The Monthly Update

September 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the interest of sending you the rest of the annual conference reports and maximizing the information sent to you, no letter is accompanying the September Update.

Allen Morris

September 2006 Update

God is in the life-changing business. – Dr. John Ed Mathieson

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Results from the Annual Conferences

Arkansas met June 11-14 in Hot Springs, with Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield presiding. He announced plans to form a task force examining how conference funds are allocated. On the heels of last month's firing of the conference treasurer, Joe Eason, who admitted misappropriating church funds for personal use, the bishop shared that the completed audit found that more than $254,000 was misdirected between 1999 and 2005. Eason repaid the amount in full just days prior to the start of the conference. Offerings were received for the Russia Initiative and conference partner Return to Christ UMC in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and the Catch the Vision Fund for new church development. Through resolutions, the conference 1) called for a plan to "equalize funding" to two colleges; 2) called for churches to encourage and promote adoption; 3) affirmed belief in a "regenerated membership" and "the responsibility of pastors to nurture, lead, and discern in matters of that membership"; 4) approved Safe Sanctuary guidelines; 5) affirmed the openness of the church and conference; 6) expressed support for enactment of hate crime legislation; 7) opposed legalized gambling; and 8) urged the state legislature to exempt from capital punishment persons with an intelligence quotient measured at 69 or lower, instead of the current 65. Members approved a budget of $12.8 million, up 3% over last year. Once again, proof copies of the 720-page conference journal were distributed in the final moments of the session. Membership is 138,317, down 670.

- Jane Dennis, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006

California-Pacific met June 22-25 in Redlands, Calif., led by Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and explored the theme "To Be the Cup Overflowing." With opportunities presented by an approximately $25 million over-funding of the pre-82 pension obligations, the conference approved $2.5 million to fully fund CRSP Defined Benefit obligations for active clergy in 2007. That action resulted in a combination of direct billings and apportionments to local churches, which lowered combined obligations for local churches and provided funds for a tithe of $250,000 for the Central Conference Pension Fund. The conference collected offerings for construction materials for church arson rebuilding efforts; Joint Commission in Mexico; Youth Service Fund; conference camping; Global AIDS Fund; and health kits, school kits, and layettes for the UM Committee on Relief. Membership is 88,665, down 2.9%.

Larry R. Hygh Jr. , as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

Central Russia Annual Conference met June 21-23. The conference was able to meet for the first time in the seminary building in Moscow. The chapel was the plenary hall, and most of the members from the Volga District stayed in student rooms and guest rooms. It was a little uncomfortable for the Moscow members, several of whom spent more than an hour commuting from their homes; but there was much joy and pride from the fact that the conference was assembled in its own facilities. Central Russia also has the most experienced leadership and the most diverse set of congregations in the episcopal area. As the capital, Moscow naturally has been the center of Methodism since its reestablishment 15 years ago and has fostered several of its key leaders. However, the conditions for ministry in the capital are different from cities and villages in the Volga district. - Hans Växby, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Central Texas met June 4-7 in Waco with Bishop Ben R. Chamness introducing "Follow Me: NOW" as the conference theme for the next three years. The focus for 2006 is on the "Witnessing to Our Faith" portion of the Nurture, Outreach, and Witness program areas. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women, Gail Ford Smith (Texas Conference) was guest preacher at all four services. Members supported the Council of Bishops' statement opposing Judicial Council Decision 1032 and the Millennium Campaign to end global poverty. They reaffirmed a moratorium on the death penalty in Texas. In other actions, members 1) approved funding for the new clergy retirement security program; 2) approved a budget of $9.9 million, an increase of 3.37%; 3) closed three churches, with $25,000 from the sale of one to be directed to a neighboring congregation of the Rio Grande Conference, and restored one church; 4) celebrated 32 consecutive years of membership growth, a 91.2% payout of 2005 general church apportionments, and the ten-year anniversary of a covenant relationship with the Eastern Mexico Conference; 5) received the clergy portion of a two-part study/document on clergy and congregational effectiveness, plus a report on hosting the 2008 General Conference; and 6) designated the conference offering of more than $19,000 for development of a communications center in the North Katanga Conference, Congo. Membership is 160,119, up 1,566.

