The Monthly Update

August 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

First of all, I thank all who responded to our appeal for funds this past month. Because of your support we are just about to cover all of our expenses that have been incurred during the summer months. As we had stated in our previous letter, during the summer months giving drops, yet our normal ministry needs continue along with the need to attend conferences held during that time.

This Monthly Update contains continuing information on the annual conferences that are being held across our United Methodist connection. It appears that from the data we have received and are continuing to receive that our United Methodist Church will show a net loss of around 71,000 members from across the nation.

We have been alerted to an event scheduled for the Labor Day weekend at Lake Junaluska which is a beautiful United Methodist retreat center located in the western part of North Carolina and in the Western North Carolina Conference. The event "Hearts on Fire" is sponsored by Reconciling Ministries which is a group within our denomination that is actively promoting the full acceptance of homosexual practice. According to a letter received from the RENEW Network:

The "Hearts on Fire" brochure states as one part of the gathering: "Together, we will be...Singing out God of Rainbow, Fiery Pillar, leading where the eagles soar as a rainbow community of faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual disciples committed to justice!"

Speakers include two active bishops, Bishop Minerva Carcano and Bishop Susan Morrison, and one retired bishop Bishop Richard Wilke. Also included in the speaker listing is Beth Stroud, a lesbian clergywoman from Pennsylvania who declared herself "self-avowed and practicing," lost her credentials, and then had them reinstated again.

The Rev. Karen Oliveto will also speak. She is the clergywoman from San Francisco who performed eight same-sex ceremonies, seven at City Hall and one at Bethany United Methodist Church, during the time that the City Council ruled such marriages "legal."

Needless to say, we are very much disturbed by this information as are all United Methodists loyal to our denomination’s orthodox Christian faith and heritage. This is extremely disturbing. To help put it in context, those faithful laity in the more liberal jurisdictions where homosexual advocacy is supported by those in ecclesial leadership see the Southeastern Jurisdictions as one of the remaining bastions of biblical morality against the liberal onslaught. An event such as this promoted by this groups would indicate that serious inroads are being made here. The use of a United Methodist facility for this purpose is a flagrant attack against our biblical and moral base.

Thank you for standing with us at this time. We ask that you would keep both the United Methodist Church and us in your prayers.

In His service,


Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

August 2005 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

Most of us get run down because we stay wound up. – LoveLights, March-April 2005.

* * * * *

Of Interest. Zimbabwe. Former Africa University Faculty Member Deported

Howard S. Gilman, 68, was arrested May 27; He was a volunteer geography instructor at the UM-related school in Mutare, Zimbabwe, until 2004, when his three-year teaching tenure expired. He remained in the country to work with orphans and the community and is reported to have been paying school fees for 73 children. Gilman was arrested for filming police demolishing the shacks of urban poor and charged with breaking media laws. He spent ten days in jail. More than 200,000 people have been reported to be homeless due to government cleanup of shacks and trading stalls. Taking photographs of police discharging their duties is illegal. A court on June 6 did not convict him under Zimbabwe's media laws, which [could] impose a two-year jail term for practicing journalism without government permission. He was deported June 6. Published reports quoting Gilman's attorney, Innocent Gonese, say Gilman was fined a total of US$33 on alternative charges of breaking the country's censorship and immigration laws. - United Methodist News Service.

Annual Conference Reports

This is a continuation of summaries from 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.

Correction: Worship attendance reported last week for the South Carolina Conference was inaccurate. The corrected attendance number is 99,547, down 576. UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Arkansas met in Russellville on the campus of Arkansas Tech University. Special guests exploring the theme "Evangelism and Congregational Development: Reaching New Generations with the Gospel." were Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area); Julia Kuhn and Mark Miller, director of music, Drew Theological Seminary. Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield (Arkansas Area), in his first year, preached during two services. Resolutions were approved that: 1) called for elimination of the death penalty; 2) urged more attention to symptoms and behaviors associated with post-abortion stress, including support for Christ-centered ministries providing counseling and other programs; 3) called on members to "prayerfully reflect" on whether general agencies should continue membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; and 4) called for a study and recommendation of the conference's implementation of the Safe Sanctuaries risk-management policy. Amendments I-VI and Amendment VIII to the UM constitution were approved; Amendment VII was opposed by a vote of 224-310. Membership is 138,987, down 727. Worship attendance is 56,513, down 915.

