the Pentecost story in Acts, lea by Charlie Parker, executive director of the conference's Stewardship Center and Foundation, and Alfreda Wiggins, pastor of John Wesley UMC in Baltimore; 6) heard Robert Fellows, a motivational speaker, address the issue of "wellness" as part of the Pensions and Health Benefits' report; 7) heard a report about health legislation in the state of Maryland that was a direct result of a partnership between the conference and the American Cancer Society; and 8) learned of ongoing mission and ministry through nine video reports throughout the session. Marcus Matthews, superintendent of the Washington West District, was nominated for the episcopacy by the conference. Bishop May ordained 17 elders-nine women and eight men-at the Washington National Cathedral, including the courtesy ordination of Yollande Samba Mavund, from the Southern Congo/Zambia Conference. The service, which featured music from the Africa University choir and a combined conference choir, heard Bishop May challenge the conference and the ordinands to "love as God loves" and to remember that God had breathed on them the Holy Spirit. Bishop May commissioned 14 people as probationary deacons, including ten women and four men. Membership is 202,302, down 2,532.

- Erik Alsgaard; as reported in Newscope, June 4, 2004.

Central Texas met May 30-June 2 in Waco with Bishop Ben R. Chamness presiding. William B. Lawrence, dean at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, reminded members that Pentecost was evidence that our differences did not mean we would be shattered into a million pieces but rather be brought together by one spirit. The members approved a new conference structure, including an Executive Ministry Team with operations designated to an Administration Leadership Team and a Mission Leadership Team (formerly Connectional Ministries). The Mission Leadership Team adopts the Nurture, Outreach, and Witness model for programming and consolidates several ethnic/gender-specific boards into one Council on Inclusiveness. In other actions, conference members: 1) celebrated 30 years of continuous growth in membership and nine new/continuing church initiatives; 2) approved a new mandatory health benefits plan for clergy, effective Jan. 1, 2005;…4) approved a request from the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry that the equivalent of $2 per member be designated in the budget for campus ministry; 5) reached receipts of more than 25% of a $3.3 million goal during the first full year in a five-year capital funds campaign (Offer Them Christ) for campus ministry facilities and new church starts; 6) approved UMC Historical Site Markers for First UMC in Stephenville and Tenth Street UMC in Taylor; 7) approved a task force to revise the Safe Sanctuaries abuse prevention policy; 8) recommitted to continuation of the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry and to support the Igniting Ministry campaign; 9) received more than $18,000 in conference offerings to support scholarships for students at the new Russian seminary in Moscow; and 10) approved replacing the Glen Lake Camp & Retreat Center's two governing bodies (Camps & Assemblies and Board of Directors) with one governing body in the form of a Board of Directors.

In other actions, Eric McKinney withdrew his conference-endorsed candidacy for episcopal leadership, stating, "I respectfully urge each member of The United Methodist Church and all delegates to annual, jurisdictional, and general conferences to recommit their primary allegiance to Jesus Christ and the ‘whole’ of the church and to abandon the practice of selecting leadership based on allegiances to interest groups, caucuses, and theological camps." Membership is 157,454, up 553 from the previous year. - Carolyn E. Stephens; as reported in Newscope, June 8, 2004.

Detroit met May 21-24, with Bishop Linda Lee presiding, under the theme "Let the Healing Streams Abound," taken from the last verse of Charles Wesley's hymn "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." Hail, a violent thunderstorm, wind, and a tornado warning punctuated the opening worship service at UM-related Adrian College. Conference churches sent cash donations of more than $52,500 for children in Liberia and Haiti. Members also filled a 40-foot container and a 20-foot container with school, medical, and sewing kits for Liberia. In other business, the conference adopted resolutions that: 1) urge use of fair-trade coffee in conference churches and ask congregations to encourage local restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores to carry the coffee; 2) affirmed that marriage should be a union of a man and a woman; 3) set a goal of ten new Peace with Justice Covenant Congregations per district in the next year; 4) endorsed use of recycled products; 5) reaffirmed affirmative action; 6) called for the reunification of Korea; and 7) asked Congress to fully fund the Millennium Challenge Account for the world's poorest countries.