- Carolyn E. Stephens, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

East Ohio met June 19-22 in Lakeside. Bishop John Hopkins presided over the conference held with the theme "Disciples on the Same Journey: Worship, Devotion, Compassion, and Justice." In other business, members approved 1) the "Let Justice Roll" Minimum Wage Campaign, co-sponsored by the Ohio Council of Churches; 2) supporting the purchase of garments produced through a partnership with worker owned cooperatives; 3) renewing the commitment to implement the denomination's outreach and media campaign, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors"; 4) urging appropriate legislative committees to provide childcare subsidies and continue funding of Head Start; 5) supporting the availability of education opportunities as an allowable work activity for qualified parents receiving public assistance; 6) urging Governor Robert Taft to provide continued Welfare Reform implementation and insure jobs, education, and training for the working poor; and 7) the Commission on Equitable Compensation's report, which will freeze minimum salaries in 2007 at the 2006 level. More than $37,000 was collected for the Bishops' Katrina Church Recovery Appeal. In addition, members contributed more than $8,300, which was divided equally among three projects: 1) new clinic projects at Open M and the Urban Mission in Ohio; 2) the Russian Initiative; and 3) the Bishop's Discretionary Fund. Membership is 180,099, down 1,860. - Kay Panovec, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

East Russia and Central Asia met May 4-6. It was a great joy to hear about the development in Central Asia. There are still difficulties with the official registration of the church in Kazakhstan, but last December it was finally possible to buy a mission center in Almaty. The conference could hear and see the development in Central Asia. The stories and personal testimonies were a great inspiration, and two persons in Kazakhstan and two in Uzbekistan were licensed and welcomed as local pastors. - Hans Växby, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Eastern Pennsylvania met in Philadelphia, June 21-23, with the theme "Living Connected as God's People: Celebrating the Connection." The Africa University Choir sang for the opening worship. Bishop Marcus Matthews commissioned 11 probationary members. James Salley, associate vice-chancellor for Africa University, led Bible studies. The conference received $82,496.66 in an offering for the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal. The 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women was celebrated with worship and preaching by Melinda McKonly, who sang her own humorous blues song about being a woman in ministry. The conference affirmed support of its partnership with the conference in Nigeria in operating a mobile health clinic in Northern Nigeria. In business, the conference 1) approved a budget of $3.7 million for conference ministries and almost $2.8 million for the general church and World Service; 2) approved a new apportionment system in support of connectional ministries; and 3) received a check in the amount of $11,946 from Cokesbury to be contributed to the Central Conference Pension Fund. Membership is 125,902, down 2,594.

- Suzy Keenan, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Finland-Swedish Provisional met June 6-11 in Jakobstad, Finland. The Swedish-language Methodist Church in Finland celebrated 125 years in Finland at this year's session. The conference theme was inspired by the city's symbols: the cross for faith, the anchor for hope, and the heart for love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Guest speaker to the conference was Elisabet Öman from Trollhättan, Sweden. The church's 125 years were remembered in a speech delivered by Leif-Göte Björklund. Erik Hellsten held a one-man performance about how, in the beginning, Pastor Carlson came into Finland after the church in Sweden had recognized that so many drunken Finnish sailors where in Swedish harbors. Carlson was a Swedish immigrant to the United States, who had returned to Sweden. He then left his wife and six children and came to his calling in Finland. He knew no one in the country and did not speak a word of Finnish. He met an old friend at the hotel, who helped Carlson to get started. Bishop Øystein Olsen presided over the business sessions. The most-debated question was in regard to the salaries of the pastors and church workers. The initial proposition of a nearly 22% raise over a two-year period was not approved; and a moderated proposition of a 10% raise in a shorter time was approved. Church membership and giving were down from the previous year, but these changes were not significant.

- Håkan Wiik, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Iowa met June 8-11 in Ames and was led by Bishop Gregory V. Palmer. The theme, "Growing as Generous People: Stewards of Justice," continued a three-year emphasis of "Growth" and "Stewardship." A "Women's 'Herstory'" celebration, a commemorative book, and a video recollection remembered the 50th anniversary of the full clergy rights of women. Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (Dakotas Area) was the ordination service preacher. In his episcopal address,

Bishop Palmer noted that "we are called to the missionary proclamation of the gospel in word and deed, universally-not just to those who look like us, are educated like us, talk like us, live in houses like us . . . the gospel is to all creation, starting right where we are!" Two evenings were devoted to holy conferencing on homosexuality. Two task forces brought reports to the session, calling for a reduction in the number of districts from 12 to eight and a different pattern for ministry funding. Cokesbury presented a check in the amount of $18,035, which was received and given to the Central Conferences Pension Fund. The Iowa UM Foundation announced an anticipated gift of $500,000 for seminary scholarships. A CD/DVD package to assist with the interpretation of apportionments was presented to each appointed clergyperson. A budget of $29,772,052, a 1.25% increase over 2006, was approved. Membership is 193,648, down 805.