-Jane Dennis, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

California-Nevada met in Sacramento, Calif. The theme was "Compassion with the Heart of Christ" with Bishop Beverly J. Shamana. Sandra Olewine, missionary in Jerusalem, spoke about peacemaking ministry in the Middle East. In other action, members called on the U.S. government to: 1) end the war in Iraq by working with the United Nations to plan an orderly withdrawal; 2) transfer all power and control of national resources to legitimate Iraqi leadership; and 3) seek U.N. leadership in this effort. In addition, the conference called on the United States to offer an apology for any violation of the Geneva Convention along with a multi-billion dollar economic aid package. Members also resolved to refuse defining the word "practicing" or "practicing homosexual" as contained in ¶ 304.3 of the 2004 Discipline. The conference resolved to define the word "status" in the UM constitution as including sexual orientation, such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgendered persons. A request was made for a ruling from the bishop regarding the two preceding recommendations. The conference resolved to oppose a U.S. government proposal to implement privately held accounts as a solution to social security system problems and committed the conference to urge government officials to insure the solvency of social security through increasing revenue rather than cutting benefits. Members endorsed California legislation calling for a universal health insurance system. The conference also adopted the 2006 budget of $9.250 million (planned spending). The conference voted on constitutional amendments and 29 other recommendations. Membership is 87,747, down 1,368. Worship attendance stands at 41,737, down 621. - Jeneane Jones, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

California-Pacific met at the University of Redlands in California with the theme "One in Spirit, All in Ministry: New Creation and the Church's Mission" and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson's presiding. James Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society, was the guest speaker for the laity dinner. For the third year in a row, all plenary sessions and worship services were broadcast via the conference Web site, Members adopted a $12.4 million budget, representing a 2.5% increase over the previous year. Members also gave offerings--a grand total of $19,551.70--that benefited: 1) Conference Mental Health Ministries, $3,918.29; 2) Bethesda String Quartet, $2,168.99; 3) retiree pension and healthcare, $2,276.61; 4) Conference Youth Ministries, $2,279.98; 5) Joint Commission in Mexico, $3,971.18; and 6) Philippines Mission, $4,936.65. The third annual clergy basketball for charity was held, raising $1,550.26 for campus ministries in the conference. Membership is 91,316, down 1,783. Average worship attendance stands at 54,276, down 617. - Larry R. Hygh Jr., UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Dakotas met in Bismark, N.D. with Bishop Deb Kiesey presiding. Flooding in nearby communities called some members away. Work teams were formed in local congregations and sent to Edgeley, N.D., and the surrounding area. Several inches of rain fell in the days preceding the conference, causing overland flooding of already-saturated ground. The conference theme was "Souls Thirsting for God." North Dakota native Bishop Bruce R. Ough (Ohio West Area) was the featured speaker. Membership is 43,136, down 548. Worship attendance stands at 22,930, down 186. - Michelle Harvey Erpenbach, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Eastern Pennsylvania met in Philadelphia for the first time in 35 years. The theme was "Renewing the Covenant" with Bishop Marcus Matthews presiding. In business, the conference approved: 1) a structure review and recommendations submitted by a conference task force; 2) a budget of $3,717,342 for conference ministries and $2,642,161 for the general church and World Service, totaling $6,359,503; 3) 27 resolutions, including one creating a racial/ethnic ministries task force; and 4) several resolutions opposing the death penalty and alcohol sales. Hilda Campbell, director of human relations and leadership, honored Winnie Kenzel for her work in the Healing the Wounds of Racism program. The conference received three offerings: 1) scholarships for students within the conference, $5,001; 2) Hope for the Children Initiative for children in poverty, $6,096; and 3) Africa University scholarships, $3,951. The laity and clergy in full connection approved eight constitutional amendments. In a Service of Ordination at Tindley Temple UMC, Bishop Matthews ordained one deacon in full connection, one deacon in transition, and five elders, and he commissioned seven probationary members (elder track). Membership in 2004 was 128,496, a decrease of 2,247 from 2003. Worship attendance in 2004 was 52,485, a decrease of 1,968. - Suzy Keenan, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Estonia Annual Conference was held June 17-18 and turned out to be historic. The first clergy women in the history of almost 100 years of Estonian Methodism were ordained elders: Maire Ivanova, 27, youth pastor from Parnu, and Ele Paju, 24, pastor in Voru. Estonia was the only annual conference in the Northern Europe Central Conference with no women clergy. The decision came through hard theological debates. A major change in church leadership also occurred. For 26 years, Estonian Methodism has been led by Superintendent Olav Parnamets. For this year's election, according to the local bylaws, the superintendent was first elected by the members and then appointed by the bishop. Taavi Hollman, 36, was elected with a strong majority of votes. Hollman graduated from the Baltic Methodist Seminary in Tallinn, Estonia, and was pastor to the Tallinn congregation. These significant changes indicate a strong turn of the denomination to a vision carried by the younger generation, and many look into the future with new hope.

