The Monthly Update

July 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This edition of the Monthly Update contains a continuation of the summaries of the annual conference meetings from the United Methodist Church.

As we go into the Fourth of July holidays let us take time to consider the factors that go into making the United States a great country – our foundation on the basis of worshiping God, the free market system, and individual freedom and responsibility.

The Good Lord knows that many in our society try to abrogate their responsibilities - which tends to erode our national character; let us pray that this will be restored. Let us also cherish our individual and national freedoms and fight to keep them.

While we here in the United States are being kept safe by others who are at this time risking their lives overseas to defend them, let us pause in our celebrations to lift them up in prayer:

Our Heavenly Father, we pause on this day in which we celebrate the winning of our independence over 200 years ago. We know that this was not an accident but that it was from You. Many times we have seen the picture of George Washington kneeling at Valley Forge as he was praying to You; he was a godly man sent "for such a time as this" was. We have studied how the colonial forces lost battle after battle after battle in its fight against the most powerful military country on the face of the earth at that time – but then, just when all seemed lost, they won the final, most important battles that secured the liberty of what would become The United States. This was because of You.

At this time there are men and women who are on other battlefields fighting to preserve our freedom. Heavenly Father, we lift them up to your merciful care. We pray that You would provide a hedge of protection around them against all physical and spiritual harm. Preserve their lives against the weapons and strategies of the enemy. At the same time, our Merciful God we ask that you would pierce the hearts of the enemy with the Truth of your Son Jesus Christ and the resurrection provided by the sacrifice of His precious blood. We pray that both – the military actions by our brave men and women and Your convicting of the hearts of the enemy - will succeed in providing a beachhead of Christianity in the heart of Islam, and that this action will spread around throughout the other countries bringing the light of Jesus Christ to those held in spiritual bondage. We pray that they also will come to know Your son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is in His name that we pray, Amen.

All of us here at Concerned Methodists wish you a happy, safe, and joyous Fourth of July.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,

Executive Director

July 2006 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

The quote of the month is by Jay Leno:

With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, "Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

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Of Interest..

+ U.S. United Methodist membership drops below 8 million

[Note: This is a preliminary statistic whose figures are not yet finalized, although it does provide a good basis for the forecasted membership drop and are supported by the data we are receiving from other sources in the annual conferences.]

For the first time since the 1930s, the U.S. membership of the United Methodist Church has dropped to just under 8 million. A preliminary report from the denomination's General Council on Finance and Administration, released June 21, shows that total U.S. membership dropped to 7,989,875 in 2005. Membership decreased 1.05 percent in 2005, as compared to the decrease of 0.81 percent, to about 8.07 million in 2004. Membership had declined annually since the formation of the denomination in 1968.

- By Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service; New York {378}; Jun. 21, 2006.

+ Judicial Council to Determine Size of Cфte d’Ivoire Delegation

The governing committee of the quadrennial legislative assembly of the UMC is asking the Judicial Council to rule on the size of the delegation from Cфte d’Ivoire for the 2008 General Conference. Cфte d’Ivoire was accepted as the newest regional conference of The United Methodist Church at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. The Commission on the General Conference is asking for a ruling on the size of the delegation because of an apparent conflict between the 2004 action and the denomination’s constitution. Under the legislation adopted by the 2004 General Conference, Cфte d’Ivoire would be entitled to two voting delegates at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. That decision seems to conflict with the constitution, which apportions delegation sizes according to a formula outlined in the Discipline, said L. Fitzgerald Reist II, of Williamsport, Pa., the secretary of the General Conference. The Discipline gives the responsibility for making those determinations to the secretary. In asking the commission to seek a Judicial Council ruling on the issue, Reist said Cфte d’Ivoire could be entitled to up to 70 voting members if the apportionment formula were to be followed. That would make the West African nation’s delegation the largest at the conference. For the General Conference to stay within its 1,000-delegate limit, the size of other delegations would have to be reduced, Reist said.

