August 2003 Update
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This edition of the Monthly Update is a contination of annual conference summaries from the Methodist Church around the world.
It looks as if the next big battle that will influence a key issue in our country and our denomination is going to be that of homosexual marriage, depending on the final outcome of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
An insightful commentary is offered by Hoover Institution research fellow Stanley Kurtz. In it he states,
"The ultimate outcome of our coming national culture war over gay marriage will either be legal gay marriage throughout the United States, or passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. There will be no middle ground."
There will be no middle ground! Please do all you can to ensure the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Here are some steps you can take:
Communicate this information to others and urge them to get involved in this.
Continue to educate yourself and others about the issue. If you have access to the internet, please take the time to access the following websites:
The American Family Association, headed by UM pastor
Donald E. Wildmon: http://www.afa.net/
Agape press: :<http://www.agapepress.org>
Agape press reports that Chuck Colson is convinced such an amendment is the only way to stop what he refers to as the homosexual "juggernaut." More details on this are available at website:<http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/7/152003a.asp>
Please continue to pray about this issue. It is key to the well-being of our countryand our denomination.
I thank you.
In His service,
Allen O. Morris,
August 2003 Update
Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church
The Bible...is the one supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God and spiritual nature and needs of men. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation. America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.
* * * * *
+ Duke University Divinity School, a UM-related seminary in Durham, N.C., will coordinate a $57 million Lilly Endowment Inc. program on pastoral excellence involving 47 organizations. The Sustaining Pastoral Excellence
program funds a variety of organizations in projects designed to improve support for clergy engaged in pastoral ministry. Kevin Armstrong, a 1985 Duke Divinity graduate and UM pastor in Indianapolis, will coordinate the program.
- UMNS, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
+ Looking at how people manage their time and energy during a typical week, Barna Research Group found in a new study that baby busters claim to be the most "authentic" in relationships yet are more likely than any other generational segment to engage in sex outside of marriage, less likely to devote time to serving others, and are the least values-driven. The research also showed that the presence of young children in a household makes less difference in a person's behavior and values than any other demographic. The entire report can be found online at www.barna.org. http://www.barna.org.>
- As reported in Newscope; July 4, 2003.
(UM) General Council on Ministries.GCOM Focuses Vision of Common Table In a series of conferences calls during the month of May, the membership of the General Council on Ministries worked on the Living into the Future document, which proposes a new general church agency that would replace the GCOM and the General Council on Finance and Administration. The "common table" would be a place for representatives from annual conferences and general church agencies to come together to guide the programming of the denomination. The council defeated, 14-12, an amendment to eliminate the proposed voting rights of general secretaries on the common table. The chief staff executives do not currently have a vote in GCOM or the General Council of Finance and Administration, but they are usually present to participate in the discussion. The presidents of each general agency's board are also given voting rights at the proposed common table.[Note: This is seen as increasing the power of the general boards and agencies, an ill-advised move. This is not seen as a good thing.] - With contributions from UMNS, as reported in Newscope; June 6, 2003.
+ ...Evangelist Billy Graham has ended his latest mission -- and possibly his last, says Associated Press -- sounding his familiar theme of God's unconditional love and availability in times of trial. Over the four nights, the mission in Oklahoma City attracted 102,000 people. The 84-year-old Graham spoke of his love for Oklahoma and conceded he might not be back there. If history is a guide, the impact of the mission to the capital of the Sooner State will be lasting -- at least, that is the opinion of Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys, who served as mission chairman. He says area residents, including his own parents, have been telling how their lives were changed by the month-long Graham crusade in 1956 and its aftermath. Humphreys says he tends to agree with one man who recently told him that the crusade nearly 50 years ago was the single most positive event in the history of Oklahoma City. The mayor says he is hoping the latest mission will leave a similar legacy. [Note: Billy has done more good for people than will ever be known on this earth.]
- AgapePress, June 16, 2003.
Results from the Annual Conferences
Alaska Missionary Conferencemet May 30-June 2. Bishop Edward Paup presided over the 32nd session of the conference held at Chugiak UMC, Chugiak, Alaska, under the theme "In the Wesleyan Spirit." The conference celebrated 300 years of Methodism through historical skits, authored by Bea Shepard (Alaska Missionary Conference Historian). Conference speaker was Leslie Griffiths, superintendent minister of Wesley's Chapel, London. Missional priority for 2003-04 is Outreach and Relief to the Children of Iraq. The conference set the 2004 budget for $665,122, with apportionments set at $620,122. The next annual conference is proposed to be held May 27-29, 2004, with invitations from Anchor Park UMC and First UMC, both of Anchorage, Alaska. The conference supported resolutions on: 1) an open table; 2) wellness and healing for present and future generations of Saint Lawrence Island Yup'ik People; 3) the International Mine Ban Treaty; 4) clergy affiliate membership in missionary conference; 5) constitutional change regarding ¶32-34 on General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegate election; 6) support of the continuance and expansion of Igniting Ministry; and 7) continuance of the National Committee on Ministries with Deaf, Late-Deafened, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind People. The conference opposed efforts to legalize expanded gambling in Alaska. General Conference delegates are Lonnie Brooks, laity, and Rachel Lieder-Simeon, clergy. Membership is 4132, up 22. - Brenda Wingfield and Randy McCurdy, as reported in Newscope; June 6, 2003.