Members adopted by a 348-319 vote a resolution saying the conference "prays that the mission of the United States in Iraq will help fashion a responsible and representative Iraqi government legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqis and the world." The resolution recommended an agenda for peace and democracy and recognized that Saddam Hussein and the former government of Iraq were given "numerous opportunities" to resolve the conflict with the United States peacefully and that Hussein is an "aggressor, war criminal, and dictator" who should be tried by the International Criminal Court and who should "apologize and make reparations to Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait."

Members defeated a resolution (by 60 votes) on "Security for the People of the United States of America" that would have condemned first-use of nuclear weapons and unilateral preemptive strikes and endorsed a range of disarmament and arms control issues. On the other hand, the conference adopted a list of six policies for "Making Shalom/Salaam/Peace in the Holy Land," including a shared Jerusalem and removal of the barrier being built in the West Bank.

Membership is 105,351, down 942 from the previous year. - Ann Whiting; as reported in Newscope, June 4, 2004.

Germany North Annual Conference met April 14-18 in Berlin-Reinickendorf under the leadership of Bishop Walter Klaiber and was guided by the theme "Share the Life." For the first time, an opening conference service was held in a town hall theater upon invitation of Mayor Marlies Wanjura, Berlin District, who had also arranged that the conference could assemble in the political district conference and exhibition center Fontane Haus. The main discussion was preparation for General Conference as well as for the Germany Central Conference, where a new German Book of Discipline will be adopted for all German-speaking areas in Europe. Earlier this was not possible because of the political separation in Europe. One particular issue was the question of Baptism related to church membership, emphasizing that no membership can take place without personal confession. The conference also dealt with severe financial and personal situations and had to accept that new structures need to be implemented to serve all existing congregations and urge small congregations to join into larger circuit units. The conference also: 1) heard the appointments of two new superintendents, Christian Voller-Morgenstern for the Berlin District and Uwe Onnen for the Hamburg District, effective 2005, and decided to remain with three districts; 2) learned that former Hamburg District superintendent Karsten Mohr was appointed director of the Bethanien Deaconess Society; 3) heard President Holger Eschmann of the Reutlingen Theological Seminary emphasize the shrinking student enrollment, the international cooperation by the seminary (including an Africa University partnership with an active exchange program of professors and students of the Faculty of Theology), and the negotiations with the federal education board related to full acceptance of grades by the state; 4) accepted the request of the Oranienburg Mission Church and Shared Mission Focus on Young People project to buy land for a future site of a church center; 5) heard that the only congregations in the annual conference that are growing are the international UM congregations, especially those with Ghanaian memberships; 6) heard a report by Thomas Kemper, the central conference secretary of global mission, and learned that clergy couple Edgar Luken and Inke Johannson will be serving with the Methodist Church of Namibia after August 1. Offering at this service was EUR3,000 (US$3,600) for both the mission church in Oranienburg and the Methodist Church in Namibia. Membership is 7,774 members, down 112 from the previous year. - Heinrich Meinhardt; as reported in Newscop, June 8, 2004.

Kansas West met May 26-29 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan., with Bishop Fritz Mutti presiding. The conference voted to reduce the number of districts from seven to six, beginning July 1, 2005, and gave the Conference Board of Pensions authority to select the medical, prescription drug, and dental coverage providers and benefits packages for the conference between annual conference sessions. The conference adopted a petition directing the Board of Pensions to develop and implement by Jan. 1, 2005, a plan for all appointments of three-quarter time or more to share the cost of the conference's health insurance plan through direct billing. The conference also adopted a Healthy Lifestyles initiative that will help churches and their leaders establish healthy lifestyles and encourage healthy living in their communities. The conference adopted a $5,260,547 budget for 2005, an increase of 4.5%, or $226,419, over the adopted 2004 budget. The conference voted to continue conversation with Kansas East over becoming one. In other business, the conference voted: 1) to establish two Hispanic mission churches in the conference; 2) to discontinue one church; 3) to create a small-membership church task force in partnership with the Kansas East Conference to study the ministry of these churches; and 4) to direct the conference's Focus Team to find funding in the 2006 budget for the conference director of congregational development position created in 2002. Membership is 87,520, down 762.

