The Monthly Update

September 2003 Update

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This edition of the Monthly Update is a continuing report of annual conference summaries from the Methodist Church around the world.

At this time, the controversy surrounding the placing of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Montgomery, Alabama judicial building by Judge Roy Moore is about to reach a crisis point. We pray that he will be successful but fear that he will not.

It is not by accident that there have been so many lawsuits mounted by the ACLU and other organizations to remove expressions of God from public places. I was a student in the 1960s when the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory prayer in public schools was illegal. It is common knowledge that Maddalyn Murray O'Hare, the person who brought this suit, was an atheist. What is not generally known is that she was also a communist.

Why was this information kept from us? I would suggest that the reason is that if this one fact were known, there would have been a public outcry over the decision and the "other side" would not have been nearly as successful as it was in it succession of court actions.

This lawsuit opened the door for further suits that gradually chipped away at our rights to publicly acknowledge God. Tragically, too often we are not told the complete truth by the mainstream media. Now, we are faced with the prospect of removal of one of the fundamental documents from a public place. I predict that this will lead to similar suits all over the country until the copies of the Ten Commandments engraved in stone on the federal court building in Washington, DC that houses the nine Supreme Court justices will be removed.

This in turn will lead to more and more judicial decisions not based on the Judeo-Christian ethic, on which our country was founded, but on secular values - which have no sure foundation. Then, "situational ethics" and individual morality will take precedence over any transcendent law.

Assuredly, we need to continue remembering our country in prayer, as we continue to pray for our United Methodist Church.God is in control - and for that we should be especially thankful in these times.

In His service,

 

 

Allen O. Morris,

Executive Director


September 2003 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble acknowledged dependence

upon God and His overruling providence. --John Adams

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The Good Stuff.

+ The Constitutional Convention was in a heated deadlock over how both large and small states could be represented equally. Some delegates even left, giving up hope. Then, on this day, June 28, 1787, the 81 year-old Benjamin Franklin spoke, and shortly after the U.S. Constitution became a reality. As recorded by James Madison, Franklin stated: "In the...Contest with Great Britain...we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. - Our prayers, Sir, were heard, &...graciously answered.... And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?" - American Minute with Bill Federer June 28th.

+ In God I Trust: Why I'm standing up for the Ten Commandments in Alabama, by [Judge] Roy S. Moore MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The battle over the Ten Commandments monument I brought into Alabama's Supreme Court is not about a monument and not about politics. (The battle is not even about religion, a term defined by our Founders as "the duty we owe to our creator and the manner for discharging it.") Federal Judge Myron Thompson, who ordered the monument's removal, and I are in perfect agreement on the fact that the issue in this case is: "Can the state acknowledge God?" Those were the precise words used by Judge Thompson in his closing remarks in open court. Today, I argue for the rule of law, and against any unilateral declaration of a judge to ban the acknowledgment of God in the public sector.

We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment. By telling the state of Alabama that it may not acknowledge God, Judge Thompson effectively dismantled the justice system of the state. Judge Thompson never declared the Alabama Constitution unconstitutional, but the essence of his ruling was to prohibit judicial officers from obeying the very constitution they are sworn to uphold. In so doing, Judge Thompson and all who supported his order, violated the rule of law. Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and my fellow justices have argued that they must act to remove the monument to preserve the rule of law. But the precise opposite is true: Article VI of the Constitution makes explicitly clear that the Constitution, and the laws made pursuant to it, are "the supreme Law of the Land." Judge Thompson and the judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have all sworn oaths which bind them to support the Constitution as it is written -- not as they would personally prefer it to be written.

