The Monthly Update
August 2006 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: This edition of the Monthly Update is a continuation
of annual conference summaries from the Methodist Church around the
world. It looks as if a key issue in our country and our denomination
will continue to be that of homosexuality. You will notice various
petitions dealing with this in the various annual conferences and will
note ones based on the action of the Virginia pastor in counseling a
prospective member in his church on his conduct in this area; some
conferences have resolutions stating that "homosexuality is not a bar to
membership." If they would consult God’s book on this, they might come
to a different conclusion. We need to be prepared to stand on the moral
foundation laid down in the Bible. A dear sister passed away this past month in the
South Georgia Conference in Odum just to the west of Jesup, Georgia.
Bessie Dent was the widow of Rev. Ira Dent, one of the "old-time
Methodist preachers" who had passed away a couple of years ago. I had planned to visit her on a Friday night but
arrived in town late so thought I would see her the next morning. That
evening as I was in the hotel room, I was convicted of not having gone
on to see her that same evening. I said a little prayer, "Oh, Lord, if
you will just keep her alive through the next day, I will never delay to
make a visit like this again." I got up early the next morning and called her home.
Since she had been in declining health, a caretaker answered the phone;
she said that Bessie was not doing well, had spent a fitful night, and
could not have any visitors. I gave her my name and asked if I could
speak with her? She declined, but when she called my name in her reply,
Bessie asked to speak to me. I told Bessie that I very much wanted to
visit with her; she said to come on over. I checked out of the hotel room in Jesup, drove the
ten miles to Odum and had a good three-hour visit with Bessie. She
seemed to be in good spirits and talked about wanting to get up and work
in her garden. Before I left, I held her in my arms and prayed for her –
that the Lord would enable her to walk again. I also "gave her over to
the Lord" in my concluding prayer. Bessie’s hug assured me that she had
plenty of strength left. I left and drove the three hours westward for a visit
with my Aunt Gertrude. The next morning I got a call shortly before we
were to go to church that Bessie had quietly passed away earlier that
morning. My thought was, "Well, she is walking okay – with the Lord." I thank the Lord for the witness of her love for life
and am grateful for all the good that she and her husband have done for
so many people. As I’d said, he was one of the "old-time Methodist
preachers" who really loved the Lord and preached "the Book" with
faithfulness to its doctrine. I was also reminded that we should never postpone
saying things to – or doing things for our loved ones. That may be the
last chance we will have this side of eternity. We thank you for your continuing support and ask that
you would keep us in your prayers. Both are vital in our service to the
Lord Jesus Christ. In His service, Allen O. Morris, August 2006 Update Bits and
Pieces from across the United Methodist Church Be active, be
diligent. Avoid all laziness, sloth, indolence. Fly from every degree,
every appearance of it; else you will never be more than half a
Christian - John Wesley * * * * * Results from
the Annual Conferences Alabama-West
Florida Annual Conference
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This edition of the Monthly Update is a continuation of annual conference summaries from the Methodist Church around the world. It looks as if a key issue in our country and our denomination will continue to be that of homosexuality. You will notice various petitions dealing with this in the various annual conferences and will note ones based on the action of the Virginia pastor in counseling a prospective member in his church on his conduct in this area; some conferences have resolutions stating that "homosexuality is not a bar to membership." If they would consult God’s book on this, they might come to a different conclusion. We need to be prepared to stand on the moral foundation laid down in the Bible.
A dear sister passed away this past month in the South Georgia Conference in Odum just to the west of Jesup, Georgia. Bessie Dent was the widow of Rev. Ira Dent, one of the "old-time Methodist preachers" who had passed away a couple of years ago.
I had planned to visit her on a Friday night but arrived in town late so thought I would see her the next morning. That evening as I was in the hotel room, I was convicted of not having gone on to see her that same evening. I said a little prayer, "Oh, Lord, if you will just keep her alive through the next day, I will never delay to make a visit like this again."