- United Methodist News Service.

+ The Detroit Annual Conference and the West Michigan Annual Conference have approved a resolution to work toward a merger of the two conferences, which are served by the same bishop. The resolution, approved by 87.5% of Detroit Conference members and 78.3% of West Michigan, calls for Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton to appoint a transition team to develop a plan for merger which will then be brought back to each conference for an additional vote before final approval is sought from the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in 2008. - As reported in Newscope, June 9, 2006.


+ The immigration bill passed May 25 by the U.S. Senate does improve border security, create a guest worker program, and open the door to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but it is still not just or adequate, according to some UM leaders. Bill Mefford of the General Board of Church and Society said the bill does not go far enough, and R. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, continued a call for "full labor protections, family reunification, preservation of due process, and a path to genuine legalization." [Note: This reflects advocacy by two UM boards noted for their left-leaning political activism – which has no place in a church] - Kathy Gilbert, United Methodist News Service.

Results from the Annual Conferences

As you read these reports from the various annual conference sessions, notice how many of them have enthusiastic themes and talk about evangelistic efforts – yet pursue political/ social priorities, anti-Christian resolutions (supporting immoral behavior) and organizational-change programs to the exclusion of true life-changing experiences with the living Jesus Christ. Superficiality is no substitute for authentic Christian substance. In addition please note the many conferences that continue their record of membership losses and those that are planning mergers to deal with these continuing losses.

Alaska Missionary Conference met in Anchorage at St. John UMC May 26–28 under the leadership of Bishop Edward W. Paup. In its increasing awareness of its responsibility to be in ministry with the Native American people of Alaska, the theme of the conference was "God’s Beloved Community: Affirming the Worth of All." In a conference in which there were no petitions and very little legislation to be considered, each report from one of the major agencies of the conference was followed by a time of discernment and conversation. The conference lay leader, Dave Kobersmith, challenged the members to reflect on "who is at the river," using Acts 16:6-15 wherein Paul and his entourage from Asia first encountered worshipers gathered at the river on the outskirts of Phillipi.

In his address to the conference, Bishop Paup pointed out that as a reflection of who we are and where we do ministry and mission, the largest ethnic minority segment of the conference is Pacific Islander closely followed by Alaska Native.

He said the conference is called to be in special relationship with "Native Americans who were here before those of us in the majority." With deep gratitude to Dennis Holway who is retiring as part-time director of connectional ministries, Bishop Paup said Ray Buckley, currently a member of the staff of the General Commission on Communications (UMCom), beginning on July 1, will be assuming the newly created full-time position of director of connectional ministries with a special charge to deepen the ministry of the conference with the native people of Alaska, as well as strengthen the growing connection between the Alaska Missionary Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. Buckley, a lay person of mixed Tlinqit and Lakota ancestry, is deeply connected to Indian culture and is the

author of several books that tell some of the treasured stories he bears as part of his heritage.

  In adopting the report of the council on finance and administration, the conference made it policy to pay 100% of its general church apportionments, regardless of the level at which the local churches of the conference pay their apportioned

share of the budget. The year 2005 ended with membership at 4,000, down 45 from 2004.

Lonnie D. Brooks, as reported in Newscope, June 9, 2006.


Baltimore-Washington gathered with nearly 2,000 members in Baltimore May 25–27. "Connecting Through Christ," the second part of the Discipleship Adventure, was the theme. A new organizational plan was adopted, designed to ensure that the local church is the main thing, passed almost unanimously, andwill develop resources to help congregations become Acts 2 congregations. In his "State of the Church" report, Bishop John R. Schol stated the direction of the conference: to create 600 Acts 2 congregations by 2012. Currently, the conference has about 100 Acts 2 congregations. To be an Acts 2 congregation, a church needs to be reaching new believers, growing worship, and engaging in vital mission

in the community and world, the bishop said. The new organizational chart features a connectional table, similar in function to the denomination’s Connectional Table. Bishop Susan Morrison (Albany Area) participated. Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, offered a music-filled meditation prior to the celebration.

