September, 2002 Update
Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church
Souls are like athletes that need opponents worthy of them if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity. - Thomas Merton
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Results from the Annual Conferences
Alabama-West Florida met June 2-5 in Montgomery, Ala. Under the theme "Marching into the Future," the assembly approved a new structure that charges the conference with the responsibility of providing resources for and responding to the needs of the local church. In an effort to become more effective and efficient in ministry, members decreased the number of people serving on conference boards and committees. Members gathered in a service for repentance and reconciliation to address the racist past of the church. The assembly: 1) encouraged congregations to continue to pray for the nation's leaders and armed forces; 2) defeated a resolution calling for the dissolution of the General Board of Church and Society; 3) adopted a 2003 budget of $13.2 million, up 4.81%; and 4) learned that The Christian Advocate magazine will cease publication following the June edition. Membership is 145,786, up 1,144.
- Andy Ellis, as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28.
California-Nevada met June 12-16 in Sacramento. Pairs of walking shoes dangled from two pulpits during the 154th session of the assembly. The theme was "Walking with Jesus, Living in Faith." At the culminating Sunday worship service, Bishop Beverly J. Shamana and her "preaching partner" for the service, retiring pastor Harry Wood, exchanged a shoe with each other to symbolize walking in someone else's shoes. The day before, the conference struggled to deal with the disposition of proceeds from the sale of an abandoned church on valuable property in an Hispanic area of San Francisco. After what Bishop Shamana described as "a long and sometimes difficult dialogue," the plenary session voted to use the projected $4 to $5 million in proceeds from the sale of the property to create an endowment for Hispanic ministries in the conference. Conference members: 1) referred for more study an item recommending gay-friendly supplements to the General Church's "Igniting Ministry" media/outreach program ("Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors"); 2) adopted an $8 million 2003 budget; 3) and 3) learned of a new award for achievements in race relations, named for retired Bishop Melvin Talbert. Membership is 90,954, down 1,246.
- Chuck Myer, as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28
California-Pacific met June 18-23 at the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif., under the theme "Bridging Barriers and Drawing Strength from One Another.” Presiding Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, along with the cabinet, commissioned
a 40-member medical mission team led by Vien Doan to Vietnam. Conference members: 1) approved a $13.5 million 2003 budget, up 8.66%; 2) celebrated the election of Soomee Kim, a clergy member of the conference, to serve as one of the general secretaries of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women; 3) received special offerings totaling $13,674 for eight different ministries; and 4) provided more than 20 workshops for local church leaders.
Membership is 97,298, down 366. - Larry Hygh Jr., as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28.
Central Texas met June 2-5 in Waco,
with Bishop Ben R. Chamness. Members embraced two outreach initiatives:
"Sowing Seeds for Christ," which resulted in the conference sending
over two tons of wheat seed to help restore the
agricultural industry and relieve hunger in Afghanistan, and "Honoring Differences in the Midst of Hate and Violence," which will assist congregations in reaching out ecumenically in the post-September 11 environment. Members affirmed the bishop's proclamation to observe "Igniting Ministry Open House" and "Remembering 9/11" in September 2002. Retired Bishop Dan E. Solomon and Robert Hayes of the Texas Conference brought worship service messages.