I got up early the next morning and called her home. Since she had been in declining health, a caretaker answered the phone; she said that Bessie was not doing well, had spent a fitful night, and could not have any visitors. I gave her my name and asked if I could speak with her? She declined, but when she called my name in her reply, Bessie asked to speak to me. I told Bessie that I very much wanted to visit with her; she said to come on over.
I checked out of the hotel room in Jesup, drove the ten miles to Odum and had a good three-hour visit with Bessie. She seemed to be in good spirits and talked about wanting to get up and work in her garden. Before I left, I held her in my arms and prayed for her – that the Lord would enable her to walk again. I also "gave her over to the Lord" in my concluding prayer. Bessie’s hug assured me that she had plenty of strength left.
I left and drove the three hours westward for a visit with my Aunt Gertrude. The next morning I got a call shortly before we were to go to church that Bessie had quietly passed away earlier that morning. My thought was, "Well, she is walking okay – with the Lord."
I thank the Lord for the witness of her love for life and am grateful for all the good that she and her husband have done for so many people. As I’d said, he was one of the "old-time Methodist preachers" who really loved the Lord and preached "the Book" with faithfulness to its doctrine.
I was also reminded that we should never postpone saying things to – or doing things for our loved ones. That may be the last chance we will have this side of eternity.
We thank you for your continuing support and ask that you would keep us in your prayers. Both are vital in our service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In His service,
Allen O. Morris,
August 2006 Update
Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church
Be active, be diligent. Avoid all laziness, sloth, indolence. Fly from every degree, every appearance of it; else you will never be more than half a Christian - John Wesley
* * * * *
Results from the Annual Conferences
Alabama-West Florida Annual Conferencewas held June 4-7 at Christ UMC in Mobile, Ala. The theme was "Jubilee II: Sharing God's Abundance." Before the conference, Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster challenged churches to raise $50,000 to be divided between the Cameroon Mission of the UMC and the Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry. Churches responded by raising nearly $75,000. In observance of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women, worship leadership was provided by clergywomen Anne Burkholder, Denise Honeycutt, Joy Moore, Robin Wilson, and Rebecca Youngblood. In his episcopal address, Bishop Goodpaster said, "Let us today renew our commitment and efforts to become a conference filled with dynamic, thriving, healthy, vital churches . . . that will amaze and astound even your
— Meredyth Earnest, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
California-Nevada met June 14–17 in Sacramento, Calif. Bishop Beverly J. Shamana and Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly (retired) presided over a service of celebration for the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. The procession of more than 140 clergywomen included five 14-foot puppets representing women in various ministries. During plenary sessions, a proposal to bill pension costs directly to local churches was defeated. A number of conferences have switched to direct billing in light of the church’s new retirement system. A five-year phasing plan was also presented to ease in the transition. Instead, 60% of the conference voted to retain the current system of including pensions in apportionments. There were 57 resolutions considered by the conference. Nine will be sent on to the 2008 General Conference. These resolutions would liberalize Discipline sections dealing with marriage, human sexuality, and sexual orientation, and would remove current restrictions on ordaining gay clergy, celebrating homosexual unions, and funding gay caucuses. The conference also voted to seek to prohibit discrimination in receiving members into UMC congregations and to oppose Judicial Council Decision 1032. Membership is 85,925, down 1,822.
— Chuck Myer, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Central Pennsylvania met June 8–10 in Grantham. "Claiming God’s Frontiers: Our Communities: Right Here! Right Now!" was the theme. In her opening remarks, Bishop Jane Allen Middleton spoke of the new ministries emerging. The bishop called on each congregation to adopt proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, forming clergy and lay leadership, and engagement with their communities as their core values. The conference also marked 50 years of inclusive ministry in services that celebrated the ordination of Maud Keister Jensen, a conference missionary to Korea, as the first woman to receive full clergy rights in a U.S. Methodist conference, and the transfer of Mitchell Memorial Church from the Central Jurisdiction to the Central Pennsylvania Conference. The conference approved resolutions: 1) encouraging members to purchase clean power for their homes and churches; 2) endorsing legislation to ban smoking in public places and workplaces; and 3) calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour. Membership is 146,564, down 2,658.