- Lisa Elliott Diehl; as reported in Newscop, June 8, 2004.

North Central New York, meeting May 21-23 in Liverpool with Bishop Violet Fisher presiding, decided on the first day of conference to give their entire share of receipts--more than $7,000--from the UM Publishing House/Cokesbury to the Central Conferences Pension Fund. On day two, the conference learned that a goal of $65,000 for an Africa University scholarship fund had been reached and exceeded by more than $2,000. During Sunday services, those appointed to new charges came forward with members of their new congregation. They were presented with a grapevine wreath on which they will place remembrances of their coming ministry. The conference voted to go from six districts to five, effective July 1. Additionally, the conference voted to continue in dialogue with Western New York Conference, adding discussions with Troy and Wyoming conferences. Membership is 79,895, down 1,566.

- Sharon Fulmer; as reported in Newscope, June 4, 2004.

North Indiana met June 3-5 for its 37th session at Purdue University in West Lafayette. More than 1,200 conference members celebrated the ministry of Bishop Woodie W. White, who retires from the active episcopacy following 12 years in Indiana and eight years in Illinois. John Wolf, retiring president of the Indiana Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, received the Sagamore of the Wabash proclamation from Governor Joseph Kernan for ten years of civic leadership as president of the coalition. Conference members: 1) nominated episcopal candidate Mark Fenstermacher of Elkhart; 2) restructured the conference council on ministries by folding six boards, 15 divisions, ten committees, three commissions, two councils, and three other groups into four ministry areas sharing a prayer team and a communication team; 3) heard reports from two visiting doctors from Liberia and the Kissy Clinic in Freetown, Sierra Leone; 4) collected a truck-full of supplies for Operation Classroom/Operation Doctor in Liberia and Sierra Leone; 5) approved 2005 budget of $11,018,758 (3.46% increase over 2004 budget); 6) welcomed Donald N. Griffith, retired minister of the South Indiana Conference, as the new interim executive assistant to the bishop (he takes the position of retiring executive assistant James D. Jones); 7) set the minimum salary for full-time elders at $30,560; 8) received $14,680 for pensions from the UM Publishing House and gave it to the Central Conference pension fund; 9) referred a petition to consider posting directories, information, and reports on the conference Web site; 10) ruled out of order petitions concerning upholding the Discipline and the assignment of a bishop to Indiana. Membership is 101,267, down 1,653.

- Daniel R. Gangler; as reported in Newscop, June 8, 2004.

South Carolina met May 30-June 2 in Orangeburg at Claflin University. The Conference Finance and Administration presented the 2005 budget totaling $13.72 million, a 3.9% increase. A proposal to combine the conference treasurer's office and the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits beginning in January 2005 was approved. The new office will be called the Conference Office of Finance and Benefits. A resolution to designate the site of Mount Bethel Academy as a UM Historic Site was approved with little discussion. The site has a history with the conference dating back to 1793, when "Bishop Francis Asbury wrote in his journal that he 'consulted the minds of our brethren about building a house for conference, preaching, and a District School.'" A resolution concerning practicing homosexuals serving as clergy was withdrawn by its makers based on action taken at the 2004 General Conference.