Conference members: 1) endorsed the Call to Renewal's Covenant to Overcome Poverty; 2) supported implementation of the Nobel Peace Laureates' appeal for a "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence"; 3) defeated a motion to lift sanctions against Iraq; 4) approved purchasing additional land for the conference's camp and retreat center; and 5) approved a 2003 budget of $8.5 million, up 5.66%. Bishop Chamness ordained seven elders and two deacons, recognized orders of three from another denomination as elders and two as probationary members, commissioned ten probationary members, and commissioned one associate member. Seven elders retired. For the 28th consecutive year, the conference has shown growth in membership. Five new congregations were started in the past year. During the past two years, the
conference has accomplished one-fourth of its goal to establish 20 new churches in eight years. Membership is 156,767, up 1,695. - Carolyn E. Stephens, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Desert Southwest gathered under the theme "Disciplined in Ministry." In the opening episcopal address, Bishop William W. Dew Jr. said everyone is called by God to minister to one another, and that takes discipline. Members approved a $5.1 million 2003 budget, up 4.11%. Resolutions approved included supporting programs to increase understanding of Islam, global peacemaking, the General Board of Church and Society, UM Women, and "Igniting Ministry." The assembly questioned the actions and agenda of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Members defeated a resolution on the Middle East and a petition to General Conference regarding marriage. Membership is 45,660, down 1,091.
- Wally Athey, as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28.
Eastern Pennsylvania opened its 216th session June 12 at Messiah College, Grantham, Pa. In the opening worship service, Bishop Peter D. Weaver asked members, "How do you know when you are a mature Christian?" Conference members: 1) encouraged the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reform or eliminate capital punishment; 2) called for equitable state funding of public schools; 3) urged the General Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries to withdraw their membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; and 4) supported the Ten Commandments as the word of God…. Membership is 133,441, up 390.
- Suzy Keenan, as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28.
Germany North met June 19-23 in Delmenhorst, Germany, under the theme "All the World Is Talking of Your Faith" (Romans 1:8). In Bible studies and lectures, members focused on a "Culture of Openness." The conference: 1) discussed the long-term decline in membership and the clergy shortage; 2) decided to use reserves to lower apportionment and to secure salary payments; 3) welcomed GBGM director Walter Schenck and received the information that GBGM will send two new missionaries to Germany; 4) agreed to support a youth project in Oranienburg; 5) heard reports from the five international congregations and praised the rapid membership gain of the two Ghanian congregations; 7) discussed strategies for new mission churches; and 8) will house the Methodist European Festival 2003 in Potsdam/Berlin to celebrate the 300th birthday of John Wesley. Three clergy were ordained. Membership is 7,627, up two, the first gain after more than 20 years. - Heinrich Meinhardt, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Kansas West met June 12-15 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. Meeting under the theme "Reaching Up, Reaching In, Reaching Out," with Bishop Albert "Fritz" Mutti presiding.Conference members: 1) approved a $5.2 million 2003 budget, down 5%; 2) encouraged local congregations to have a special "Remembering 9/11" service on September 8; 3) received a report from the district configuration study committee and voted to retain the conference structure of seven districts; and 4) adopted a vision and three priority areas for the conference and local churches to begin addressing in the next year. The conference also approved an amendment to the Board of Equitable Compensation (BOEC) Report, calling for the inequities between the salaries of men and women clergy to be resolved by December 31, 2002, or a lump sum payment to be made to the women included in the BOEC gender equity study. Members asked the Judicial Council to rule on the constitutionality of that amendment. Membership is 89,473, down 512.