By subjugating the people of Alabama to the unconstitutional edict by Judge Thompson, that public officials may not acknowledge God, the attorney general and my colleagues have made the fiat opinion of a judge supreme over the text of the Constitution. While agreeing with me that the Constitution is supreme, and that the opinion of Judge Thompson was contrary to the Constitution, the attorney general has argued that he must follow an order he himself believes to be in direct violation of the supreme law of the land. One of the great influences on the Founding Fathers, common law sage William Blackstone, once pointed out that judges do not make laws, they interpret them. No judge has the authority to impose his will on the people of a state, and no judge has the constitutional authority to forbid public officials from acknowledging the same God specifically mentioned in the charter documents of our nation, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. My decision to disregard the unlawful order of the federal judge was not civil disobedience, but the lawful response of the highest judicial officer of the state to his oath of office. Had the judge declared the 13th Amendment prohibition on involuntary slavery to be illegal, or ordered the churches of my state burned to the ground, there would be little question in the minds of the people of Alabama and the U.S. that such actions should be ignored as unconstitutional and beyond the legitimate scope of a judge's authority. Judge Thompson's decision to unilaterally void the duties of elected officials under the state constitution and to prohibit judges from acknowledging God is equally unlawful.

For half a century the fanciful tailors of revisionist jurisprudence have been working to strip the public sector naked of every vestige of God and morality. They have done so based on fake readings and inconsistent applications of the First Amendment. They have said it is all right for the U.S. Supreme Court to publicly place the Ten Commandments on its walls, for Congress to open in prayer and for state capitols to have chaplains -- as long as the words and ideas ommunicated by such do not really mean what they purport to communicate. They have trotted out before the public using words never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, like "separation of church and state," to advocate, not the legitimate jurisdictional separation between the church and state, but the illegitimate separation of God and state.

The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson's order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution.

Not only does Judge Thompson put himself above the law, but above God, as well. I say enough is enough. We must "dare defend our rights" as Alabama's state motto declares. No judge or man can dictate what we believe or in whom we believe. The Ninth and 10th Amendments are not a part of the Constitution simply to make the Bill of Rights a round number. The Ninth Amendment secured our right as a people. The 10th guaranteed our right as a sovereign state.

Those are the rules of law.

Mr. Moore is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

- Opinion Journal from The Wall Street Journal editorial page; August 25, 2003.

Results from the Annual Conferences

Arkansas met in Russellville, Ark., with Bishop Janice Riggle Huie presiding, over the newly formed conference of the merged Little Rock and North Arkansas Conferences, creating one conference within Arkansas. Guest preacher Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Houston's 14,000-member Windsor Village UMC. Bishop Huie outlined six goals for the next ten years: 1) increasing weekly worship attendance to 100,000; 2) raising Sunday school attendance to 34,000 and lifting youth attendance to 15,000; 3) averaging five new mission congregations per year; 4) enrolling 40 new seminarians annually; 5) deploying at least ten lay missionaries across the state; and 6) within the next three years, enlisting half of all congregations in the Igniting Ministry Program. The body: 1) designated nearly a quarter of a million dollars for new church development; 2) approved a 2004 budget of $11.9 million, a zero percent increase from the previous year; and 3) added an associate chancellor to the conference structure. The conference approved three petitions to General Conference: 1) raising the mandatory retirement age for clergy from 70 to 72; 2) equalizing clergy disability payments; and 3) retaining the current Doctrinal Standards by maintaining the denomination's current stance on human sexuality and marriage. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Asa Whitaker, Carolyn Elias, Lynn Baker, Bill Scurlock, Karen Millar, and J. Harris Moore. Clergy delegates: Rodney Steele, Jack A. Wilson, David B. Wilson, Rebekah Miles, Fred Haustein, and Chester Jones. - Jane Dennis, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003

California-Nevada met in Sacramento, Calif., for its 155th session June 18-22, with Bishop Beverly J. Shamana presiding. In her State of the Conference Address, she expressed her dream that the conference would become "a table with no barriers, where all persons can be engaged together for the building up of the church and the realization of its vision to make disciples for Jesus Christ." A $7.7 million budget was adopted, resulting in program and personnel reductions. In addition to wrestling with a tight budget, the conference adopted petitions to General Conference calling for the denomination and its members: 1) to boycott Coca-Cola company products; 2) to advocate amending the U.S. Patriot Act; and 3) to purchase only fair-trade coffee. The conference also supported amending 161.G in the Discipline to read, "Since Christians are not of a common mind about the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching, we neither condone nor condemn such practice." Members of a clergy group gave conference members copies of United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake-Up Call. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Paul Extrum-Fernandez, Susan Hunn, Randolph Miller, Blanche Farnam, and Lupe Sema. Clergy delegates: Don Cunningham, Dale Weatherspoon, Renae Extrum-Fernandez, Jeffrey Kuan, and Karen Oliveto. Membership is 90,954, down 1,246.