— Jerry Wolgemuth, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Dakotas met June 7-10 in Watertown, S.D., with Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey presiding. The conference theme, "For Such a Time as This," was based on the story of Esther. The assembly celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Grace E. Huck, one of the first women welcomed into full clergy rights in 1956, was an honored guest. Shelly Matthews, an associate professor at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., was a featured preacher. In other business, members: 1) adopted a $7.3 million budget, up 3%; 2) agreed to fully fund the position of director of the UM Pierre Area Community Ministries, a budget item eliminated in preliminary meetings; 3) celebrated a 181% increase in mission giving during the past year by 93% of conference churches; 4) celebrated the ordination of six elders and one deacon and the commissioning of two new probationary members; 5) empowered a staff task force to recommend a video conferencing system for use across the Dakotas before the opening of the 2007 session; 6) created a task force to study the effectiveness of the Conference Special Askings program for specific mission projects in the Dakotas; 7) affirmed laws defending marriage; 8) rejected a South Dakota ballot measure against same-sex unions, saying the "full repercussions of the law are not known," and it could discriminate against elderly people living in same-sex households in rural areas; and 9) shifted more health care insurance costs to retirees and their spouses. The assembly acknowledged the retirement of Naomi Bartle, a long-time bishop's assistant. The Committee on the Episcopacy suggested that this staff change creates an opportunity for combining offices to provide a more efficient work environment. Currently, the bishop's office is housed in Fargo, N.D., and the conference staff is housed in Mitchell, S.D. A task force will be assigned to this project. Membership stands at 42,133, down 1,003 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 22,401, down 529.
— Michelle Harvey Erpenbach, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
Desert Southwest met June 7–11 at the Scottsdale Doubletree Resort in Arizona under the leadership of Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño. The theme, "Come to the Feast," focused on Holy Communion. Gayle Carlton Felton, resource person for General Conference mandated studies on Holy Communion and baptism, addressed the theme. The appointive cabinet read a statement opposing a Judicial Council decision to support a pastor who denied membership to a homosexual person. In other sessions, members: 1) voted to partner with the UM mission church of Honduras; 2) gave their check from the UM Publishing House to support retired pastors in central conferences; 3) supported global AIDS awareness efforts; 4) supported the right of people to provide humanitarian aid to illegal immigrants and the biblical sojourner treatment of immigrants; 5) backed a movement opposing the Arizona Marriage Amendment; 6) defeated a resolution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman; and 7) celebrated the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the UMC to have Holy Communion rights between the churches and learned that the ELCA gave a financial gift to Mission Bell UMC following a fire. Membership is 43,003, down 946.
–– Stephen J. Husted, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Greater New Jersey gathered June 1–3 with Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar presiding.The theme was "One in Spirit, All in Ministry: In the Spirit of Worship." In conference business, the members approved a measure allowing clergy to option out of the group health insurance plan but requiring churches to contribute a connectional premium. The 2007 budget of $11,170,610 was approved with a 3.29% increase over 2006. Membership is 102,528, down 2,299.
— David Malloy, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Holston met June 11–14 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. The theme, "Courageous Past, Bold Future," was borrowed from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to help Holston recognize the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Bishop James Swanson presided. The conference adopted a "bold, passionate, and joyful" vision statement based on responses gathered from members of the 2005 conference. An offering of $94,494 was collected for an Alaskan mission led by Church and Community Worker Fran Lynch. The conference welcomed Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor (Columbia Area) during the opening worship celebrating clergywomen. Bishop Taylor is a native of Holston Conference. Another guest was Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area) who led Bible studies on female leadership in the church. He concluded that seemingly conflicting verses could be resolved by examining the "general tenor of Scripture." The board of trustees received approval to purchase a $1.8 million, three-story building for the conference headquarters. The conference office will relocate from Knoxville to Alcoa, Tenn., in late August. Members approved a $15.89 million budget for 2007, representing a 3.8% increase from 2006. Also approved and referred to the council on finance and administration was a resolution supporting the Global AIDS Fund. The conference adopted, with a 421-396 vote, a resolution "affirming laws defending marriage." The conference approved an increase in insurance premium rates of 3% for individuals and 9% for family/retirees, effective Jan. 1, 2007. Also approved was a pre-1982 past service retirement rate of $465 for next year, a 3.64% increase. Conference membership is 167,340, down 373.