- Ьllas Tankler, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Holston met at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. presided at his first Holston Conference session and preached at two worship services. Under the theme "Be Thou Our Vision," members gathered with a goal to begin discerning God's vision. Bishop Michael Watson (South Georgia Area) led the visioning process by preaching at the opening service and conducting two Bible studies. Two truckloads of goods collected by local churches were sent to Africa, including 1,252 food buckets for Zimbabwe and 1,721 school supply kits for Liberia. A conference-wide offering for Latvia reached $94,091. The funds will be used to build a camp, help unwed mothers, and develop spiritual leaders. Members gave $45,417 to Change for Children, which benefits needy children in Holston and in Africa. To help boost awareness of Change for Children and promote good health, about 400 members strolled around Lake Junaluska as part of a day-long event, "Walk for Change." The conference passed a resolution on ministry to persons disenrolled from TennCare. The resolution encourages local churches to help persons fill out necessary forms to keep their health insurance or provide referrals and assistance. An estimated 323,000 Tennesseans--43% in East Tennessee--are at risk of losing insurance through the state's mandatory disenrollment, according to the resolution. Members rejected a board of pensions report increasing deductibles, out-of-pocket costs, co-pays, and drug costs in the conference health plan effective July 1. Instead, the changes will go into effect Jan. 1, along with a 15% increase in rates. Members approved a $15.3 million budget for 2006, reflecting a 2.9% increase over the previous year. Conference membership is 168,121, down 408. Average worship attendance stands at 74,375, up 540.

- Annette Spence Bender, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Illinois Great Rivers was held in Peoria, Ill., under the theme "New Streams of Living Water." Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher presided. Bishop John G. Innis (Liberia Area) came to discuss and explore a partnership between the Illinois Great Rivers and the Liberia conferences. In conference action, members approved: 1) a budget of $17,773,557, a 0% increase over 2005; 2) a resolution to reduce the number of districts from 12 to 10, effective Sept. 1; 3) a resolution to create a task force of persons interested in the issue of homosexuality; and 4) a resolution calling for support for elimination of gambling in Illinois Membership is 152,116, down 1,521. Attendance stands at 75,911, down 1,518. - Susan J. Meister, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Kansas East met at Baker University in Baldwin City. Acknowledgement was made of Bishop Jones' challenge to the conference at a special session on February 26 to begin building strategic plans that will answer: 1) how the conference will start new congregations where they are needed; 2) how the conference will revitalize existing congregations; 3) how the conference will strengthen student ministries (youth and campus ministry); and 4) how the conference will strengthen ministries with ethnic minorities. Strategic plans in response to these questions will come to the 2006 session. Additionally, the conference approved the first revision in its structure since 1992. The conference approved a budget that increased expenditures by 3.78%. The challenge was laid before the conference to raise $600,000 to rebuild reserves depleted during the last four years. Members supported a statement to the State Board of Education to keep science teachings free from faith biases. By a nearly unanimous vote, the conference approved all eight constitutional amendments. Membership is 75,901, down 401, and worship attendance in 2004 averaged 32,815, down 571 (1.7%).