Arthur McClanahan, as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

Kansas East met May 31-June 3 at Baker University in Baldwin City under the leadership of Bishop Scott J. Jones. The conference theme was "Nurturing Disciples of Jesus Christ." The assembly celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. The conference adopted strategic plans for revitalizing churches, planting new churches, ministering with ethnic populations, and cultivating student ministries. Two area offices will immediately be shared with Kansas West The personnel committee will bring further staff recommendations to the 2007 session.

The Kansas East Annual Conference approved, by an overwhelming majority, a petition entitled "Non-Discrimination for Kansas East Local Churches" that states that "no pastor in the Kansas East Conference shall deny membership in a Kansas East United Methodist Church solely based on the candidate for membership being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual." Immediately upon approval of this petition, a motion was made and approved that the conference petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to whether or not this petition is in compliance with Amendment IV of the constitution and ¶¶ 124 and 214. The conference forbade pastors from denying church membership based on sexual orientation. Members asked the Judicial Council to rule on whether this action is in compliance with Amendment IV of the constitution and ¶¶ 124 and 214 of the Discipline. In 2007, church pension bills will drop from 16.4% of a pastor's compensation to 10%. The reduction is possible because of conference efforts to fund the pre-1982 pension program and prudent investments. Membership is 74,962, down 753.

- Gary A. Beach, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006 and June 30, 2006

Kentucky met June 5-8 in Bowling Green under the leadership of Bishop James R. King. The 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women was observed with a procession of clergywomen, diaconal ministers, and deaconesses during the opening worship service. Jean Hawxhurst and Kathy Goodwin led the morning devotions. At the ordination and commissioning service, Alice Scott and Mallonee Hubbard read a litany of the 1956 General Conference action giving full clergy rights to women. The conference thanked churches for donations and services to persons affected by Gulf Coast hurricanes, and they were urged to send more volunteer teams to the area. Members gave $62,000 for the Kentucky East Africa Initiative, the Russian UM Seminary, and Kentucky Urban Missions. Membership is 152,129, down 2.

- Kevin D. Evers, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Louisiana met June 4-7 at Centenary College in Shreveport under the leadership of Bishop William W. Hutchinson. The theme was "Justifying Grace: Opening the Door to a House Not Made With Hands." The image of this spiritual house was a front porch facade topped with a blue tarp, reminiscent of thousands of tarps on rooftops after the hurricanes. Paul Dirdak, director of UMCOR, praised the assembly for recovery efforts. Mission teams from as far away as Mexico and South Africa provided nearly one million volunteer hours. Bishop Hutchinson reorganized New Orleans into a cooperative parish mission zone. In a morning Bible study, Bishop William Oden (retired) spoke of justifying grace. Dorothy Watson Tatem, a clergy member of Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, preached during a service recognizing the 50th anniversary of clergy rights for women. Marva Mitchell narrated a re-enactment of the 1956 General Conference at which women were granted full clergy rights membership. Membership is 126,834, down 225.

Betty Backstrom, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Missouri met for the first time in Springfield. Bishop Robert Schnase led the June 9-12 session. He asked members to face the reality that during the past 40 years, the population of Missouri increased 29% while membership in the UMC dropped 32%. The bishop commissioned a "Pathways" task force to realign conference mission, ministry, and money in order to increase worship attendance by 5,000 during the next six years. On Saturday, members contributed 1,000 volunteer work hours on mission projects. They built five accessibility ramps, renovated an adult daycare center, improved the interior of a children's clothing service, and provided maintenance at a therapeutic riding center. In the evening, the assembly celebrated conference gifts of cash, time, and in-kind articles totaling more than $4 million to various missions during 2005. Churches also assembled 1,437 personal hygiene kits and 183 clean-up buckets; they gave 100 baby blankets and raised $3,142 for shipping costs and for churches affected by last year's hurricanes. UMCOR gave the conference $500,000 to assist hurricane victims now living in Missouri.