- Lisa Elliott Diehl, as reported in
Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Kentucky met June 19-23 in Lexington under the theme "Doing What Disciples Do." In the opening worship celebration, presiding Bishop James R. King Jr. invited clergy and laity to "remember their baptism" by being disciples, making disciples, and serving as disciples to make their communities and the world more Christlike. William B. McClain, professor at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., and pastor of Tindley Temple in Philadelphia, preached at the Service of Repentance and Reconciliation. In an act of repentance closing the service, conference members placed "crystal tears" into a fountain and were anointed with oil for healing. Representatives from the AME, AME Zion, and CME denominations participated in the service. Conference members and visitors packed 1,200 school kits for children in Afghanistan. Conference members approved: 1) a mid-year increase of 20% on health insurance premiums beginning August 1 and a monthly charge of $25 for retirees covered by the plan; 2) development of a Vital Church Leadership Network, which will eventually offer electronic training and communication to every district and provide a local congregation with a "university curriculum" of training options; 3) the need to recruit more women clergy; and 4) a 2003 budget of $9.15 million, up 5.48%, with 2.3% of that increase related to health insurance. Members defeated a proposal to change COSROW to an alternative structure. Bishop King commissioned 47 young adults as "servant leaders"
following a nine-month Servant Leadership
Academy. Seven new congregations have been started in the last two years:
Lexington Korean, Northridge, Hope Springs, Capilla Cristiana, Crista Reina,
Aposento Alto, and Grace Community. Five more churches are on the drawing
board, with a goal of 25 new churches before 2005. Seven persons were ordained
elders, one was ordained deacon in full connection, and one associate member
was received. Fourteen elders and three local pastors retired. The conference
has 535 elders and 26 deacons in full connection. Membership is 153,204, down
350. - Rhoda Peters, as reported in Newscope;
July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
New England met June 5-8 at
Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. Conference members adopted a resolution in
support of Cambridge Welcoming Ministries, which serves gay, lesbian, and
transgendered persons. The assembly adopted
a 2003 budget of $9.86 million, up 6.65%. Membership is 105,450, down 1,200.
- Mike Hickcox, as reported in Newscope; July 12, 2002; Vol.30, No.28.
North Central New York was called to order by Bishop Violet Fisher. In her episcopal address, the bishop said, "The winds of change are blowing today. . . . The Spirit is at work. It is happening. . . . It is happening to churches all around the world. And we are being swept up by Him. All we have to do is open the door." Philip Wogaman, recently retired pastor of Foundry UMC in Washington, D.C., preached each day, using Igniting Ministry themes. Over 400 churches consecrated vials of water in their worship services on the Sunday prior to coming to conference. During a worship service led by Marilyn Baissa, the vials of water were combined in a single fountain as an act of remembering baptism. Conference members: 1) adopted a 2003 budget of $3.27 million, up 3.4%; 2) approved changes to the clergy housing policies including housing allowance for clergy other than those on the local church level; 3) began planning a service of repentance for the 2003 session; and 4) joined the UM Men as they transferred an 18-wheeler loaded with potatoes to smaller bags and trucks for distribution to food banks. Membership is 82,809, down 1,783.
- Sharon Fulmer, as reported in
Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
North Georgia met June 11-14 in Augusta. A service of repentance and reconciliation for the sin of racism was held. The conference received an offering of $104,000 for the Cornelius Henderson Student Center at UM-related Clark Atlanta University. The board of laity: 1) announced that their mission project to translate Disciple Bible study into Russian had been completed; and 2) named Gus Gustafson, author of Discover God's Call, as Laity of the Year. Conference members adopted resolutions: 1) asking North Georgia UMs to consider recommending to the General Conference a revision of the Discipline related to the abolishing of racism; and 2) calling upon General Conference to join the worldwide support of persecuted Christians. Two resolutions on terrorism and war were tabled, and a resolution was defeated that would have asked General Conference to re-evaluate the denomination's cross and flame logo. Members approved a new programmatic structure for the conference that will replace the council on ministries with an office of connectional ministries. A Vision Forum and four ministry teams--nurture, outreach, witness, and advocacy--were established. Conference members: 1) adopted a $21.2 million budget; and 2) revamped the method of paying clergy insurance to comply with IRS regulations and a Judicial Council decision. The church development office announced four new churches will be started, along with a Korean campus ministry and a new ministry to the Hispanic population in Flowery Branch. There are 46 full connection deacons and 902 full connection elders in the conference. Membership is 322,125,