Another resolution was in support of a cigarette tax increase, which allows the conference to "join in supporting the campaign of the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative to raise South Carolina's cigarette tax to $1 to protect the health of all South Carolinians." A resolution on public education in South Carolina called for the restoration of funding for the Education Finance Act. After much discussion, the conference agreed to support the resolution. A resolution asking the General Board of Church and Society to rescind the boycotts of Taco Bell and the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. was questioned, discussed, and reworked in order to remove inflammatory language and the request to rescind the boycotts before receiving conference approval. The final resolution asked for continuing discussion between the entities involved. The Conference Board of Church and Society reintroduced "A Resolution on Increasing Awareness of Christian Persecution." This had been referred to the board for study by the 2003 annual conference. It was approved.

Volunteers built an Elderly Transportable home. In a continuing effort to improve the health of the annual conference, a PSA screening was conducted during the session. Other screenings available in the health area were blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. A distribution of small pieces of twine served as a symbol of connectionalism for the Monday night celebration of the conference's ministries. The Africa University Choir was welcomed. A new evangelism program was introduced during the celebration. The Harvest is designed to revitalize United Methodism in South Carolina from the local church up.

The conference nominated William H. Willimon for the episcopacy. Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey ordained one deacon and 12 elders. The ordinations of two elders from other conferences also were recognized, and 19 ministers retired. Six churches were discontinued, and two new churches were formed. Membership is 242,057, up 237 from the previous year. - Allison K. Trussell; as reported in Newscop, June 8, 2004.

West Michigan met June 3-6 in Grand Rapids under the theme "Healing Streams in the Desert." Guest preachers were Bishops Gregory Palmer and Jose Quipungo along with Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Seminary. Palmer and Dunnam also joined conference members in late evening "Fireside Chats." Conference members learned that they continue to lead the denomination in per capita giving to the Advance and lead the North Central Jurisdiction in giving per church. The conference slipped to No. 2 in the nation for percentage of churches giving to the Advance but still leads the North Central Jurisdiction. Local churches sent material support for the Methodist Church in Haiti worth more than $22,000, plus nearly $2,000 for shipping. An additional offering for Haiti totaled nearly $5,000.

The conference adopted a new model of tithing to calculate local church apportionments-re-named "Ministry Shares" in West Michigan-beginning in 2005. Previously, apportionments were calculated with a formula that includes local church operating expenses and membership. The new tithe will exclude restricted grant income and funds used for capital improvements and acquisitions. Conference members voted by a small margin to provide domestic partner benefits to lay persons enrolled in the conference health insurance plan. The conference also voted to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the plan. The conference adopted a set of guidelines for assessing the viability of a local church by suggesting a ratio of 45% or less of the cost of pastoral support compared to total church expenses. The conference also agreed that Bishop Lee should appoint a task force to explore increased cooperation between West Michigan and the Detroit Conference. The Detroit Conference had adopted a similar resolution.

The West Michigan Conference adopted resolutions: 1) opposing parts of the Patriot Act that impinge on civil liberties; 2) calling for an end to the Israel/Palestine conflict; 3) advocating for principles of restorative justice in Michigan; 4) urging pastors and leaders to denounce hate crimes against individuals based on sexual orientation and to report such crimes; 5) asking that each district hold an Act of Repentance and Reconciliation worship service in the next year; 6) calling local churches to prayer and study about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East and to study homosexuality and sexual orientation; 7) urging the use of non-disposable cups and tableware at conference and local church functions; 8) affirming its boycott of water bottled by Nestle and its subsidiaries; and 9) asking Governor Jennifer Granholm to stop illegal pollution of lakes from happening and make polluters clean up their pollution.

The conference nominated two of its members for election to the episcopacy: Jerome DeVine and J. Lynn Pier-Fitzgerald. Membership is 68,422, down 1629. - Ann Whiting; as reported in Newscop, June 8, 2004.

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A few thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Evangelical pastor and twentieth-century martyr hanged by the Nazis for his Christian stand:

What man has the right to shun danger and shrink from it? The past two years in prison I learned how little one can do with. The inactivity of long imprisonment is an especially strong incentive to do everything possible within one's limited power for the common good.