Conference chancellor Larry Tucker reported that the Norris case has been settled. This case had been in appeal since last year when a jury awarded the plaintiff a $3 million judgment against the conference for failure to supervise a pastor. The settlement ends all appeals. Insurance will cover $300,000 of the costs. Other annual conferences offered to contribute $200,000, including $30,000 from the Louisiana Conference; 50% of these offerings were accepted. The rest of the money came from conference reserve funds and a two-year "Legal Contingency Fund" apportionment. A task force recently revised policies and procedures related to clergy sexual ethics. The body approved a 2007 budget that is about $1.5 million less than the 2006 budget. Two primary factors for the decrease are the direct billing of disability premiums and the removal of the Legal Contingency Fund. Members celebrated 50 years of full ordination rights for women with a procession of active and retired clergywomen. Membership is 173,794, down 2,228. Worship attendance stands at 85,305, up 433. Church school attendance stands at 33,608, down 1,480.

Fred Koenig, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Nebraska met June 14-17 in Kearney with Bishop Ann B. Sherer presiding. Members approved "The Comprehensive Proposal for Change" with only about ten dissenting votes. The proposal focuses on lay and clergy leadership development for leading evangelism efforts to grow existing and new churches. The most talked-about component is the move to six districts in 2007. Resolutions included 1) urging the government to close Guantanamo Bay; 2) asking Congress to commit an additional 1% of the federal budget to development and humanitarian assistance by 2010; 3) urging Nebraska churches to raise $1 per church member for the Global AIDS Fund; and 4) taking an anti-gambling stance. A resolution dealing with the severe alcohol abuse in White Clay was referred to the Native American Committee. A resolution "To Declare Opposition to Judicial Council Ruling 1032 Regarding Discrimination in Receiving Members Into the United Methodist Congregations" was referred to the conference board of Christian social witness. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women started with a rush of wind as a storm overtook the convention center. Membership is 83,015, down 1,322. - Kathryn Witte, as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

New England met June 7-10 at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., with Bishop Peter Weaver presiding. The theme was "Holy Conferencing: Seeking Wholeness." A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women told of pioneers and saints who paved the way. The conference now has the largest percentage of women elders in the United States. The Africa University Choir and youth from Camp Mechuwana provided music. Members asked the conference council on finance and administration to consider basing mission shares on 10% of a church's gross income rather than on current spending. They also created task forces to review local church and conference-held properties, financial assets of closed churches, retiree benefits, the development of a network of stewardship consultants, and a Mission Share Interpretation and Communication Team. Members called for a restructuring of the conference budget, and encouraged local churches to establish automatic clearinghouses to receive direct billing for clergy retirement and property and health insurance. The assembly reorganized the annual conference by establishing a Conference Visioning Table that brings together the various ministries of the conference and district ministry teams to provide resources for local churches.

The conference called for: 1) churches to study and pray about local and global issues of migration, oppose further militarization of the Mexico-U.S. border, and to support comprehensive immigration reform; 2) churches to observe Global Aids Awareness Sunday and to contribute to the Advanced Special for AIDS; 3) pastors to welcome people into membership regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation; 4) churches to participate in peacemaking through prayer, study, and action; 5) church members to contact their congressional representatives to call for the orderly withdrawal of troops and personnel from Iraq; 6) states to adopt strategies and policies to support the construction and financing of affordable housing for first-time home buyers; and 7) General Conference to eliminate disciplinary paragraphs expressing bias against gay and lesbian persons and to safeguard the rights of all persons to become UM members. Membership stands at 95,777, down 3,059 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,526, down 1,055. Church school attendance stands at 9,486, down 2,070. - Joy Mueller, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

New York met June 7-10 at Hofstra University in Hempstead with Bishop Jeremiah J. Park presiding. The theme was "For Such a Time as This: We Are the Church Together." Members approved a new vision statement: "The conference through the grace of God embodies a beloved community of hope, building up a healthy body of Christ, with heart-warmed UMs in mission for the transformation of the world." Members celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (Los Angeles Area) said, "After 50 years, we must now relate to those who evening, the assembly celebrated conference gifts of cash, time, and in-kind articles totaling more than $4 million to are still waiting for full acceptance-the undocumented, children, the gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexuals, the poor, homeless, differently-abled, and the peacemakers." Members approved a budget of $8.8 million, up 6.1%, the first increase in four years. One elder from the Salvation Army had his orders recognized, and he received full conference membership. The ordination service concluded with nearly 2,500 choir and church members singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." In other business, the assembly: 1) recognized 17 retiring elders and two retiring local pastors; 2) declared that conference churches will welcome into membership all who are willing to affirm the membership vows of the UMC; 3) encouraged pastors to minister enthusiastically to all persons regardless of race, class, ability, gender, or sexual orientation; and 4) held a public Saturday session in which 2,000 people heard reports of VIM teams that provided post-hurricane relief in Mississippi and mission efforts in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Haiti, and India. Membership is 123,964, down 2,782 from the previous year.