— Annette Spence, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Mississippi met June 11–14 at Christ UMC in Jackson with Bishop Hope Morgan Ward presiding. The theme was "Arise! Shine! Live in the Light." Bishop Eben K.Nhiwatiwa (Zimbabwe Area) and Bishop Tom Bickerton (Pittsburgh Area) were guest preachers. At opening worship, Nhiwatiwa and Ward signed the "Chabadza Covenant" joining Zimbabwe and Mississippi as partners. Chabadza is a Shona word meaning "helping someone already at work." The Chabadza offering will fund a conference communications center in Zimbabwe, provide support for Africa University students and programs, and assist ministry. Marcia McFee led worship, including a celebration of 50 years of full clergy rights for women. Ruth Wood, the first womanordained in Mississippi, offered the benediction. The conference approved a resolution asking Governor Haley Barbour to issue a pardon and apology to the family of the late Clyde Kennard. Kennard was falsely convicted of burglary in 1960 as he sought to enroll as the first African American student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Members also concurred with resolutions urging Lake Junaluska Assembly not to host events seeking to promote the acceptance and practice of homosexuality; recommending daily prayer for the church; designating a pastoral care week; requesting the conference develop and local churches adopt Safe Sanctuaries policies; and calling upon the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to revoke the Protected Annuity Rate Balance Account initiated in 2003. Members adopted a budget of $18,605,585 for 2007, the same as 2006. Membership is 188,676, down 693.
— Gwen Green, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
North Carolina met June 14–17 in Greenville, N.C., using the theme "Walking …in the Light of God." This is the first time in 32 years, except for 1986, that the conference has not met in Fayetteville. In his state of the church address, Bishop Alfred W. Gwinn Jr. reminded members that the church belongs to God, not individuals, and that a $1 million challenge gift had been made to the Academy for Leadership Excellence. Benjamin Zander, co-author of The Art of Possibility, invited members to leave behind "downward spiral thinking" and live into the world of possibility. Bishop James R. King Jr. (Louisville Area) was the guest preacher, and Bishop C. P. Minnick Jr. (retired) taught the morning Bible studies. Eldrick Davis of Harry Hosier UMC preached at the memorial service, and Tom Holtsclaw presided during the love feast. Included in 17 resolutions, members voted: 1) to dissolve the N.C. State Commission on Campus Ministry; 2) to learn more about the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and to reflect on whether theUMC should remain a member of RCRC; 3) to support federal trust responsibility and tribal sovereignty of the Lumbee Tribe; and 4) not to support a proposal to restrict the use of the property at Lake Junaluska to only groups who uphold Judeo-Christian ideals. In other action, members: 1) approved joining the Property and Casualty Trust; 2) adopted a conference health insurance plan for 2007 with no premium changes and mandated by 2008 full payment of the church’s health insurance portion for all clergy under full-time appointment making at least minimum salary; 3) participated in the Upper Room Living Prayer Center and bagged 40,000 lbs of sweet potatoes; 4) celebrated the chartering of Reconciliation UMC, a multicultural congregation, and commissioned three pastors to plant new churches; 5) approved a $19,126,670 budget to be raised in 2007 for use in 2008, a 2.88% increase over the budget adopted last year; and 6) celebrated being one of 15 conferences paying 100% of general church apportionments. The conference also recognized the orders of another person received into full connection. Membership is 236,635, up 1,098 from the previous year. Average attendance at the principal weekly worship service(s) is 86,024, down 2,796.