North Central New York met May 30-June 1 with Bishop Violet Fisher presiding. A Service of Repentance drew more than 500 to Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus. There, Theodore C. Jackson Jr., pastor of Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church in Baltimore, spoke of the former Central Jurisdiction and of the need for us to work together to be truly reconciled. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Sharon Bassett (head of delegation), Ronald Bretsch, Gregory Forrester, and Jason Moore. Clergy delegates: Sudarshana Devadhar, Deborah O'Connor Slater, Thom White Wolf Fassett, and William Gottschalk-Fielding. Bishop Fisher ordained three elders and one deacon and commissioned six persons. Twelve elders retired. Membership stands at 81,468, down 3,047 over the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 26,326, down 876. - Sharon R. Fulmer, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
North Alabama met on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College June 1-4, with Bishop Robert E. Fannin presiding. A special Wesley Alive! worship service celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley. S T Kimbrough Jr., a conference clergy member and associate general secretary for mission evangelism at the General Board of Global Ministries, led the service. Through resolutions the conference decided to: send a petition to General Conference regarding inclusiveness in general church board and agency representation. During the conference, more than 10,000 sewing kits and money for 53 sewing machines were sent...for shipment to Angola and Mozambique. A special offering of $28,000 was taken for World Methodist Evangelism. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Gloria Holt, Scott Y. Selman, Zac Riddle, Pat Meadows, Neal R. Berte, Mattie D. Battle, Jill R. Hicks, and Mike Hopper. Clergy delegates: William B. Morgan Jr. (head of delegation), Amy Marie Bowers, Gary T. Ward, T. Michael Morgan, Robert H. Sparkman Jr., O'neil Ridgeway, Andrew R. Wolfe, and William H. Bostick Jr. Membership is 159,288, down 442.
- Danette Clifton, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
Mississippi met June 2-5 in Biloxi, celebrating the theme "Birth and Rebirth." Bishop Ruediger Minor (Eurasia Area), the newly elected president of the Council of Bishops, preached on the Wesleyan statement "The world is our parish." The mission offering of $57,126.54 collected during the service will help give birth to new churches in Russia and Mississippi. Minor also preached at the service of ordination and led a seminar on the Russia Initiative. The conference approved a 2004 budget of $16.8 million and passed resolutions on prayer, clergy housing, open communion, raising awareness of the Methodist Children's Home, supporting the expansion of Igniting Ministry, recognizing Lovett H. Weems Jr. for his service to St. Paul School of Theology, and affirming commitment to historic doctrines of faith. Also approved were three resolutions on ministry to and with homosexuals. These resolutions ask the general church to increase funding for dialogue and education, to provide resources and promote ministry to and with homosexuals, and to prohibit promotion of the acceptance of homosexuality. Several petitions to the 2004 General Conference were affirmed. A resolution regarding the makeup of general boards, agencies, and commissions was approved that contained five petitions to General Conference on how to reconfigure the boards to be more representative of the church's membership. The conference also approved measures to reinstate the Purpose, Priorities, and Mission Statement found in the Discipline prior to 2000; to require that bishops exercise oversight "to maintain the doctrinal expressions of the Church within the boundaries of the Doctrinal Standards"; and that all general agency staff shall uphold and be loyal to the doctrinal as well as ethical standards of the church. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Turner Arant, Bill Smallwood, Bill Scott, Martha Scarborough, Sara Hillman, Gay Huff, Steve McAlilly, Morenike Irving, and David Beckley. Clergy delegates: Joe May, Bob Whiteside, Sam Morris, Warren Black, Steve McDonald, Sheila Cumbest, Connie Shelton, Bill McAlilly, and Vicki Sizemore-Tandy. On the final day of conference, Bishop Kenneth L. Carder announced his plans to retire from the episcopacy at the end of the quadrennium and join the faculty at Duke Divinity School. Membership is 190,304, down 411. - Gwen Green, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
North Carolina met June 2-5 in Fayetteville, with Bishop Marian M. Edwards presiding. Rocks from local churches were used in the worship area as a remembrance of pain and suffering inflicted by racism and cultural differences. The stage design highlighted the conference theme, "Come to the Water . . . for Repentance and Reconciliation." Many churches had used the rocks in local church worship before the conference and returned home with new rocks proclaiming the new life built in Jesus Christ. The guest preacher was Zan Holmes. In other matters, the conference: 1) adopted a $17.2 million budget, 4.18% over last year; 2) changed the healthcare benefits for retirees so previous retirees will contribute at least $10 per person per month and future retirees will contribute on a sliding scale based on years of service; 3) adopted a Comprehensive Plan