- Gary A. Beach and Becky Stebbins, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Louisiana met Shreveport at UM-related Centenary College under the theme "Prevenient Grace-God's Whisper in Our Heart." Bishop William W. Hutchinson presided. Highlights of the conference included: 1) the celebration of the note burning for the Conference Center land and buildings; 2) the celebration of the accomplishments of a Strengthening the Black Church emphasis; 3) the celebration of the work of the 21 churches in the new Transformational Training; and 4) plans for new church development in the quadrennium. Concurring with the recommendation of a special ministries task force proposing a full-time director of special ministries study. Eight amendments to the UM constitution were approved. Membership is 127,059, up 213 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 48,063, down 324. - Betty Backstrom, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Memphis met at Christ UMC in Memphis, Tenn. Continuing widespread concern over shortfalls in apportionment payout by some local churches prompted calls for fiscal responsibility and resulted in a scaled-back budget. The 2006 budget of $9,386,522 is a reduction of $482,338 from the 2005 budget. The report of the Financial Study Task Force and the adopted 2006 budget reflect a determination by conference members to keep conference functions both useful and affordable. Those agencies and ministries absorbing the most loss in projected dollars were Lambuth University, Lakeshore (the conference camp), equitable compensation, new church development, and program ministries. Bishop Richard J. Wills Jr. invited Vance Ross to serve as conference preacher and Jorge Acevedo to serve as Bible study leader. In other actions, the Memphis Conference: 1) cast ballots on eight constitutional amendments forwarded by General Conference 2004-all eight passed handily; 2) passed two resolutions, one calling on conference agencies and offices to consider using fair-trade coffee and the other providing leadership training for young adults in youth or children's ministry; 3) provided a plan of accountability for congregations failing for five consecutive years to pay apportionments in full; 4) closed six churches, merged two, and restarted one; and 5) heard a report by Jim Byford on a new ministry by the men of the conference called Hunters for the Hungry. Total membership is 88,843, down 1,077. Average worship attendance for 2004 was 34,243, down 5.24%. - Cathy Farmer, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Mississippi met at Christ UMC in Jackson. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward presided. The theme was "Arise! Shine! Let There Be Light." The conference: 1) approved a two-year trial ministry configuration of four ministry teams within Connectional Ministries; 2) adopted a revised clergy ethics policy; and 3) approved a budget of $18,605,585. The conference passed resolutions providing clergy vacation guidelines and calling for daily prayer for the UMC in Mississippi. All constitutional amendments were approved. Membership is 189,369, down 1,103. Worship attendance stands at 77,456, down 458. - Gwen Green, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

North Georgia met in Athens under the theme "We Are Called to Love Kindness." As part of a "Great Day of Service," The conference offering, designated for the Bethea Welcome Center at Lake Junaluska, N.C., was $50,000. Bishop G. Lindsey Davis was presented a check for $14,238 from the UM Publishing House, which was then contributed to the Central Conference Pension Initiative. The church development office announced five new churches plus four mission and two re-starting churches for the 2005-06 conference year. Also approved was a resolution to consider prayerfully the denomination's future relationship with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. A third resolution urged clergy to be informed and supportive of counseling ministries addressing post-abortion stress. A 2006 budget of $24,038,000 was adopted, representing a 4.3% increase. With the exception of the seventh constitutional amendment, all amendments passed handily. The seventh failed. Following an ordination sermon by Bishop Alfred Norris (retired), bishop-in-residence at Gammon Theological School. Membership is 337,635, up 3,971. Worship attendance is at 134,590, an increase of 283. - Ed Tomlinson, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