up 7,404. - Alice Smith, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference met June 6-9 in the area of the Choctaw Nation in Southeastern Oklahoma. The conference memorialized and celebrated the life of the late Thomas Roughface, conference superintendent, who died
May 9 following complications from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The conference raised $2,800 for the Tom and Patricia Roughface Memorial Endowment to benefit OIMC seminary students. Presiding Bishop Bruce Blake preached sermons related to the theme of the conference, "Discovering God's Word in This Chaotic World." Six ministerial candidates were introduced at the session, and it was noted that three of the candidates would enter
seminary this year. Five OIMC pastors will be in seminary in 2002-03, the largest number of seminary students enrolled at one time for OIMC. Conference members approved two resolutions, one opposing the transportation of nuclear
waste and fuel rods across the state of Oklahoma and the other in opposition to the president's designation of the Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. One elder was ordained and two were retired. Membership stands at 6,275, down 92. - David Wilson, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Pacific Northwest met June 12-16 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., under the theme "Yet Alive, Refreshed by the Spirit--Vital Congregations." Connie Gent, lay member from Avon UMC, requested a ruling of law regarding dismissal of charges against Mark E. Williams, who announced that he is a "practicing gay man." The conference voted to make payment of healthcare premiums for all full-time clergy mandatory starting in 2003. A special task force was established in "response to the rising cost of local-church ministry, the struggle by some congregations to support apportionments, declining membership in many churches, and the struggle with evangelistic outreach." Conference members approved resolutions: 1) challenging economic sanctions against Iraq; 2) opposing US leadership as an arms manufacturing nation; 3) supporting tighter restrictions on the sale and storage of firearms; 4) affirming a recent ordinance in the city of Tacoma protecting the civil rights of persons "of all sexual orientations and identities"; 5) supporting the elimination of manufacture and use of land mines; 6) supporting reduction of emissions causing global warming; 7) affirming the Council of Bishops' letter, "Precious Stone," on the Middle East Crisis; 8) supporting funding for the Global AIDS Fund; 9) supporting reunification of Taiwan with mainland China; and 10) supporting the reunification of Korea. Members adopted a budget of $5.4 million, down 7.6% due to the removal of clergy healthcare costs from the conference budget. Congregations will now pay health costs directly. Membership is 63,900, down 151.
Elaine Stanovsky, as reported in Newscope;
July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
South German Conference met June 11-16
in Gerlingen and Biblingen, Germany, near Stuttgart, with Bishop Walter Klaiber
presiding. The conference theme was "Music for the Future-What Are the
Notes of Our Faith?" Bible studies
and devotionals related to this theme. The unification with the Southwest German Conference was overwhelmingly approved. The Southwest Conference had already approved the measure. Unification will be finalized at a 2003
joint conference in Heilbronn. The conference honored four retiring ministers this year and ordained eight persons. Membership is 14,680, down 230 (1.54%). The number of baptized members increased to 11,565, up 106.
Jonathan Whitlock, as reported in Newscope;
July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
South Indiana. Members: 1)
celebrated ground breaking for a new Conference Service Center facility in
2) commissioned three new lay missionaries to the Hispanic community; 3) authorized development of a plan to raise funding throughout the conference for a program to support establishing new communities of faith; 4) launched
a new Operation Classroom initiative to raise funds and collect hand tools for vocational programs in West Africa; 5) collected a truckload of school and medical relief supplies for Liberia and Sierra Leone; 6) celebrated paying 100% of world service apportionments in 2001; 7) approved a $10.9 million budget; 8) announced a $500,000 building project for the Korean UMC in Bloomington; 9) renewed commitments to work for elimination of legalized gambling in Indiana; 10) resolved to include voices of black UMs in resources and events aimed at making amends for historic racism in the church and encouraged all congregations to seek ways to enter into joint ministry with Pan-Methodist churches; and 11) heard presiding Bishop Woodie W. White declare September 2002 to be "United Methodist Open House Month" in the
conference, to coincide with the fall airing of Igniting Ministry's national TV commercials, and the bishop asked each congregation to set aside Sunday, September 8, for "Remembering 9/11" services. There was one new church start: The Promise UMC, Fishers, IN. Seven elders and one deacon were ordained. Seventeen elders retired. There are 600 elders in full connection and six deacons in full connection serving the conference. Membership stands at 123,425, down 1,776. Worship attendance is 69,724, up 2,538. - Lynne DeMichele, as reported in Newscope; June 28, 2002; Vol.30, No.26.