- Stuart A. Davis, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003

Desert Southwest met in Mesa, Ariz., with Bishop William W. Dew Jr. presiding. During the four-day session, Tex Sample led three sessions of Bible study, worship, and small-group discussion around the conference theme "Gifts of God." J. Philip Wogaman, professor of Christian ethics, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., was the preacher for the Service for the Ordering of Ministry. Additionally, more than $8,000 was collected during the conference for efforts in Cambodia, Liberia, and Iraq. The conference adopted petitions to General Conference recommending: 1) establishing a denomination-wide clergy healthcare program; 2) providing surviving clergy spouses with health insurance; 3) removing mandatory retirement from the Discipline; 4) creating a just and humane border policy with Mexico; and 5) supporting a change of language in the Discipline regarding sexual orientation. The conference also approved a 5.07% increase for the 2004 budget to $5.4 million. The conference defeated two resolutions from the Board of Church and Society that would ask General Conference to change language regarding marriage and the language of wedding ceremonies. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Joel Huffman and Billie Fidlin. Clergy delegates: Jane Tews and Mary Bullis. Tews will lead the delegation. Membership is 45,104, up 119.

- Wally Athey, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

East Ohio met at Lakeside, Ohio, for its 34th session under the theme "Find Us Faithful: Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service." Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton presided. Petitions to General Conference related to fair trade, election to probationary membership and commissioning, and lay membership on the Board of Ministry. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Stephen Yoost, Jerry Rinehart, Phillip Kerlin, Jeanette Krause, Maggie Jackson, Dick Payne, Matthew Laferty, Betty Wilson, Jared Thomas, and James Ehrman. Clergy delegates: Gary George, Sally Dyck, Ed Fashbaugh, Gary Henderson, Wanda Wilson, Valerie Stultz, Neriah Edwards, Charles Yoost, Julius Trimble, and Paul White. Membership is 187,354, down 1,476. - Kay L. Panovec, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003

Hungary Provisional Annual Conference was held in Dombovar. The report of Superintendent Istvan Csernak drew attention to the fact that many people in Hungary suffer heavily because of implications relating to the planned joining of the European Union: Companies have to close down, the unemployment rate is increasing, the pension retired people are receiving is not enough to live on, and agriculture is facing a disaster. The UMC in Hungary is like a ship on a heavy sea. In other action, the conference: 1) transferred four local churches in the Carpathian Ukraine with 283 members to the Southern Russia Provisional Annual Conference, which includes Ukraine and Moldova, under the leadership of Bishop Ruediger Minor; 2) welcomed the plans of a Wesley Alliance (consisting of six churches/organizations with Wesleyan roots) to organize a school for a joint education of lay preachers as well as children and youth workers; and 3) struggled with a new regulation of the Hungarian state, which forces the UMC to increase the pastors' salaries by 30% in 2003 and by another 40% in the coming years and which will result in less money available for the renovation of church buildings. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Eva Csernak. Clergy delegate: Istvan Csernak.