North Texas met in Wichita Falls, Texas. Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure Jr. presided over his first annual conference as North Texas Conference episcopal leader. Bishop Moncure established an ethos of servanthood during the Tuesday night Service of Ordination at as he washed the feet of the candidates for ordination as deacon and elder. members approved the report of the Ministry Center Building Committee to build a $3.4 million ministry center on the 3.05 acres of land the conference purchased in 2004. It will have approximately 20,000 square feet and bring all conference agencies and the bishop's office together. Membership is 159,917, up 903. Worship attendance stands at 62,638, up by 155, or 0.2%. - Joan Gray LaBarr, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) gathered in Antlers, Okla., for its 163rd annual conference. The conference welcomed first-year bishop Robert Hayes Jr. The conference sent an official letter of support to the people of the Red Lake, Minn., community. "We want the people of the Red Lake community to know that we are still praying for them," stated David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent. Red Lake High School, located on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, was the site of a recent school shooting where many lost their lives and several were injured. The conference also passed a resolution asking high schools and universities to end the practice of using Native American images, people, and symbols as mascots. Membership is 6,253, up 21. Worship attendance stands at 2,075, down 151. - Glen "Chebon" Kernell, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Oregon-Idaho, the first for newly elected Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, met in Sparks Center, Willamette University, Salem, Ore. He introduced the theme, "Boldly Making Disciples," and announced a new bishop's award for laity who are engaged in bold ministry. Winners are suggested and selected by the cabinet. The first recipient of the new award was Marilyn Outslay, who has been a tireless worker for justice; the second bishop's award went to Irv Williams, layperson from Echo UMC in Oregon. Keynoting the "Engaging Disciples Service of Commissioning" was Peter Storey, former president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, former Methodist bishop of the Johannesburg/Soweto area, and a moving force in the dissolution of apartheid who also served on Nelson Mandela's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Among the business of the conference: 1) a $5 million apportioned budget was accepted; 2) all eight constitutional amendments were approved; and 3) legislation was passed affirming efforts toward peace in Iraq, condemning illegal detainment and imprisonment, encouraging activities to stop global warming, renewing a partnership with the Liberian Conference, opposing capital punishment, renewing the health action campaign, and endorsing consumer rights in healthcare. Membership is 34,407, down 840. Worship attendance stands at 17,632, down 428. - Linda Sullivan, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Peninsula-Delaware met on the campus of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore under the theme "Living WithOut Walls" with Bishop Marcus Matthews presiding. Due to the situation regarding the legal case of Beth Stroud in Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, Bishop Matthews introduced Rob Shoemaker and Thomas Hall, who spoke of the judicatory process. Approved approved resolutions included Fair Trade Products, National Hunger Awareness Day, Affirmation for Native American Mission Personnel, and all eight proposed constitutional changes. The 2006 budget will be presented at a special session on Oct. 8. Membership is 94,330, down 555. Average worship attendance stands at 36,121, up 115. - Tamara D. Ward, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Rocky Mountain met at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver, with Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. presiding and the conference theme of "Growing the Church." The logo of the 2005 conference was a tree with green leaves and its roots in the cross and flame. The theme was demostrated in the worship center by the presence of running water, water jars, and trees. During the lay session, this was covered with containers of money from conference churches for a water-well project in Rocky Mountain's sister conferences in Angola. A budget of $6.1 million was approved, an increase of 4.25% over last year. The conference heard plans for the continued growth of the camping program, especially the Templed Hills site near Colorado Springs, Col. Actions of the conference: 1) supported relocating the current conference center by selling the property and using the proceeds to buy and renovate space in another part of the Denver metro area; 2) supported verified voting in public elections (with open source software and paper trails); 3) supported a Global AIDS Fund awareness and fundraising effort of $1/member over the quadrennium ($70,000); 4) encouraged members to become active in local school boards; 5) affirmed the value of union labor in building programs; 6) condemned the use of torture by U.S. forces; and 7) continued a camping program apportionment. Membership is 69,151 down 0466; with total worship attendance at 33,759.