— Bill Norton, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
North Georgia met June 13-16 at the Classic Center in Athens under the leadership of Bishop Lindsey Davis. The theme was "We Are Called to Act With Justice." Members celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women with an address by Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor (Columbia Area). Members worked with 92 organizations in a "Great Day of Service." Members gave 500 layette kits for needy newborns and 50 comfort pillows for oncology patients. Six tons of food were distributed to benefit over 200 households, and more than 100 pints of blood were collected through the Red Cross. Members asked the Judicial Council to rule on a bishop's decision of law concerning the appointed local pastor's right to vote on clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences. During the year, churches gave more than $2 million for hurricane relief and more than $1 million for tsunami victims. They paid $5.9 million in general church apportionments, the largest in the denomination. A budget of $24.34 million was adopted, up 1.3%. Joseph Lowery, retired clergy member and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was presented the Eleanor Richardson Award for Social Justice. Bishop L. Bevel Jones (retired) was made an honorary member of the conference, and Athens mayor Heidi Davison proclaimed June 14 as "Bev Jones Day." Seven new church starts are anticipated in the coming year. The conference will partner with the Desert Southwest Conference to start a new church in Las Vegas. Candace Lansberry, a Desert Southwest Conference pastor who will serve the new congregation, was introduced. Finances and other resource needs will be shared by the two conferences.Members passed resolutions: 1) calling for a study of hunger and its effects; 2) creating a task force to increase the participation of young adults; 3) encouraging general agencies to support proactively the Discipline's definition of marriage; and 4) declaring their intention to elect inclusive delegations to the 2008 General and Jurisdictional conferences. Now the largest conference in the UMC [emphasis added], membership is 342,045, up 4,410 from the previous year.
— Ed Tomlinson, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
Northwest Texas met June 7–10 at First UMC in Midland with Bishop D. Max Whitfield presiding. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie (Houston Area) was the conference preacher. The theme, "Courageous Past––Bold Future," celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Dixie Robertson, formerly from the Northwest Texas Conference, spoke to a combined audience of members of UM Women, board of church and society, and the commission on the status and role of women. The conference: 1) adopted a goal of $1 per member for the Global AIDS Fund; 2) urged the conference,churches, and pastors to make every congregation a community of hospitality for all persons; 3) approved a resolution concerning a new episcopal residence; 4) called for a study committee to examine financial and legal issues related to the conference camping program; 5) adopted a goal of $10 a month for all clergy and lay members to aid recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast; 6) celebrated the work of the Bold New Directions Team commissioned by Bishop Whitfield last year to establish a new direction for the conference; and 7) closed two churches and started a new church in Abilene. Membership is 65,184, down 2,832.
–– JoAnna Willis, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference met June 8–11 near Anadarko. The theme was "We’ve Come This Far by Faith," with Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. preaching at three of the four services. On Thursday evening, the service began with a procession of flags representing Native Tribes and entities from throughout the conference. Nearly 40 flags were raised and set on stage for the fourday conference. The service was also dedicated to remembering all of those who have gone on before us. A traditional flag song was sung during the posting of the United States flag; and in remembrance of all of those departed, a memorial song was sung by the Native drum group Sovo, who are from Little Washita UMC near Lawton. On Friday, the clergywomen held a special service commemorating the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Frankie Johnson, recently appointed superintendent in the Oklahoma Conference, preached. Johnson is the first African American female superintendent in the Oklahoma Conference. The evening worship service also included the reading of the accomplishments of the female clergy members of the missionary conference. A plaque of recognition was given to Ida Kaubin, daughter of Hazel Botone. Botone was the first woman to be ordained in the missionary conference. In addition, a presentation was given outlining the work of female clergy in the conference throughout the past 30 years.