- Urs Schweizer, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Iowa met in Ames for its 160th session under the theme "Journey with Jesus: Transform the World," with Bishop Gregory V. Palmer presiding. Conference actions included approval of schematic drawings and a financing plan for the proposed $4.9 million conference center. Petitions to General Conference included: 1) support for Africa University; 2) recommendations for a church-wide Study and Celebration of the Social Principles; and 3) amending 61.G in the Book of Discipline to read, "Although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching, we affirm God's grace is available to all." Clergy delegates elected to General Conference: Deb Kiesey (chair of delegation), Barrie Tritle, Edward Kail, Diane Wasson Eberhart, J. Robert Burkhart, Darline Balm-Demmel, Celestyne DeVance, Marvin Arnpriester, Robert Crandall, and George White. Lay delegates: Philip Carver, Twila Glenn, Adam Webb, Inez Dawes, Lana Ross, Sue Mullins, Kae Tritle, Janet Stephenson, Jessica Ireland, and Beverly Spencer. Membership is 198,159, down 1,523. - Kristin Knudson Harris, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Kansas East met under the theme "As Long as the Waters Flow" at Methodist-related Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., with Bishop Alfred E. Mutti presiding. Bruce W. Robbins, general secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, was the preacher for the Service of Ordination. A 2004 budget of $4,724,781 was approved, an increase of 5.6% over 2003. Petitions to General Conference include: 1) mandating clergy reporting of child sexual abuse and neglect; 2) the need for a denomination-wide response to health insurance; 3) the relationship of deacons to the local church; and 4) the need to focus on the ministry of rural and small-membership churches. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Oliver Green, Judy Atwood, Kurt Cooper, and Nancy Brown. Clergy delegates: Marilyn Gregory, Cynthia Weems, Young Ho Chun, and Frank Dorsey. Membership is 77,132, up 366.

- Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Kentucky met in Bowling Green, Ky, with Bishop James R. King, Jr presiding. He challenged every congregation to grow by 10% during the 2003-04 conference year. In other business, the conference adopted the East Africa Mission Initiative as a major Conference thrust and approved petitions to General Conference that would: 1) support funding for Africa University; 2) require a director of communications in every annual conference; 3) retain "shall language" in the Book of Discipline regarding ethnic local church concerns; 4) support greater ethnic minority involvement in New Church and Congregational Development structures; and 5) support continued funding of the Hispanic and Korean/Asian Directors for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Additional petitions called for greater accountability of the General Board of Church and Society and for a prayer coordinator in every local congregation. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: John D. Minton Jr., Melvin R. Bowdan Jr., Christine Harman, Larry Epley, Jeannette Westerfield, Verna McKinney, and Richard Wilson. Clergy delegates: Alfred W. Gwinn (delegation chair), Maxie Dunham, Thomas W. Eblen, Deborah Wallace-Padgett, Rhoda A. Peters, Thomas B. Greib, and Edgar Goins. . Membership is 151,378, down 1,686. - Rhoda A. Peters, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003

Nebraska met in Lincoln with Bishop Rhymes Moncure Jr. presiding. Nebraska UMs from 262 churches donated 5,043 UM Committee on Relief kits and funds for transporting the kits to Sager-Brown Depot in Louisiana. The conference adopted a resolution to support educating youth about the process to become a conscientious objector to war. By a nearly

3-to-1 vote, the conference supported two petitions to General Conference that would call for deleting all portions of the Discipline (in 161G) that restrict the full participation of homosexuals in the life of the church and striking the language "incompatible with Christian teaching" in reference to homosexuality. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Melody Adams, Tom Watson, Lavina Schwaninger, and Bill Hasemeyer. Clergy delegates: Charlotte Abram (head of delegation), David Lux, Casey Karges, and Nancy Flader. Membership is 87,981, down 2,165 over the previous year.

- Barbara Nissen, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

New York met at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, with Bishop Ernest S. Lyght presiding. The conference began with a Service of Confessing, Re-Collecting, and Communing. Zan Holmes was the conference preacher. He spoke on the questions "Do we look like our picture?" and "Are we getting it all together?" In legislative deliberations, the conference voted support for two resolutions concerning the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, supporting the division and affirming its present structure. The body also supported a resolution opposing the United States' use of violence and military action to resolve international disputes. The work of the General Board of Church and Society was also supported in a resolution to the General Conference. A petition asking the General Conference to protect the reserve funds of general agencies was affirmed. The conference supported the request from United Methodist Communications for increased General Conference funding for the Igniting Ministry national advertising campaign. Financial concerns were addressed by the conference, but no budget was presented for the year 2004. Thus a special-called session of the conference will be held on October 18, 2003, to approve a budget for 2004 and to consider other crucial items related to program and expenses. A proposal to reduce the number of districts from eight to six was presented and will be discussed further at the special session in October. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Beth Capen, Ernest Swiggett, Jonathan Riss, Shirley Parris, Inday Day, Jae Won Kim, and Betsy Ingram. Clergy delegates: Jane Middleton, Gunshik Shim, Randy Nugent, Constance Pak, Randy Day, Tim Riss, and Luisa Martinez. Final figures for total conference membership for the year 2002 have not been completed as of this date.

- Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Northwest Texas met under the theme "Welcome to the Family Reunion." Bishop D. Max Whitfield presided over the 94th session of the conference at Polk Street United Methodist Church in Amarillo. Three resolutions were approved to petition the 2004 General Conference out of ten resolutions that were submitted. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Jackie McAlpin Blair (chair of the delegation) and Karl Baumgardner. Clergy delegates: Bill Couch and Lane Boyd. Membership is 67,306, down 1,427. - Eddie Allsup, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Norwegian Annual Conference met in Frederikstad; Bishop Oysten Olsen presided. The major question for discussion was: Shall the UMC Norway support one of many organizations that assist Jews to migrate to Israel? Last year the conference elected to withdraw from an organization serving this purpose. The session concluded to abide by the previous decision; however, the Board of Mission was directed to seek a possible relationship with one or more organizations committed to the needs of Jews and Palestinians and to bring a recommendation to next year's session. The conference passed a resolution expressing its deep respect and gratitude to the General Board of Church and Society and James E. Winkler, GBCS general secretary, for the courageous and prophetic statements made in connection with the U.S./UK-led war against Iraq. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Per-Endre Bjornevik. Clergy delegate: Lars-Erik Nordby. Membership is 13,087, down 103. - Gunnar Bradley, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003

Oregon-Idaho met in Boise, Idaho, with Bishop Ed Paup presiding. The conference: 1) continued suspension of the boycott against NORPAC products (the boycott was originally enacted to support farm workers); 2) revised a standing resolution in opposition to hate groups by adding to the list of hate groups operating in Oregon and Idaho; 3) supported continuing efforts to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (commonly known as the School of the Americas); and 4) supported continuing efforts to repeal the death penalty. Petitions to General Conference included: 1) a call for respect of the Muslim community; 2) opposition to pre-emptive military action; 3) re-allocation of General Conference delegates and the composition of general boards and agencies; and 4) the amendment of language regarding sexual orientation. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Tom Wogaman. Clergy delegate: Minerva Carcano. Membership is 36,162, down 574. - Linda Sullivan , as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

Pacific Northwest met in Tacoma, Wash., with Bishop Elias Galvan presiding. In legislative action, the conference received the work of the Task Force of 14, a group called together to study the challenge of funding local church ministries in a time of rising costs. The conference also approved a $5.5 million budget for 2004, which includes the elimination of another district-from six to five. The conference agreed to restructure during the next year, doing away with the Council on Ministries and organizing into four ministry groups: Leadership, Congregational Development, Connecting for Ministry,