- Ben Roe, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

South Georgia met at the Macon Coliseum under the theme "Healthy Churches Live the Vision." Members welcomed home Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. (Holston Area) to preach the opening worship service. The conference also: 1) approved new parsonage guidelines, a new Sexual Ethics Policy, and a new process for the election of general and jurisdictional conference delegates; 2) received $10,203.42 from the UM Publishing House for the pension fund and voted to give this money to the central conferences for the third year in a row; 3) designated the 2006 special offering for the Central Conference Pension Initiative and 4) approved a budget of $11,092,827. Membership is 139,127, down 790. Worship attendance stands at 53,388, down 149.

- Kelly Roberson, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

South Indiana met at Indiana University in Bloomington under the theme "New Beginnings" with Bishop Michael J. Coyner presiding. James Winkler, general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, challenged lay members to become more involved in social justice by supporting universal primary education in developing countries, plus basic healthcare and lunches for less-fortunate students in the United States. The conference has raised more that $75,000 to rebuild the Methodist church in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and has given more than $450,000 to South Asia Tsunami relief efforts. Indiana-based Operation Classroom asked each district to adopt a school in Liberia or Sierra Leone and celebrated the opening of a new surgical suite at Kissy UM Clinic in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The conference approved petitions to support global AIDS awareness, questioned membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and supported counseling ministries for women and men experiencing emotional pain due to past abortions. The conference discussed at length a $500,000 shortfall in the 2004 expense budget. As a result of diminished apportionment receipts,

Bishop Coyner challenged pastors and lay members to promote tithing in their congregations. Next year, the conference will consider a proposal to replace the traditional apportionment system with a local church tithing system. In other action, the conference: 1) approved a $12.2 million apportionment budget and $9.7 million expenditure budget for 2006, which is a $1.2 million decrease over the 2005 expenditure budget; 2) approved all UM constitutional amendments; and 3) recognized the connectional ministries. Membership in 2004 was 113,374, down 2,343. Worship attendance in 2004 was 64,898, a decrease of 422.

- Daniel R. Gangler, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Tennessee meeting at Brentwood UMC, gathered under the theme "Living in God's Extravagant Love Through Prayer." Bishop Richard J. Wills Jr. presided. The conference passed a basic budget of $12,355,881 along with $150,000 for the Contingency Fund. The council on finance and administration received permission to seek a $500,000 line of credit, only if necessary under emergency conditions, to manage cash-flow needs.The conference passed eleven resolutions, including support for: 1) a National Hunger Awareness Day; 2) increased awareness of Native American contributions; 3) the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday in conjunction with Human Relations Day/Ecumenical Sunday as an annual event; and 4) encouraging individuals and congregations to call upon schools, colleges, universities, sports teams, and municipalities to discontinue voluntarily their usage of Native American mascots and symbols. Church membership is 116,593, an increase 692. Average weekly worship attendance stood at 49,143.

- Thomas H. Nankervis, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Troy met in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., under the theme "Standing in the Need" with Bishop Susan M. Morrison presiding. In legislation, the conference: 1) passed a petition opposing the death penalty in New York and Vermont; 2) approved a resolution from the floor increasing a conference youth ministry position from one-quarter to one-half time; 3) approved a petition regarding the 2006 federal budget urging Congress to "act boldly and creatively to oppose budget cuts in human services . . . by scaling back tax relief for the wealthy, closing corporate tax loopholes, and holding military and war spending in check"; and 4) resolved to establish a covenantal relationship between the conference and Bread for the World. Membership is 52,560, down 1,886. Worship attendance stands at 15,544, down 2,103. - Holly Nye, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