Tennessee was convened by
Bishop William W. Morris at Brentwood UMC near Nashville June 9-12. Conference
members: 1) collected approximately $95,000 for the children of Kamina in the
North Katanga Conference of the Congo; 2) supported efforts to defeat a 2002
state lottery referendum; 3) commended Martin Methodist College for their sensitivity
and willingness to change the name of the team mascot from "Indians"
to a more appropriate one; 4) defeated a resolution requesting the voluntary
establishment of conference churches and local ministry sites as "gun-free
zones"; 4) approved a prescription drug program for retired clergy; and 5)
adopted a 2003 budget of $10.75 million, an increase of 7.7%. Membership is
114,584, up 845. - Juanita
Brummitt, as reported in Newscope; July
5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Virginia met June 16-19 at the Civic Center in Roanoke under the theme "Come to the Table." On June 17 presiding Bishop Joe E. Pennel Jr. addressed persons to be ordained, commissioned, consecrated, and licensed into the ministry. "Read the Bible for transformation and information and make sure you know the difference," said the bishop. "Master one book of the Bible and let the others grow out of inspiration. . . . Don't focus on the sins of others and not recognize
your own shortcomings. Some 42,000 pounds of
sweet potatoes were packed. Churches across the conference donated 32,934 kits
and $26,734 to Church World Service. During a "Random Act of
Evangelism" event, approximately 100 people gathered June 18 to take
specially made drinking cups to people at the downtown Roanoke Farmers Market.
Conference members: 1) called for an immediate cease-fire in Israel and
Palestine; 2) asked churches to study the death penalty and Christian
responsibility; 3) adopted a "Nurturing Appropriate Relationships"
resolution that calls on the church to do its part to strengthen families and
marriages, along with a resolution that supports "Faithful Witness in
Singleness and in Marriage"; and 4) adopted a 2003 budget of $23 million,
up 3.9%. Four new churches were added: New Light Korean, Alexandria District;
Iglesia Metodista Unida Gracia, Arlington District; a new Vietnamese
congregation, Arlington District; and a new church, in the Portsmouth District.
Membership is 340,231, up 701, the first increase since 1982. - Brenda S. Capen, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
West Ohio met at
Lakeside-on-Lake-Erie, June 6-9, with the theme "Open Hearts, Open Minds,
Open Doors: THE INVITATION." During presiding Bishop Bruce Ough's opening
sermon, "Calling All Sinners," he asked conference
members to kneel and pray throughout the 3,000-seat Hoover Auditorium. The conference adopted a covenant with the North Katanga Conference that will result in direct support of projects there and an exchange of Volunteers in Mission teams in future years. Asbury Seminary President Maxie Dunnam was the conference preacher. In response to an action of the 2001 session, the conference heard Fred Shaw, a member of the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation (his Shawnee name is "Neeake," the bird that talks while it flies) called for reconciliation with Native American people for past wrongs and injustices. Instead of an apology service at the session, Shaw said, the conference should begin a year of study and learning leading to a service of reconciliation at the 2003 session. Conference members: 1) reaffirmed opposition to state-sponsored gambling, asking church members not to buy lottery tickets, calling on congregations not to accept donations from lottery winnings, and asking the Ohio General Assembly to outlaw unattended lottery ticket machines and to stop advertising the Ohio Lottery and the Mega-Millions game; 2) adopted a recommendation making the process for nominating candidates for General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations the same for laity as for clergy; and 3) adopted a 2003 budget of $17.97 million, up 2.8%. Membership is 255,312, down 3,912.
- Tom Slack, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27; and July 19, 2002; Vol.30, No.29.