- Donald E. Collier, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

North Central New York met June 1-4 with Bishop Violet Fisher presiding. The revival started with a praise band leading camp and rock songs, followed by inspiration and humor in retired Bishop Judith Craig's preaching. The carnival atmosphere was headlined by hand puppets singing. When it was revealed that there were 90 unfunded campers, Bishop Fisher announced she was increasing her scholarship contributions to two and invited conference members to do likewise, ready to make donations of $335 each. The $7,245.64 Cokesbury check will go to support health insurance and pensions for central conferences. The annual conference also agreed to begin dialogue with conferences in Africa with the intention of providing support in years to come. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1956 General Conference resolution to allow women full clergy rights, the annual conference presented each female elder with a set of 50 trading cards, with a photo of the woman in the corner [and] information such as the current charge, previous appointments, name of seminary, year of ordination as an elder, interests and hobbies, honors and publications…. The laity luncheon featured UM Women and UM Men reports of Miracle Month mission projects, which most churches did in May. In actions taken, the conference agreed to ask congregations to receive an AIDS/HIV offering in September. A 3.5% budget increase will total $3,811,284. Members supported a resolution reaffirming a policy of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors" by congregations in the conference. The conference approved a process of dialogue; shareholder action; and, as a last resort, divestment from companies "that are supporting in a significant way the occupation of Palestine by Israel." Membership is 77,291, down 1,758. - Nelson Price and Sharon Fulmer, as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

Northern Illinois met June 11-14 in St. Charles. The theme was "Courageous Visioning for the Future." Bishop Hee-Soo Jung presided. The conference 1) approved a 2007 budget of $7,546,053, almost $120,000 less than the 2006 budget; 2) adopted a new Clergy Retirement Security Program to replace the existing pension program; and 3) voted to sell the Northern Illinois University Wesley Foundation building and use the income to fund continuation of the ministry. The conference stated that the use of torture by the U.S. government is "both widespread and systematic" and demanded legislation be written to "cease and desist from these un-Christian practices." Members also rejected "the understandings" used to justify Judicial Council Decision 1032 that allowed a pastor to prohibit a gay man from becoming a member. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (Los Angeles Area) preached for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of ordination of women. Bishop Choong Sik Kim, Seoul South Conference of the Korean Methodist Church, addressed the conference following a signing of the sister relationship covenant. Bishop Yangon Mawia, Methodist Church in Lower Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, also addressed the conference. Two other judicatory leaders (Bishop Paul Landahl, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Jane Fisler Hoffman, United Church of Christ) participated. Members called for the Philippine government to "stop the killing of church people, journalists, and other progressive individuals and groups," and opposed Governor Rod Blagojevich's proposal to sell or lease the Illinois state lottery to a private company. Membership is 107,602, down 2,556. - Linda S. Rhodes, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

Northwest Russia met May 18-20. Irina Mukhachyova retired and was succeeded in Kirov by this year's seminary graduate, Kira Volkova. The new pastor in Sovietsk, Valentina Stavrova, is this year's graduate from the seminary in Moscow. The St. Petersburg District has taken two initiatives in publishing. Sol, the Russian word for "salt," is a quarterly magazine with the main purpose used to reach out to non-members. It has a fresh, modern layout, simple teaching about the faith, testimonies, an introduction of Methodism, and information about where our churches are. The district has also published a UM calendar. Both publications have been sent to other parts of the episcopal area. Upon hearing a report and inquiry from the Eurasia Area Administrative Council, the conference responded that it wanted to keep the board of ordained ministry on the area level. - Hans Växby, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Oregon-Idaho met June 7-10 at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, under the leadership of Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata. Elaine Stanovsky, superintendent in the Pacific Northwest Conference, preached. Members celebrated: 1) a partnership with the Liberia Conference; 2) conference teams that aided recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina; 3) gifts totaling more than $750,000 for hurricane relief; 4) a gift of $20,474 to the Idaho Food Bank; and 5) the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women with a video of Bishop Hoshibata interviewing Grace Weaver, one of the first Oregon clergywomen.