The business of the conference included a resolution passed on the importance of Native languages and its use in churches. The resolution called for the organization of a Native language contest to be held at next year’s annual conference session, where each local church is asked to enter a children’s choir that would perform a series of Native hymns. The contest would hopefully promote the usage and teaching of indigenous languages throughout the churches of the conference. In addition, wording was added to the resolution stating that: "THEREFORE, we recognize in spite of
America’s efforts to limit the official language to English only, that we have a right to speak the language of this land, and that using our languages is an important expression of our original sovereignty." The resolution was passed on to the conference council on local church ministries for further action. Membership is 6,237, down 16. .
— Chebon Kernlll, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Southwest Texas met June 7–10 in Corpus Christi. Members adopted a Bishop’s Initiative on New Church Development. They also approved: 1) a funding formula for the Clergy Retirement Security Program going into effect Jan. 1; 2) a task force to develop a plan for clergy-effectiveness standards; 3) a voluntary clergy wellness program; 4) a $8.92 million budget for 2007; and 5) accountable reimbursement guidelines for pastors’ business expenses. The new church initiative is designed to reverse three consecutive years of membership losses in a region with major population growth. The plan includes authorization for a capital fundraising campaign. The New Church Development Commission would use funds from a continuing $400,000-per-year apportionment for revitalizing existing congregations, said Bill Henderson, senior pastor of Northwest Hills UMC, Austin, chair of the agency. Goals include having all congregations involved in partnerships to start new congregations. Those involvements could include prayer support, financial backing, and direct aid with volunteers and services. Another goal is to have all seven districts in partnerships to start congregations. Southwest Texans celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women throughout the meeting. Two of three featured preachers were women. Mimi Raper, associate pastor of First UMC, Austin, spoke at the memorial service and opening Eucharist. Bishop Ann B. Sherer (Nebraska Area) delivered the message at the ordination service. Members received copies of a 56-page history of Southwest Texas clergywomen, A Time to Speak, by Ann Brown Fields of Austin. Bishop Joel N. Martinez, lay leader Jay Brim, and Austin District superintendent Kim Cape, dean of the cabinet, all celebrated the growing number of certified welcoming congregations in Southwest Texas. As the meeting began, Southwest Texas had 56 welcoming congregations, the most of any conference. Brim repeated his call, first issued during his 2005 laity report, for 200 welcoming congregations in Southwest Texas. He set a new goal: June 2007. Membership is 119,677, down 403.
— Douglas Cannon, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Virginia met June 11-14 at the Hampton Coliseum with Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer presiding. Preachers addressing the theme "We Are One With Each Other" included Bishop Gregory Palmer (Iowa Area); Young Jin Cho, superintendent of the Arlington District; and Bishop Kammerer. George Lightner, 96, gave the opening prayer during his 72nd consecutive conference. Bruce Birch of Wesley Theological Seminary led Bible studies. Ron Hardman, who finished an eight-year term as conference lay leader, delivered the laity address. Shirley Cauffman was elected as the new conference lay leader. Other newly elected persons include Dennis Scheer, conference treasurer and Neill Caldwell, editor of the Journal. A Service of Remembrance honored 17 deceased clergy and diaconal ministers, 22 spouses of clergy, and six lay members. Forty-two persons were licensed as local pastors and two were named associate members. Bishop Kammerer commissioned 25 probationary members and ordained 16 elders. Two persons had their orders recognized. Thirty-six clergy retired. Some highlights of conference included: 1) a "newscast" by the youth delegation; 2) a challenge from Larry Burian, new conference president of UM Men, for men to be "standing on the promises," instead of "sitting on the premises"; 3) a potato drop where 150 volunteers bagged 40,360 pounds of potatoes for the hungry; 4) a visit by Bishop Joao Alves de Oliveira Filho from Brazil; 5) giving over $228,000 for mission projects; 6) a check for $20,689 from the UM Publishing House that was donated for retiring clergy in central conferences; 7) the honoring of 3,000 volunteers who helped rebuild the gulf after Hurricane Katrina; and 8) the giving of 18,126 health kits, 19,564 school kits, 1,297 blankets, 1,120 flood buckets, 1,220 layettes, 32 sewing kits, and $54,387 for disaster relief. Transcripts of annual conferences in the 1950's were acted out in honor of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Bishop Sharon Rader (retired) was the guest speaker. Membership is 341,346, down 540 from the previous year. Worship attendance is 123,161, down 790. Church school attendance is 54,294, down 4,135.