Western Pennsylvania was held June 12-15 at Grove City College, with presiding bishop Hae-Jong Kim (Pittsburgh). Conference members continued a traditional collection of emergency kits for the UM Committee on Relief, filling a tractor-trailer with 16,660 kits to be delivered to the UMCOR depot in Louisiana. Conference members: 1) heard the Conference Dialogue Team describe their efforts over the past two years to understand one another better and to model Jesus' love toward each other, despite their differing views on homosexuality; and 2) adopted a "projected expense budget" for 2003 of $17.75 million based on "mission share" (local church apportionment) income of $8 million and "non-mission share" (endowments, special offerings, etc.) income of $9.7 million. There are 782 elders in full connection serving the conference. Membership is 200,194, down 936.
- Jackie Campbell, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Wisconsin. Met at the Madison Marriott West, with Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader presiding. Bishop Ruediger Minor, Eurasia Area, preached at the opening worship and the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. The conference presented Bishop Minor with over $30,000 for a new church building in Melnikovo and other ministry starts in Russia. Rev. Grace Imathiu, a pastor and theologian from Kenya, led the conference in Bible study and the examination of racism within individuals, churches, and communities. Over 4,700 teacher, first aid, and sewing kits were collected in an all-conference ingathering for distribution to mission partner areas. A Friday evening banquet witnessed the presentation of conference awards and had the almost 700 guests clapping and dancing to the music of the Jumpin' Jehosafats, a gospel-Dixieland-jazz ensemble from the Minnesota Conference. The conference marked the near conclusion of the Fund for Discipleship Capital Funds Campaign, which began six years ago, receiving to date over $4.5 million for camping and congregational development. Conference members: 1) authorized a feasibility study for a capital campaign to establish a retired clergy health insurance permanent endowment fund; 2) affirmed a resolution, encouraged by the General Board of Church and Society, to reduce youth smoking; 3) approved a budget of $7.2 million, following a motion to restore $23,700 to the Board of Global Ministries; and 4) marked its 13th consecutive year of 100% General Apportionment giving. Nine probationary members were commissioned; eight elders were ordained. Twelve elders, one associate member, and three lay pastors retired. The Wisconsin Conference has 558 elders, six deacons in full connection, 34 probationary members, nine associate members, and 71 local pastors, for a total clergy membership of 678. No new
congregations were started in 2001, but planning has identified at least ten areas in the conference for new faith ministries. Membership stands at 101,657, down 2,559. Worship attendance is 47,405, up 355.
- Jane Follmer Zekoff, as reported in Newscope; June 28, 2002; Vol.30, No.26.
Wyoming (portions of Pennsylvania and New York) celebrated its sesquicentennial May 30-June 2. Bishop Susan Murch Morrison challenged the conference to reach out and open itself to others who are different…Conference members: 1) approved a resolution that requires anyone seeking clergy membership to participate in Volunteer in Mission projects; and 2) required retired clergy for the first time to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums. Confirmands from local churches were invited to attend the ordination and commissioning service. Membership is 66,248, down 576.
- Don Perry, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
Yellowstone met around the theme "Can These Bones Live?" (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. presided over the June 12-15 session at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. Conference members: 1) adopted several measures related to a newly revised sexual misconduct policy; 2) affirmed the right of minority dissent and the desire for "a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations" expressed in the "We Will Not Be Silent" statement of the 2000 Western Jurisdiction Conference; and 3) adopted a 2003 budget of $1.49 million, down 0.75%. One elder retired. Membership is 17,312, down 330.
- Waveland King, as reported in Newscope; July 5, 2002; Vol.30, No.27.
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The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors;
that which it loves, and also that which it fears;
it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations;
it falls to the level of its unchastened desires.
Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind,
and to take root there, produces its own,
blossoming sooner or later into act,
and bearing its own furtive of opportunity and circumstance.
Good thoughts bear good fruit;
bad thought, bad fruit.