and Administrative Support Structures. In other action, the body approved the closing of the School of the Americas, a ban on landmines and control of explosive remnants of war, and a peaceable response to war in Iraq, which includes recognizing the authority of the United Nations to manage the rebuilding process in Iraq. The conference voted in approval of President Bush's Road Map to Middle East Peace. The body voted in favor of the people of Zimbabwe and affirmed freezing the assets of Robert Mugabe and officials of the Zana-PF party there. The body also called on Congress to revoke any parts of the U.S. Patriot Act and Patriot Act II that violate fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The conference voted to urge state legislators to enact legislation against gun violence. The conference petitions the General Conference to amend language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality to read that United Methodists are not of one mind on this issue and hold "differing opinions regarding sexual orientation." Membership is 61,567, down 2,174. - Jane Dennis, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Peninsula-Delaware met on the campus of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore under the theme "We're Having Camp" with Bishop Peter D. Weaver presiding. The conference approved: 1) a $5,343,065 budget that provides for an anticipated 24% rate hike for clergy healthcare expenses; 2) the sale of the conference's retreat center, Drayton Manor; and 3) The Bishop Peter D. Weaver Central Congo Mission Project. The project establishes a new relationship with UMs of the Central Congo Episcopal area. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Darlene Webster (co-chair of delegation), Gene Cray, and Kevin Goodwin. Clergy delegates: James T. Seymour (co-chair of delegation), Jonathan Baker, and Karen Bunnell. Membership is 95,938, down 121. - Tamara D. Ward, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Rio Grande met in Albuquerque, N.M., with Bishop Joel N. Martinez presiding. The conference recalled that the Hispanic ministry of Methodism began 150 years ago on November 20, 1853, when Benigno Cardenas preached his first sermon in Spanish at the Santa Fe Plaza. In other business, a resolution in support of the continuation of the National Hispanic Plan was adopted as a petition to General Conference. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Able Vega Jr. Clergy: Frank Estrada. Membership is 15,139, up 59. - Arturo Mariscal, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

Switzerland-France Annual Conference became fully bilingual with the provisional inclusion of ten local churches of the autonomous Eglise Methodiste de France (EMF). For the first time, the conference provided French translation of all meetings and documents. A final decision on the relationship between the EMF and the UMC will be made in 2005. The conference met in Winterthur under the theme "Wait . . . Watch . . . Walk . . ." with Bishop Heinrich Bolleter presiding. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: David Buehler. Membership is 8,129, down 192.

- Urs Schweizer, as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

Virginia convened at the Roanoke Civic Center under the theme "Nurtured in Faith: Growing in Christ" June 15-19, with Bishop Joe E. Pennel Jr. presiding. The conference preacher was Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Arkansas.In legislative business, the conference: 1) adopted new clergy eligibility requirements for clergy health care benefits; received a report on conference restructuring; 2) adopted resolutions calling for: (a) parity in mental health insurance legislation in Virginia, (b) increase in Church/Missionary Covenant relationships, and (c) recognizing with gratitude African descendants who remained in the Methodist Church; 3) defeated a resolution calling for changes in representation to general church boards and agencies; 4) approved a resolution directing the 2004 General Conference Virginia delegation to file a report following the adjournment of the General Conference analyzing the impact of new legislation on Virginia; and 5) adopted a petition to General Conference related to equitable funding of health care benefits for retired clergy who have served in more than one annual conference. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Darlene Amon, Ron Hardman, James Branscome, Kelly Alvis, Nathaniel L. Bishop, Carole Vaughn, Rex Wolf, Charles Cox, Shirley Cauffman, Yoon-Soo Park, Carol Gaston, James Sizemore, Sandra Baker, Laarni Bibay, James Bergdoll, and Tom Miller. Clergy delegates: James Logan (head of delegation), Clarence Brown, Susan Garrett, Beth Downs, Kenneth Jackson, Bruce Tuttle, Paul Bailey, Rhonda VanDyke Colby, Denise Honeycutt, Brenda Biler, Theodore Smith, Mary Beth Blinn, Alvin Horton, Jay Hanke, Tom Berlin, and L. Douglas Hill. Membership is 341,321, up 1,090.

- Carole Vaughn and Larry Jent , as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