The conference also adopted, by a vote of 392-352, a resolution seeking to develop a culture in the conference that "expects and encourages" congregations to understand membership in the church is open to anyone. Church membership

is 196,847, down 1,994. Worship attendance stands at 74,754, down 2,124. Professions of faith were at 4,940 in 2005, down 175 from 2004. Church school attendance averaged 25,785, down 1,284.

Erik Alsgaard, as reported in Newscope, June 9, 2006.

Detroit gathered at UM-related Adrian College May 19–21. The conference affirmed the Council of Bishops’ pastoral letter "unanimously declaring the church’s historic stance that membership in a congregation is open to all persons. We further support their specific statement that ‘homosexuality is not a barrier’ for such membership." In other business, the conference 1) declared opposition to war against Iran; 2) declared opposition to torture and abuse of U.S. detainees; 3) urged UMs not to sign a petition to amend the Michigan constitution to criminalize abortion; 4) asked local churches to educate members on the intention of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would end affirmative

action; 5) approved a sliding scale (based on salary) for sharing health-care premiums between pastors and local churches; 6) approved merger of the foundations of the Detroit and West Michigan conferences; and 7) voted to reduce the number

of districts from seven to six effective July 1, 2007, if the merger process for the Detroit and West Michigan Conference is not approved. Bishop Jane Allen Middleton (Harrisburg Area) preached at the service of ordination and commissioning.

She joined Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton in ordaining seven elders and commissioning four probationary deacons and 13 probationary elders. Membership at the end of 2005 is 102,425, down 1,349 (1.30%).

— Ann Whiting, as reported in Newscope, June 2, 2006.


Florida met June 1–3 in Lakeland under the theme "Witness With Power," based on the first and second chapters of Acts. David Lowes Watson, director of the Office of Pastoral Formation for the Nashville Episcopal Area, lamented the church’s shift from a laity-driven movement to a religious organization managed by professional clergy. "Clergy are called to preach and teach the gospel," he said. "Laity are called to lead the church in discipleship." Members approved

a covenant relationship with the Methodist Church of Haiti. Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and Raphael Dessieu, president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, signed the covenant. Three resolutions stirred debate. One called for the conference to support a pastoral letter written by the Council of Bishops opposing a Judicial Council decision that supported the right of a Virginia Conference pastor to deny membership to an openly gay man. A second resolution thanked the Judicial Council for "maintaining integrity regarding the vows of membership." A third asked General Conference to amend ¶214 of the Discipline to include a sentence that prohibits exclusion of individuals from membership based on sexual orientation or gender identity. After considerable debate, members deferred the resolutions and asked the Conference Table to develop a process for discussing the issues more productively at the next annual conference session. Membership is 321,970, down 4,302.

–– A. Buchholz and Tita Parham, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

Germany North Annual Conference met May 3–7 at a former East Germany communist "Young Pioneer Camp" at Eberswalde/Werbellinsse. Bishop Rosememarie Wenner presided. The conference theme was "Where Two or Three Are Gathered in My Name (Matthew 18:20)." The bishop reminded the conference that this is not a demand to stay small as a church, but Christ’s promise to be with the few as well as with the many. There are six Ghanaian language churches within the Germany North Conference area. The bishop pointed out that the Ghanaian Methodist Church was founded 170 years ago and is therefore older than Methodism in Germany. The UMC in Germany and the Methodist Church in Ghana are in partnership.

The conference discussed the severe financial situation as well as the still shrinking membership. The conference had to use reserves of some 500,000 euros (approximately US$620,000) per year for a quadrennium to run operations and to

pay salaries. Members also received a more than 100-page overview report of the three district superintendents dealing in detail with the problems of the conference and the local congregations and discussed future steps to stabilize church work.