The Conference Leadership Team created five teams: 1) Embracing Evangelism and Sharpening Our UM Identity; 2) Resourcing Our Connection in Order to Undertake the Ministries to Which We Are Called; 3) Strengthening the Bonds of Our Connection; 4) Enhancing Clergy Well-being and Wholeness; and 5) Discerning Whether to Change the Number of Districts and/or District Superintendents. In business sessions, the assembly: 1) established a local church wellness agreement; 2) asked for a study of how superintendents are assigned and districts configured; 3) endorsed the Oregon Faith and the Idaho Interfaith Roundtables Against Hunger; 4) agreed to work for peace in Iraq; 5) endorsed SMART security; 6) joined efforts to reform the payday loan industry; 7) supported pregnancy and family planning and the right of choice; 8) opposed pre-emptive nuclear strikes; 9) called for the closure of the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas); and 10) asked General Conference to prohibit pastors from discriminating against persons seeking church membership and to protect UM agency staff members from sexual harassment. Membership is 33,783, down 635. - Linda Sullivan, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Pacific Northwest met June 14-17 with Bishop Ed Paup presiding. He gave the episcopal address, sharing what it means to be "God's Beloved Community, One With Each Other," this year's conference theme. He shared about the recently-started work that could someday link UMs in the Pacific Rim, from Washington to Canada, Alaska, and the Philippines.The conference 1) expressed dismay with Judicial Council Decision 1032 and covenanted as individuals to demonstrate the welcome and call of Christ to all; 2) endorsed the "Interfaith Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform"; 3) urged attention to all human rights abuses in the Middle East and to work for implementation of an International Bill of Human Rights; 4) supported the Council of Bishops' "Resolution on the War in Iraq" and directed the conference to write a letter to President George W. Bush and representatives in Washington and Idaho, asking them to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Iraq; and 5) adopted a $5,822,538 budget. Membership is 59,089 down 1,606. - David Valera, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

Peninsula-Delaware met June 7-11 in Princess Anne, Md., with Bishop Marcus Matthews presiding. The annual conference sessions, with the theme "One Lord, One Mission . . . To All the World," began June 9. The opening worship featured Bishop Matthews. Guests for the conference included Bishop David Yemba (Central Congo Area) and his wife, Henrietta. "Bishop Peter D. Weaver Central Congo Partnership Renewal,"a resolution for the continuation of a partnership between the Central Congo and the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, was passed. The budget, totaling $5.075 million [a 2% increase from last year.] was passed. Karen Greenwaldt, general secretary at the General Board of Discipleship, brought the message during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. The conference also celebrated with the Korean ministries through music, dance, and a history of the Methodist Church in Korea as well as the Korean American congregations within the conference. "Resolution for Colloquium on Membership and Ministry in Light of Recent Judicial Council Rulings" was brought before the body and was adopted by a vote of 213 to 172. Membership is 93,654, down 676. - Tamara Ward, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

Rio Grande met June 1-3 at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, under the theme, "Un Momento Nuevo Con Cristo" or "A New Moment With Christ." The cabinet drew new district lines in January reflecting reduction from four districts to three. Members approved implementation of the Common Table, a 26-member voting body to carry out the programmatic portfolios previously held by the conference council on ministries.. Members celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women with three sharing their personal ministry testimonies. Thirty clergywomen were highlighted as serving in the conference during the past 50 years. Bishop Minerva Carcaño (Phoenix Area) was noted as the conference's first female elder and superintendent and the UMC's first Hispanic female bishop. The conference approved a $908,116 budget for 2007, a 10% increase beyond 2006. Members approved a resolution on immigration reform calling all churches to 1) receive training on immigration and border issues and to adopt a curriculum for study; 2) create local ministries for immigrants such as ESL and citizenship classes and to work with Justice for Our Neighbors to establish immigration clinics, to organize fellowship dinners, and to advocate for justice; 3) become sanctuary churches; 4) support a border ministry in cooperation with the Southwest Texas Conference; and 5) examine carefully the situation in the United States, and to seize opportunity for inclusion of immigrants. [It] also urges legislators to support fair and just immigration laws 1) treating immigrants with dignity and respect; 2) allowing undocumented immigrants contributing to our society to remain and become permanent residents and eventually citizens; 3) providing for guest workers to receive fair wages, treatment, and protection of the law; 4) granting permanent residence to college bound students; 5) safeguarding asylum seekers and insuring an opportunity for fair hearing; and 6) protecting individuals and organizations acting as good Samaritans. Conference membership is 14,468, down 38. - Abel Vega Jr., as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