Virginia met the Hampton Coliseum, addressing the theme "We Are One in Christ," with Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer presiding. Business items included: 1) James Branscome, conference treasurer, noting that the conference has led the denomination with contributions of over $1.5 million for tsunami relief; 2) reports from the Conferencing Facility Task Force, charged with reviewing long-term conferencing needs, and the Peace and Global Security Task force; 3) sending $20,716.47 in funds received from the UM Publishing House to the central conference retirement fund; 4) passing five resolutions focusing on protecting children from mercury-containing drugs, supporting peace in the Middle East, repudiating the use of torture, designating a National Hunger Awareness Day, and designating a UMVIM Awareness Sunday; and 5) approving all constitutional amendments except Amendment VII. Membership is 341,773, down 333. Worship attendance stands at 123,901, down 951. - Carole Vaughn, UMNewcope, July 8, 2005.

West Ohio rence met at Lakeside-on-Lake Erie. Members recommended that the number of districts be cut almost in half. By Sept. 30, 2006, when its realignment will be complete, the conference will have eight districts instead of fourteen. Bishop Bruce R. Ough will name a 17-member Conference Transition Team to oversee the process. The group will draw new district lines by Nov. 30, when eight district transition teams will be formed to assist the organization of the districts. The session's theme of "ЎEsperanza!" (Hope!) highlighted the covenant relationship between West Ohio and the Oriental Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico. Bishop Raъl Rosas preached a sermon translated by Lupina Stewart, Oriental Conference missionary to West Ohio. The conference received an offering of more than $135,000 for its developing Hispanic ministry and to share with the Oriental Conference. The conference preacher was Tyrone Gordon, pastor of Dallas St. Luke "Community" UMC. The conference also: 1) directed the conference council on finance and administration to manage expenditures so as to rebuild the conference's cash reserves during the coming 18 months; and 2) billed CPP and BPP premiums directly to those congregations whose clergy participate in the plan. The conference adopted a 2006 apportioned budget of $18, 988,024, unchanged from 2005. Membership is 237,307, down 6,581. Worship attendance stands at 123,806, down 2,601. - Tom Slack, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

West Virginia welcomed Bishop Ernest S. Lyght to his first session as episcopal at West Virginia Wesleyan College. The conference approved all eight constitutional amendments. It also passed a 2006 budget of almost $12 million--2.5% more than the current year--and expressed determination to reverse the downward trend in apportionment payout. Members approved resolutions urging the state governments of Maryland and West Virginia to stop the spread of all forms of gambling and inviting congregations to observe National Hunger Awareness Day. In other action, the conference: 1) donated the $13,512 received from the UM Publishing House to the Central Conference Pension Initiative; 2) collected nearly 1,000 flood buckets for the UM Committee on Relief; and 3) named Cross Lanes UMC a "Church for All God's Children." Conference membership is 105,879, down 1,336. Average worship attendance stands at 52,871, down 415. - Tom Burger, UMNewcope, June 24, 2005.