The conference discussed for half a day whether the financial situation will allow it to support the Oranienburg Mission Church (and its Division on Ministries With Young People project) with 335,000 euros (US$425,000) to replace the "Church in the Container" with a small, permanent Church Center building. Finally, this was approved with a vote of 129–37. Members also learned that Clarence Antwi-Boasiakoh would return to Ghana and Robert Schwarz to the United States, both after five years of service at Duesseldorf. The conference, though, rejoiced in 50 years of full rights of clergywomen when Christel Grueneke retired. Grueneke is the first ordained female clergy in Germany.  

Baptized membership is 10,733, down 173 (1.6%) from 2004.

- Heinrich Meinhardt, as reported in Newscope, June 2, 2006.

Illinois Great Rivers met June 8–11 at the Peoria Civic Center, under the leadership of Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher. The theme was "By Faith…In Tents," based on Hebrews 11:8-19. The conference : 1) received a report on the conference partnership with the Liberia Annual Conference and gave nearly $4,000 to purchase rise for the conference; 2) offered prayers in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women; 3) chartered Fountain of Life UMC, east of Springfield, and recognized two other churches chartered earlier this year: Jesus es el Seсor and Cobden and Quest, Urbana; 4) received items for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center and Kumler Neighborhood Ministries; 5) received $20,101 from the UM Publishing House and voted to give the funds to Central Conference pastors; 6) approved direct church billing of pensions and health insurance; 7) referred a proposal for tithe-based apportionments to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration; 8) tabled a proposal requiring parsonages for full-time appointed clergy; 9) urged local churches to provide full accessibility for those with disabilities; 10) approved a 2007 budget of $13.8 million; and 11) received four offerings totaling nearly $25,000. Membership is 149,003, down 3,115.

–– Susan Meister, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

 Kansas West met May 24–26 in Salina, Kan., at the Bicentennial Center under the leadership of Bishop Scott J. Jones. The conference theme was "Deliberate Discipleship." The conference unanimously adopted strategic plans for church revitalization, planting new churches, ministering with ethnic populations, and cultivating student ministries.

  The conference adopted resolutions 1) establishing a process for helping clergy who are not meeting effectiveness criteria to become more effective in ministry; 2) encouraging local churches and conference agencies to purchase and use Fair Trade coffee; 3) encouraging each local church to contribute $300 toward hunger relief annually as part of the One Field, One Round project; 4) encouraging churches to observe Red Ribbon Week; 5) encouraging churches to celebrate their appointed clergy; 6) setting the 2007 budget at $5.7 million; 7) declaring September Open House Month in the conference; and 8) declaring the conference’s intent to establish an area communications office with the Kansas East Conference. The conference received $8,588.05 from the UM Publishing House and voted unanimously to give the funds to the central conference pension effort. Bishop Jones ordained two elders and one deacon. He also accepted two persons into associate membership. Bishop Jones commissioned eight for the ministry of elder and one for the ministry of deacon. One local pastor and six elders retired. Membership is 85,796, down 472 (0.5%) from 2004. Worship attendance stands at 36,346, down 426 (1.2%). Church school attendance was 14,883, down 493 (3.2%).

Lisa Elliott Diehl, as reported in Newscope, June 9, 2006.


Memphis met June 4–7 in Paducah under the leadership of Bishop Richard Willis Jr. The assembly marked the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in an emotion-filled worship service on the evening of June 5. In other sessions, members: 1) called church members to reflect prayerfully on whether agencies of the church should continue membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; 2) created an Advisory Committee on New Church Development to nurture and identify new church start pastors, train those pastors, identify ways in which new churches can be started, and consult with district superintendents on where new churches are needed. The proposed 2006-07 budget of $9.24 million was increased by conference action. Membership is 88,123, down 700.