Rocky Mountain met June 21-24 in Denver around the theme "Caring Hands Unite: Churches Building Churches." Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. announced he would lead study groups on two books, Good to Great and Good to Great and the Social Sectors. The celebration of 50 years of full clergy rights for women featured streamers above and on the arms of about 200 clergywomen, who also wore brightly-colored stoles. Bishop Minerva Carcaño (Phoenix Area) preached both services. Also affirmed was an invitation to pastors to "voluntarily relinquish the authority granted them by the Judicial Council decision 1032" and receive those willing, after suitable instruction, to affirm the membership vows. The US House Resolution 676 was supported, which would move towards a "Medicare for all" approach to healthcare. General Conference petitions approved included one mandating the pastor be present at staff/pastor-parish relations committee meetings (¶ 259.2e) except when the pastor voluntarily excuses his or herself; asking that "sensitive attention be given to clergy when there are family members with physical or mental challenges" (¶ 430.1); and mandating
complete investigation of "apparent, alleged, or suspected" discrimination, especially in cross-racial appointments (¶ 604.1). Membership is 67,261, down 2.73% [1836]. - Ben Roe, as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

South Carolina met June 4-7 in Orangeburg with the theme "Following Jesus in This Way of Life." Members observed the 50th anniversary of women receiving full clergy rights with women preaching and administering Holy Communion, with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding. Churches collected 1,800 school kits, valued at $36,000, for 24 schools across the state. They also raised more than $33,000 for the Bishops' Katrina Church Recovery Appeal and $32,000 for a water project at Old Mutare Mission in Zimbabwe. Members changed the philosophy of the newly named conference council on connectional ministries from coordinating conference-wide programs to equipping local churches.

Members set the 2007 budget at $16.5 million, up 0.5%. They approved resolutions calling for: 1) protection of children from poverty in South Carolina; 2) Congress to refrain from passing immigration laws that divide families, make felons, encourage mistreatment of immigrants, or criminalize the efforts of faith organizations; and 3) support of the UMC Global AIDS Fund by setting a date and taking offerings. A resolution supporting human rights and peace in the Middle East was referred to the conference board of church and society. Two churches were discontinued. Membership is 241,664, down 16. - Allison Trussell, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Southern Russia met May 25-27. Bishop Hans Växby presided. The conference was held at Camp Voronezh, which was bought a few years ago mainly with the help of gifts from German Sunday schools. It is owned by the five conferences in the episcopal area, but since last year most of its board members live in the region and are working hard with the financial challenges and ongoing renovation. - Hans Växby, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

Tennessee met June 11-13 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with Bishop Dick Wills presiding. The conference is attempting to raise $100,000 for food and medical care for children in Kamina, North Katanga, Congo. Conference members packaged 45,000 pounds of sweet potatoes at a potato drop. The potatoes went to agencies feeding the hungry throughout Middle Tennessee and northern Alabama. The conference also embarked on a mission to raise funds and pledges for the Bishop's Appeal for Katrina Church Recovery. Each congregation is urged to promote the bishop's appeal and to have a special offering for the next three years. Special presentations celebrated the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Bishop Sally Dyck (Minnesota Area) preached, pointing out the need for increased attention to the evangelistic mission of the church. The conference requested the Common Table address the matters raised by rising health costs for clergy and the direct billing to local churches of clergy pensions and that the Common Table report back to the 2007 annual conference. Conference membership is 117,350, up 768. - Tom Nankervis, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

Ukraine and Moldova met May 10-13. The conference began with the sad news that two pastors left the ministry and connection during the winter, in one case together with his congregation. However, new colleagues were introduced. Todd Wilson is a UM pastor who has lived in Ukraine for some years, working in interdenominational mission projects. He has now received an appointment and assumes responsibility for the church in Poltava. Lyubomir Rudko became a new local pastor during the conference. He comes from the student ministry in Lvov, where he is now appointed as assistant to missionary Fred Vanderwerf. - Hans Växby, as reported in UMNewscope, July 21, 2006.