of Inclusiveness; 4) called for the withdrawal of the church from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; 5) called for changes in ¶161J on abortion, including opposition to partial-birth abortion except when the life of the mother was in danger; 6) adopted a resolution supporting chaplains in the State Department of Correction and studying how to assist with volunteer chaplains; 7) supported the ministry of the N.C. Christian Advocate and required all churches to have an Advocate representative; 8) defeated a motion that would have asked General Conference to remove the pastor as chair of the local church nominating committee; 9) called on the N.C. and U.S. governments to develop a system of healthcare insurance; 10) endorsed participation of the United States in the United Nations and exhaustion of diplomatic efforts through the United Nations in future conflicts; 11) opposed investigating the labor practices of Wal-Mart and other large retailers; 12) approved the establishment of a Pastoral Safety Net Foundation to develop and distribute funds to assist pastors with special needs; 13) authorized a task force to recommend how the conference can foster and increase support between the conference and affiliated institutions; and 14) authorized the purchase of more than 30 acres of land in three tracts for use in providing low-cost housing under the Rural Affordable Housing Initiative, funded in large part by the Duke Endowment. General Conference lay delegates in order of election: Cashar Evans (chair of delegation), Emily Innes, Ben Adams, Bill Norton, Jeanne Rouse, Gary Locklear, Laura Little, Anna Gail Workman, Sharon Strother, Mack Parker, and Beth Norris. Clergy delegates: Hope Morgan Ward (vice chair of delegation), Samuel Wynn, Paul Leeland, Belton Joyner, Carl Frazier (secretary of delegation), Albert Shuler, David Malloy, Roger Elliott, Carol Goehring, Jerry Lowry, and David Banks. Membership is 232,700, up 2,154. - Bill Norton, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
Louisiana met June 4-7 at Centenary College in Shreveport, with Bishop William W. Hutchison presiding. Members approved a $7.1 million annual budget for 2004. After three days of presentation and discussion, the vote to reduce the number of districts in the annual conference from nine to seven passed by a show of hands. Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr., of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, delivered the message at evening vespers on Friday night. Focusing on the topic of reconciliation, Hoyt stressed that we must be willing to accept forgiveness as well as being able to forgive. Doug Baker, chairperson of the Worship Committee, introduced this year's theme, "Being Perfected in Unity, that the World May Know." The Board of Laity address, given by conference lay leader Ned Randolph, was followed by a series of reports, including the announcement that 21 awards of $1,000 each were made to this year's Daughenbaugh-Matheny scholars. In addition, $15,000 was contributed by the 1000 Club toward the $35,000 goal for constructing of a sanctuary for Spean Chivit (The Bridge of Life) UMC, Koki, Cambodia. An amended report from the Staffing Committee, which proposed the hiring of a provost and one or more persons responsible for mission and education for the conference, was passed. The report also calls for the hiring of a conference director of church extension and renewal and the retention of the District Missioner program. After much debate, a proposal to make clergy participation in the conference health insurance plan mandatory was defeated. The confirmation of a $701,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation was passed by a show of hands. The grant will support and grow programs like the Discerner's Academy, the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness, and the Academy for Spiritual Leadership. Petitions were passed in support of Africa University; endorsing the modification of our denominational mission statement; authorizing the return of property to Clanton Chapel in Dulac from the National Division of the General Board of Global Ministries; and assigning full voting privileges, in evaluating fellow local pastors and associate members, to local pastors and associate members serving on the Board of Ordained Ministry. Throughout the four-day conference, elections for clergy and lay delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2004 were held. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Anita Crump, Sarah Kreutziger, Ned Randolph, Nancy Carruth, Lane Winn, Lueburda Myers, and Carolyn Dove. Clergy delegates: Marie Williams, Chris Andrews, Bob Burgess, Freddie Henderson, Carol Winn Crawford, Ellen Alston, and Donald Avery. Membership is 126,607, down 57. - Betty Backstrom, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