Western New York met. Bishop Woodie White (retired) was conference preacher. The theme of the 2005 session was "The Costs of Discipleship: Change in Ministry Begins with Change in Me." Members adopted resolutions: 1) creating a task force on conference boundaries and interconference concerns to meet with representatives from the North Central New York, Troy, Wyoming, and other conferences; 2) asking for further study of the role of superintendents; 3) creating a disaster response plan; and 4) allowing retired or disabled ordained or licensed pastors to designate an amount equal to that pastor's 2006 pension as a rental/housing allowance. The conference also adopted the council on finance and administration standard recommendations, which include: 1) setting the superintendent's compensation package at 150% of the 2005 conference average; 2) setting the final date for payment of 2005 apportionments as Jan. 2, 2006; 3) prohibiting conference funds from being dispersed to churches that have not submitted their financial status and other reports within 60 days after the deadline; 4) setting the conference mileage reimbursement rate to 18 cents per mile; 5) allowing the director of connectional ministries and the superintendents to designate a portion of their salaries as a household furnishing allowance; and 6) stating that any years under episcopal appointment, whether inside or outside the bounds of the annual conference, may be counted toward a pastor's level of compensation. Membership is 58,387, down 175. Worship attendance stands at 21,984, down 596. - Marilyn J. Kasperek, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Western Pennsylvania met in Grove City at Grove City College. The emphasis was on mission, with a global village set up to highlight areas where Western Pennsylvania UMs have ongoing mission relationships-Russia, Uganda, Latin America, Germany, and Lithuania. Two of the "lost boys" of Sudan, now living in Virginia, attended the conference, as did Robert Sujjabe and children from the Humble School and Orphanage in Uganda. Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton announced a major initiative to send mission teams to refurbish the second floor of the UM Seminary in Moscow. Prompted by new federal regulations barring Western Pennsylvania rison Outreach Ministry volunteers from leading classes of Disciple for Hispanic inmates in their native language, legislation was approved calling for lobbying to ease restrictions for religious programs with demonstrated results. Legislation was also approved calling for a halt to gambling expansion and a moratorium on the death penalty. Members approved a conference budget of $9.08 million, as well as disbursal directives if income from local churches is less than the $7.34 million budgeted. The eight constitutional amendments were approved. Approval margins were 990-16 on Amendment I, 992-13 on Amendment II, 1001-5 on Amendment III, 996-10 on Amendment IV, 994-12 on Amendment V, 991-11 on Amendment VI, 597-399 on Amendment VII, and 944-46 on Amendment VIII. Bishop George Bashore (retired) preached during a memorial service and a service celebrating the ministry of 17 retiring clergy. Membership is 197,738, down 1,774. Average Sunday worship attendance is 69,470, down 445.

- Jackie Campbell, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Wisconsin met in Madison. Conference leaders and the Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company welcomed Bishop Linda Lee. Conference speakers included Bishop Ricardo Pereira, Methodist Church of Cuba; Doug Anderson, Bishop Rueben Job Center for Leadership Development; and Mark Fowler, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The 2006 budget of $7,489,994 was adopted, an increase of 1.8% from 2005. The conference affirmed: 1) the observance of Global AIDS Awareness Sunday, including a designated offering; 2) a resolution opposing the use of torture in prisons maintained for alleged terrorist suspects; and 3) a resolution urging clergy and lay members to enter into informed and respectful dialogue regarding all sides of the proposed marriage amendment to the state constitution and urging state leaders not to pass the legislation. The conference passed Amendments I-VI to the UM constitution but did not affirm Amendments VII and VIII. Churches and circuits provided more than 10,000 items for newborns to be sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia; 300 flood buckets and 220 health kits; 134 nursing uniforms, textbooks, and other medical supplies for the nursing school at Ganta Hospital in Liberia; and 171 new bicycles along with numerous repair kits, with more than $5,000 for shipping these bikes to pastors in countries who have no forms of transportation. Items were taken to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center, a UM agency located near Chatham, Ill. Membership is 94,409, down 3,669. Worship attendance stands at 43,738, down 1,236. - Jane Follmer Zekoff, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

Yellowstone gathered from in Billings, Mont., with Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. presiding and the conference theme of "Growing Healthy Congregations." J. Philip Wogaman, conference speaker, exhorted those assembled to be ambassadors for Christ, as Second Corinthians suggests, and explored what a church taking that admonition to heart might look like. Wogaman is interim president and visiting professor of Christian ethics at Iliff School of Theology, Denver. The official closing of three churches was marked. Required votes were taken on eight constitutional amendments. Membership is 16,170, down 679. Worship attendance stands at 8,393, down 247 (2.9%). - Waveland King, UMNewcope, July 15, 2005.

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For forgiveness to flower, the weeds of bitterness must be uprooted.

– LoveLights, March-April 2005.