West Virginia met June 8-10 in Buckhannon. Bishop Ernest S. Lyght announced that $937,000 had been contributed for UMCOR Hurricane Katrina Relief. The assembly approved a 2007 budget of $12 million. After intense discussion, members defeated a resolution calling local churches to read, distribute, and study a statement opposing the Iraq war signed by more than half of the UM bishops. The body also defeated a resolution that would have affirmed open membership in the church "to all who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ." In other business, Bishop Lyght noted that the conference had netted an average of only seven new members per year since 1990. Members celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women by reading biographies of various women pioneers in the church. The guest preacher was Maxine Beach, dean of Drew University Theological School. Members applauded a report of the pastoral response to the needs of the families of coal miners who died in the Sago mine disaster. The assembly approved resolutions: 1) supporting the right of workers at Peabody Coal Company mines to unionize; 2) urging churches to study global climate change; 3) asking state legislative leaders to exempt churches from a state tax on propane and heating oil; and 4) inviting churches to raise money for the UM Global AIDS Fund. Membership is 105,342, down 537. Worship attendance stands at 51,812, down 1,059. - Tom Burger, as reported in UMNewscope, June 23, 2006.

Western New York met June 9-11 in Buffalo. Bishop Violet Fisher ordained six elders and commissioned four probationary members. The clergy, she said, need to ask themselves about what's happened to the Bible and why it is not being used. "Oh yes, we have our e-mail, our Palm Pilots, our two-way pagers, our computers, Web sites, our Black Berries, Instant Messenger,"; and still the Word of God is not getting out. Held under the theme "Celebrating our Gifts," the session celebrated the 50th anniversary of granting of full clergy rights to women. Action included 1) establishing a relationship with fellow UMs in the North Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; 2) endorsing of the further exploration of greater effectiveness as servants of Jesus Christ in the world through the gifts and resources of the North Central New York, Troy, Western New York, and Wyoming conferences; 3) requesting the Commission on the General Conference to reconsider the invitation of the president of the United States or any U.S. political leaders to address General Conference in 2008; and 4) discontinuing St. Paul's UMC in Niagara Falls, N.Y., effective June 30, freeing the building for new ministry opportunities. Membership is 57,093, down 1,305.

- Marilyn J. Kasperek and Maidstone Mulenga, as reported in UMNewscope, July 14, 2006.

Wisconsin met June 11-14 in Madison with Bishop Linda Lee presiding. Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher (Illinois Area) returned to Wisconsin to share in a service for the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. Also, to mark the theme of the conference, "Celebrating Our Journey, Continuing Our Hope," members and guests remembered the 150th anniversary of the Evangelical Association in Wisconsin. Twelve people from the Dongbu Conference of the Korean Methodist Church, including Bishop Park Geo-Chong, visited as part of an on-going sister relationship. Members filled a semi-truck from the Midwest Mission Distribution Center with nine tons of flood buckets, sewing, birthing, school, and health kits. Sixty-five percent of conference churches participated and collected $16,000 for shipping and other supplies. Members received a new vision statement, "Live, Give, Love. Beyond All Expectation." The monies received from the UM Publishing House will be sent to the Central Conference Pension Initiative Fund. The 2007 conference budget was approved at $7.4 million, down 1.3%. Members 1) re-affirmed a motion made in 2005 to oppose the proposed state constitutional marriage amendment yet enter into informed and respectful dialogue with persons
of all opinions; 2) passed a "Respect Resolution" calling for public forums in neutral settings to provide positive influence and respectful dialogue around the issues of the marriage amendment and proposed enactment of a state death penalty; 3) affirmed a wellness covenant to increase attention to both spiritual and physical health; 4) supported the principle of national legislation on universal health care; 5) called upon elected officials to enact dignity and humanitarian U.S. immigration policies to ensure safety and basic human rights; and 6) called for the passage of H.R. 1217 and the suspension of operations at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Membership is 93,944, down 1,915. - Jane Follmer Zekoff, as reported in UMNewscope, July 7, 2006.

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God forgives not capriciously, but with wise, definite,

Divine pre-arrangement; forgives universally, on the grounds of

an atonement and on the condition of repentance and faith.

- Richard Salter Storrs

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