–– Cathy Farmer, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


Minnesota met May 30–June 2 in St. Cloud. Presiding Bishop Sally Dyck urged the assembly to "feed the root" of faith through daily Bible study and prayer to create a foundation for sharing their blossoming faith through word and action. Robert Tuttle, professor of evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, encouraged members to make faith-sharing part of their lives. To give members practice at sharing their faith each day, members would turn to those sitting next to them and discuss some specific questions about how they experienced God in their lives. Among the 47 items of legislation addressed by conference members were nine petitions to General Conference. These petitions recommend changes to the Discipline that would make the church’s ministries, including membership, ordination, and marriage, open to all people, regardless of ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors. One petition asked to insert into ¶161G the sentence "Christians of good faith differ on what Christian teaching reveals regarding homosexuality."

  Members approved items: 1) asking Minnesota legislators to refrain from cutting financial support for long-term

health care; 2) collecting $1 from every church member for the UM Global AIDS Fund; 3) establishing a clergy sexual misconduct policy, etc. Membership is 82,037, down 1,718. –– Victoria Rebeck, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

New Mexico met May 31–June 3 at the LifeWay Conference Center, with Bishop Max Whitfield presiding. The conference’s theme was "Jesus Christ–Hope of the World." In observance of the anniversary of 50 years of full clergy rights for women, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (Mississippi Area) was guest preacher. In addition, delegates sang hymns written, arranged, or translated by women; an all-conference women’s choir sang; and video clips on the history of women in clergy in the New Mexico Conference were shown intermittently throughout the gathering. Members celebrated: 1) an increase of professions of faith at 35 conference churches; 2) membership gains by 48 congregations; 3) the development and utilization of local shared-ministry teams and certified lay ministers who serve where needed

without financial compensation; etc. The conference also replaced the word "apportionments" with "shared ministries"

to indicate that through fulfillment of these financial obligations, congregations participate in a variety of essential ministries within and beyond the conference. Membership is 39,218, down 647.

–– Julianne McAchran, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


North Alabama met June 1–3 at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, under the leadership of Bishop William H. Willimon. The theme was "Equipping the Saints for Ministry: Growing Together in Worship and Discipleship."

The conference celebrated efforts to start 10 new congregations in the next year, heard stories of ministries in ethnic and multicultural congregations, and refocused its vision statement and budget. The disciple-making focus was emphasized with an opening hymn led by the band from Innerchange UMC, one of the newest congregations in the conference. Paul Saik led the music. During business sessions, the conference: 1) heard an update from Cabinet Dean Hal Noble on the redistricting process, which began in January and entails moving from 12 to eight districts; 2) adjusted its vision statement to be "Every church challenged and equipped to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives"; 3) approved a 2007 budget of $13.9 million, with increased funds for new church starts; 4) recognized the winners of the Denman Evangelism Award: Paul Wieger of Gardendale-Mt. Vernon UMC (laity) and Robert Sparkman of Hartselle First UMC (clergy); and 5) recognized Helen Shelly Willoughby as recipient of the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award.

  Thomas Muhomba, a native of Zimbabwe and the new conference assistant director of congregational development for ethnic churches, was introduced. He said his mother originally heard the gospel from Mildred Taylor, a UM missionary to Africa from North Alabama. "Mildred gave Jesus to my mother, and my mother gave Jesus to me," he said. "I am standing here because of what Mildred did." Outgoing conference Lay Leader Gloria Holt said laity have a role in making disciples. "Shepherds don’t multiply sheep; the sheep multiply the sheep," she said.

Membership is 152,839, down 2,488. –– Danette Clifton, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

North Indiana met June 1–3 at Purdue University. "Stewards of God’s Grace" was the theme. Randy Maddox, professor of Wesley studies at Duke Divinity School, taught on John Wesley’s view of conferencing, stewardship, grace, and salvation. A written ballot was received on whether to form a task force to draw up a plan for a new conference including South Indiana. The ballot will be announced following the South Indiana Annual Conference session. If approved, a plan for a new Indiana Conference will be voted on in 2007. The conference approved a 2007 expense budget of $10 million, a 3.29% increase over the 2006 amount. The conference approved a resolution on Darfur, which included a request for the State of Indiana to divest any funds going to Sudan in protest of that government’s treatment of Darfurians. The conference approved another resolution to support statewide efforts to decrease the use of tobacco. A third resolution requested churches receive an offering for the Global AIDS Fund. Membership is 98,299, down 1,050 from the previous year. — Daniel R. Gangler, as reported in Newscope, June 9, 2006.