West Ohio Annual Conference, meeting at historic Lakeside-on-Lake-Erie, opened its 2003 session Sunday evening, June 8, with a Pentecost service. Bishop Bruce R. Ough preached for the memorial service for 35 clergy members and 31 spouses. The conference theme, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors: Risk-Taking Service," appeared throughout the session in 15 Connectional Ministry Council-produced "Risk-Taking Ministry" segments. In a Service of Reconciliation and Hope, conference leaders and members joined Native American representatives in a confession of past wrongs and statements of a desire to work together in the future. The conference ratified a fellowship and cooperation covenant with the Conferencia Annual Oriental of the Iglesia Metodista de Mexico A.R., formalizing a six-year relationship involving the exchange of Volunteers in Mission, pastors, and medical teams. In support of Russian United Methodist Church, the conference received a "miracle offering" of $96,296. In additional action, the conference passed a resolution opposing the placement of video lottery terminals (electronic slot machines) at Ohio harness racing tracks; members used cell phones to call their state senators from Hoover Auditorium on the Lakeside grounds as an Ohio Senate subcommittee was hearing testimony on the proposal. Church members were called to fast and pray on the first Friday of each month in preparation for the General and jurisdictional conferences. The conference adopted an apportioning budget with no increase for 2004. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Mildred Oglesby, Nancy Schlicher, Kathy Connolly, Alfred Rhonemus, Phillip Connolly, Marion Fitch, George Howard, Leo Scholl, Benis Lutz, Joy Nye, Mary Ann Galloway, Ned Winter, and Chris Steiner. Clergy delegates: Greg Stover (head of delegation), Philip Brooks, Joon-Sik Park, Gloria Brooks, L. Cean Wilson, Margaret Mallory, John Edgar, Norman Coleman III, Gary Campbell, Tom Tumblin, Scott Kelso, Rae Lynn Schleif, and Derik Hines. Membership is 250,653, down 4,659.

- Tom Slack, as reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.

West Virginia Annual Conference convened under the theme "Steps Toward Wholeness . . . Steps Toward Holiness . . . Repenting for Our Sin of Racism," with Bishop S. Clifton Ives presiding. This was the third year the conference participated in a quadrennial priority for dismantling racism. Repentance was the theme for daily worship services during the four-day assembly. Bishop Ives stated that racist actions and attitudes cripple our lives, and we must search for justice for others different from us. A resolution that encourages prayer for the dismantling of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group, and for the transformation of the group's members by God's grace was approved. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Betty Wigal, Jim Berner, Bill Hairston, Bill Deel, Suzanne Knight, and Bryan Baker. Clergy delegates: Tom Bickerton, Helen Bell, Ellis Conley, David Jasper, J. F. Lacaria, and Heather Elkins. Bickerton will head the delegation. Membership is 108,481, down 2,153. - Newscope; July 4, 2003.

Wisconsin convened with Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader presiding. The 2004 budget was set at $7,329,560, an increase of 1.3% over 2003. The Bishop's Task Force on Superintending recommended reducing the number of district superintendents from eight to four, with each DS having responsibility for the leadership of two districts. The plan will be fully implemented by July 1, 2004. The conference supported petitions to General Conference that would eliminate the mandatory retirement age for clergy, establish a probationary local pastor status, grant full voting rights to local pastors, and delete from 161.G of the Book of Discipline the phrase "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Don Mendenhall (delegation chair), Billie LaBumbard, Sheri Graeber, Amy Valdez Barker, Becky Foster, and Rick Kindschi. Clergy delegates: Hee-Soo Jung (delegation vice chair), Janet Ellinger, Susanne L. Burwell, Wesley J. White, Jorge Luis Mayorga Solis, and Mary Council Austin. Membership is 99,611, a decrease of 2,228 or 2.19%.

- Jane Follmer Zekoff , as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

Yellowstone Annual Conference met in Billings, Mont., with Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. presiding. For the second year, "conferencing circles" were used to discern a sense of God's leading in the vital concerns facing Yellowstone and its churches. A conference-wide program entitled "Faith and Money" was also introduced. The program will explore how stewardship of financial resources is central to Christian faith and spiritual formation. Legislative actions included: 1) approval of a cooperative study to examine the possibility of merger with Rocky Mountain Conference; 2) consent that the bishop develop a partnership covenant agreement with the East Angola conferences; 3) petitions to General Conference to amend 161.G of the Discipline to read, "Although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all"; and 4) a request for General Conference action related to reducing soaring conference health insurance and pension costs. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Lin Doyle. Clergy delegate: Howard Hunter. Membership is 16,996, down 274 (1.6%).

- Waveland King , as reported in Newscope;July 11, 2003.

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