— Brenda Capen, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
West Ohio members gathered June 11–14 from 14 districts and left for eight. With the theme, "In the Potter’s Hands," the conference marked both its practical and symbolic reshaping. The symbolic reshaping took place at the session’s final worship service as a superintendent and lay member from each of the 14 districts recalled the district’s ministry and handed a lump of clay to Joyce Fry, assistant to Bishop Bruce R. Ough, who kneaded the clay into a single mass. After the clay was divided into eight parts, Sauder Village resident potter Mark Nafziger created eight new pots, working as Bishop Janice Riggle Huie (Houston Area) preached. Practical reshaping or realignment has been underway for a year as a 17-member Conference Transition Team and eight District Transition Teams worked to plan, name, and organize eight new districts. With the district realignment, the conference will also inaugurate a cluster ministry model to encourage ministry development, reaching out to neighboring churches, and developing common programs. Bishop Hans Vaxby (Eurasia Area) accompanied a delegation of pastors and church members from the Russia Volga District, a West Ohio Covenant Mission Partner. Thirty percent of West Ohio’s $129,800 Miracle Offering is designated for the Volga District, with the remainder to be sent to the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal. Bishop Ough commissioned 26 probationary members (five, deacon track; 21, elder track) as Bishop Judith Craig (retired) reminded listeners that Christians are "co-missioners" not working in isolation. During the conference’s celebration of 50 years of full connection for women, Sisters in Song, an ensemble of West Ohio clergywomen, provided vocal music; and J. Jeanetté Cooper Dicks preached. In legislative actions, the conference: 1) established a partnership with churches in southeast Asia, working in Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam; 2) adopted "The Implementation Plan of the Hispanic/Latino Ministries in the West Ohio Conference"; and 3) adopted a process for the election of general and jurisdictional conference delegates. Leaders of the conference’s Strength For Today, Bright Hope For Tomorrow Initiative announced gifts and pledges totaling $20.5 million. The conference adopted a 2007 apportioned budget of $18,988,024, unchanged for the third year. Membership is 230,500, down 6,807.
— Tom Slack, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Western North Carolina Conference met June 8-11 at Lake Junaluska under the leadership of Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey. The theme was "Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, Transform the World." Highlighting the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in his State of the Conference address, Bishop McCleskey said, "We have passed the time for any church . . . to object to a pastoral appointment because the appointee is female. Fifty years is long enough. Be ready. It's that simple." Clergywomen preached, administered Holy Communion, and led Bible studies. An eight-minute video, featuring Bishop Edward Tullis (1917-2005), told how the 1956 General Conference voted to give full clergy rights to women. Members voted to give a $20,411 check from the UM Publishing House to retired pastors in central conferences. Bishop McCleskey ordained 24 elders and five deacons in full connection, received one deacon as an associate member, and commissioned 29 probationary elders and three probationary deacons. The conference also: 1) honored 27 retiring clergy; 2) approved a budget of $27.81 million; 3) honored conference UM Women for leading the nation in financial giving for the fifth consecutive year with gifts totaling more than $1 million; and 5) asked legislators to vote in favor of guest worker legislation. Membership is 293,089, down 646 from the previous year. This is the first membership loss in 15 years. Worship attendance is 126,180, down 866.