North Texas met June 4–7 at the Plano Centre, with the opening worship service at historic First UMC, Dallas, and the ordination service at Custer Road UMC, Plano. The theme was "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure Jr. celebrated the act of the 1956 General Conference granting clergywomen the same rights as their male colleagues.

The Conference Anti-Racism Team introduced a number of legislative proposals with the goal of "power-sharing and inclusive decision-making in all conference deliberations and deliverables." Each task force is required to be "representative of the diversity of the conference." Members overwhelmingly approved the establishment of a conference-wide property and liability insurance program through UM Property and Casualty Trust. The recommendation came from a joint task force of the Conference Board of Trustees and Council on Finance and Administration. Also approved was the conference funding method for the new UM pension plan mandated by the 2004 General Conference. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (Mississippi Area) was preacher for the ordination service. Membership is 159,724, down 193

. –– Joan Gray LaBarr, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


Oklahoma was held May 28–June 1 in Tulsa. Presiding Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. announced an agreement between UM-related Oklahoma City University and Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., to create a satellite

UM seminary in Oklahoma. "We can’t afford to go down this road called ‘business as usual’," Bishop Hayes said, referring to declining numbers in church membership and attendance. "By September, I will initiate conversations . . . about a strategic plan. It will look at the whole life of Oklahoma Conference." Membership is 245,046, down 2,076.

Holly McCray, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


South Georgia met June 4–7 in the Savannah Civic Center under the theme "Live the Vision, Serve My Neighbor." Led by Bishop B. Michael Watson, the conference celebrated 50 years of full clergy rights for women. Women clergy

preached at three of the worship services and led the Bible study. In other actions, members: 1) focused on the question, "Who is my neighbor?" and celebrated agencies, ministries, and churches in South Georgia that work to redeem every soul and circumstance; 2) received a challenge by Roy Blackwood, conference lay leader, and Bishop Watson to win people to Jesus Christ; 3) heard Cindy Autry, the first female district superintendent in South Georgia, preach

at the ordination service; 4) 12) approved a budget of $10.95 million, etc. Membership is 137,822, down 1,305.

–– Kelly Roberson, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


South Indiana met June 8–10 at Indiana University in Bloomington under the theme "Stewards of God’s Grace." Randy Maddox, professor of Wesley studies at Duke Divinity School, taught two sessions on John Wesley’s view of grace and salvation. Bishop Hans Vaxby (Eurasia Area) told members that the Russian church is facing economic and social challenges. Following discussion on the formation of a new annual conference with the North Indiana Conference, a written ballot was received on whether or not to name a task force to draw up a plan to form a new conference. With an 80% majority of each conference, both conferences agreed to draft a plan of union to be considered by both conferences

next year. In other business, the conference approved a plan to replace conference apportionments with a tithing model in which, beginning in 2007, churches will remit monthly to the conference treasurer one-tenth of their income, excluding capital-campaign income. The tithe takes church membership out of an apportionment formula presently based on membership and finances. If this amount does not cover general church apportionments, the conference may ask churches to contribute up to an additional two percent of each month’s income. The conference approved a 2007 expense budget

of $9.2 million, down 5.3% from 2006. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of full clergy right for women, Susan Ruach, the first woman in Indiana ordained and granted full clergy membership in 1975, preached at the memorial service. Membership is 111,320, down 2,054. –– Daniel R. Gangler, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.


Texas met May 28–June 1 in Houston with Bishop Janice Riggle Huie presiding. Some described it as renovating the house while living in it. After years of dwindling membership and stagnant professions of faith, the conference decided it could no longer live in a declining spiritual house. Members unanimously adopted a new model for ministry to replace the structure that has shaped the conference since the 1970s. The new structure streamlines conference functions into four centers for excellence that focus on: 1) clergy; 2) congregations; 3) mission; and 4) connectional resources. A 16-member Core Leadership Team, chaired by the bishop, will implement the decisions of the annual conference between sessions.

  In other sessions, the conference: 1) learned that since last October, 203 teams of 2,150 people have volunteered more than 53,000 hours to serve in Texas areas ravaged by Hurricane Rita and heard a call by Angela Baker, director of the Conference Committee on Relief, to continue to assist 500 families affected by the "forgotten storm"; 2) celebrated the 50th anniversary of full rights for clergywomen, with Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher (Illinois Area) preaching and a choir of nearly 100 of the 200 clergywomen in the conference, etc. Membership is 283,617, down 7,238.

–– Eleanor L. Colvin, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

Troy Annual Conference met May 10–13 in Burlington, Vt. "Take Nothing for the Journey" was the theme. Bishop Susan Morrison took a moment to talk about her decision to retire at the end of August. Six General Conference petitions calling for changes in the Discipline regarding human sexuality were tabled, and another five petitions dealing with inclusiveness issues, gay marriage, human sexuality, and broader equal rights were approved. Robert Jaccard, of North Thetford Federated Church in Vermont, and Myron and Wanda Ducharme, of First UMC in Lake Luzerne, N.Y., received the lay and clergy Denman Awards, respectively. Henry Frueh, chair of the Troy Conference Boundaries Committee, told members that representatives from four conferences (North Central New York, Troy, Western New York, and Wyoming) had been meeting to explore the possibility of uniting some or all of the conferences. The joint committee will present its findings and recommendations at the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference. Membership is 61,229, down 1,726.

Sandra Brands, as reported in Newscope, June 2, 2006.

West Michigan met June 1–4 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. The theme, "Giving With Reckless Abandon," was evident in visual displays of brightly-wrapped gifts, donations of over 3,000 pairs of underwear for poor children,

generous offerings to the Haiti Hot Lunch Program, Vietnamese ministries in the conference and across the church, UM Committee On Relief, the Ministerial Education Fund, and the Advance. Conference churches received four awards for their gifts to the Advance, including one for the highest per-capita giving in the UMC ($37 per member, double last year’s amount). Conference churches gave $2.5 million to the Advance in 2005, with 98% of churches participating. Along with the Detroit Conference, West Michigan members voted to enter a process that would, if successful, merge them into one Michigan Conference in 2009. Ballots from Detroit’s vote in late May were sealed until after West Michigan voted. The vote to begin the merger process was overwhelmingly positive: 87% yes in the Detroit Conference; 78% yes in West Michigan. Bishop Ann Sherer (Nebraska Area) preached during the service of ordination and commissioning. The conference also celebrated 50 years of full clergy rights for women with worship, liturgical dance, and preaching by Molly Turner, who was ordained elder and received in full connection in 1972.

 In other actions, the conference: 1) created a Michigan Area Foundation to serve the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences; 2) expressed disappointment in a Judicial Council decision that allows a pastor to bar individuals from membership in the UMC and adopted an "Affirmation of Inclusiveness of the Church" that says the conference seeks to "openly welcome all of God’s children"; 3) requested West Michigan UMs to contact their members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the Jubilee Act, which would commit the U.S. to work for debt cancellation for 50 impoverished countries; 4) supported establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace; 5) thanked President George W. Bush for his support of Millennial Development Goals and encouraged payment of the U.S. pledge to implement the goals; 6) encouraged support of Native Energy, a privately held Native American company that creates wind energy as a renewable energy alternative; 7) defeated a resolution that would have removed "domestic partner benefits" from the conference’s health insurance plan; etc. Membership is 67,734, down 197. –– Ann Whiting, as reported in Newscope, June 16, 2006.

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There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different. - Albert Einstein.

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