— Dawn M. Hand, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
Western Pennsylvania met June 15–18 in Grove City, Penn. The conference theme was "Find Your Path, Share the Journey, Believe Again." In keeping with the theme, borrowed from the Igniting Ministry advertising campaign, members adopted Believe Again!, a new strategic plan for revitalizing ministry and refocusing on local churches and communities as the places where new disciples are made. The plan sets five goals summarized in action verbs: 1) discover what’s needed to ensure that UM communities of faith are healthy and positioned strategically to reach people; 2) stretch to grow new communities of faith and ministry groups in each district; 3) lead our people by expecting and achieving excellence in lay and clergy leadership; 4) go into the world by increasing involvement in mission, justice, and outreach ministries locally, regionally, and globally; and 5) connect people and communities of faith through improving the ministry and systems of the conference to better facilitate disciple-making. Guest preacher for the week, Bishop Violet Fisher (New York West Area), spoke on Ministry Night, which honored 22 retiring clergy, highlighted the ministry of the laity, and issued an invitation for persons to consider God’s call on their lives. The conference also celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Bishop Fisher shared her personal story as a called woman of color and asked Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton to anoint each of the clergywomen present. Nancy Denardo, who stepped down as lay leader after seven years, delivered the laity address. Conference membership is 195,537, down 2,201.
— Jackie Campbell, as reported in UMNewscope, June 30, 2006.
Wyoming was held June 2-4 at the University of Scranton, in Scranton, Pa., with Bishop Susan M. Morrison presiding. She had earlier announced her retirement, effective Sept. 1, 2006. The bishop expressed gratitude for the Wesleyan commitment to the social gospel, for the witness of UMs involved in mission throughout the world, and for the life-giving and renewing ministries she sees in local churches. The conference presented her with the Guy Lienthall Award. The assembly: 1) affirmed a General Conference resolution urging the president and Congress to close the U.S. Army Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation; 2) affirmed the spirit of Igniting Ministry and called for the theme to be implemented in all churches; 3) supported the Council of Bishops call for an end to the war in Iraq, withdrawal of troops, and its call for peace and justice; 4) urged the General Board of Global Ministries to work toward ending malaria by the year 2020; 5) called on state legislators to increase the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour and automatically adjust the amount for inflation; 6) celebrated 50 years of full clergy rights for women; 7) offered an act of contrition for racism and acceptance of white privilege; 8) celebrated the ministries of five retiring pastors; and 9) called for a special session in September. Bishop Morrison commissioned three probationary members and ordained three elders. Membership is 63,671, down 459 from 2004.
— Don Perry, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
Yellowstone met June 8-10 in Billings, Mont., under the leadership of Bishop Warner Brown. Bishop Brown gave the opening message on the conference theme "Strength for Today, Hope for Tomorrow." Members celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women at a banquet preceding the conference and with a special worship service featuring Bishop Sally Dyck (Minnesota Area). "We are becoming the church our grandmothers envisioned us to be, thanks be to God," said Bishop Dyck. "Now it is up to all of us to 'pay it forward' and keep that light alive for women everywhere." The conference increased payments to general church apportionments from 71% to 84%. Giving to the Native American Awareness offering increased 24%, and Advance giving increased by $260,000. During the last three years, churches gave $133,000 to mission projects in the East Angola Conference. The conference provides partial funding for the salaries of Angola pastors, and it funds water projects in that African nation. Churches are encouraged to observe annually Global AIDS Sunday on Valentine's Day or the first Sunday after Feb. 14. Seventy-five percent of the offering will go to the Advance, and 25% will support AIDS ministries within the conference. By consensus, conference members established three guiding principles: 1) Local congregations are the heart of the UMC; 2) it is a pastor's responsibility to organize, inspire, and support church members and constituents to minister to people outside the church and to each other; and 3) the bishop, superintendents, and conference staff exist to support the spiritual well-being of local churches and pastors and to connect them to mission opportunities and justice ministries. Membership is 16,120, down 797.
— Valerie Lindstrom, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.
* * * * *
God is great,
and therefore He will be sought;
Published by Concerned Methodists, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel. 910/488-4379; FAX: 910/488-5090