Dakotas met June 4-7 in Fargo, N.D., with zBishop Michael J. Coyner presiding. The conference agreed to expand a pilot project whereby the entire conference would be organized into ministry teams for clergy and laity. In adopting Dakotas Missionary Partners Fund, plans were laid to fund compensation packages for the conference's missionaries (known formerly as 10-10-10 missioners) who are continued in service beyond their initial three-year General Board of Global Ministries-funded period. Bishop G. Lindsey Davis (North Georgia Area) preached at ordination. The conference approved a budget of $5,005,234, an increase of 1.4%. The conference authorized a Bishop's Advisory Group plus increased visibility and new strategies for fundraising, particularly for camping/retreats and ministry development. Sale of prints of conference artwork raised $1,734 for Lithuania seminary scholarships. General Conference resolutions in support of Africa University and a UM Global AIDS Initiative were passed. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Karl Kroger and Kathleen Enzminger (head of delegation). Clergy delegates: Teri Johnson and Eldon Reich. Membership is 44,309, down 984. - Donna Fisher, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
Northern Illinios. Methodists in Northern Illinois says it's time their church pastors and Sunday school classes started teaching that homosexuality is accepted by God. During their recent state convention, the Northern Illinois United Methodists passed a resolution calling homosexual relations "an expression of God's love" and condemning those who oppose not only homosexuality, but also bisexual and transgendered lifestyles. The Illinois Conference falls under the jurisdiction of controversial United Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague, who among other things has openly questioned the deity of Jesus Christ. The Illinois Leader newspaper quotes pro-family advocate Dr. Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute, who questions whether the Methodist delegates are ignorant of the facts about the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle -- including reduced life expectancy and violence within such relationships. As Cameron put it: "I would not entrust my or my child's religious life to those following a religion that ignores the scientific reality."
- AgapePress News Summary, June 12, 2003.
Sierra Leone Annual Conference met Feb. 17-23 for its 123rd session, opening with a traditional procession of UM students, five school bands, and conference delegates across the city of Freetown. The sessions were held at the Bishop
Baughman Memorial UMC, Brookfield. Bishop Joseph C. Humper he reported that 2002 had been the most difficult year of his tenure due to financial restraints, especially in the area of conference administration. With less support from the General Board of Global Ministries, the conference is seeking ways to generate income and continue the rehabilitation of schools, clinics, and churches looted and destroyed during the war. The conference statistician reported a total of 1,938 persons baptized, an increase of 601 from 2001. Conference membership is 100,102, an increase of 5,588.
- J.A.M. Jarrett, as reported in Newscope; June 6, 2003.
South Carolina, meeting at Wofford College May 25-29, passed a $13.2 million budget after requiring direct billing for clergy pension and insurance. The South Carolina Conference was the last annual conference to require the payment of clergy benefits by the local church rather than conference-apportioned funds. In other action, Chancellor James Allen asked Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey for a ruling of law as to whether clergy sessions of the annual conference
are subject to the church's "sunshine law" requiring church meetings to be open. After much discussion, the conference approved a resolution calling for the affirmation of the virgin birth of Christ and his bodily resurrection.
Petitions were approved for submission to General Conference: 1) Inclusiveness on general boards-Five resolutions seek to change disparity among the jurisdictions by changing the Discipline to require more equity; 2) Limiting funding-Approved a petition that would close a loophole that allows annual conference agencies using church funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality; and 3) Ministering to homosexuals-Approved a resolution calling for more resources to be expended by the General Board of Discipleship to provide and promote UM ministry with homosexuals. Membership is 241,820, down 766. - Davie Burgdorf, S.C. United Methodist Advocate, as reported in Newscope; June 6, 2003.
THE FOLLOWING WERE REPORTED IN THE June 20, 2003. NEWSCOPE:
Texas met May 26-29 at First UMC, Houston-Westchase. The annual Evangelism Worship Service preceded the conference. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of the 14,000-member Windsor Village UMC, delivered the message. Bishop Alfred L. Norris delivered the State of the Church address. Norris commended conference churches for increasing apportionment payments by more than 4% over 2001 payments (the largest increase of any annual conference). Robert E. Hayes Jr. presented a visual report of the renovation and expansion of the conference's office building. A third floor is being added to the structure as well as a complete renovation of the first two floors. In other conference business, the Board of Discipleship presented its Safe Sanctuary Policy proposal. The policy is intended to protect children and youth from sexual or physical abuse in the programs and churches of the conference. The policy was presented for review and comment and will be acted upon at the 2004 session. The Communications Committee submitted a resolution for the General Conference to create a task force to develop and implement a denominational strategy for digital communications and information technology. The resolution was endorsed by the conference. Two other General Conference resolutions were endorsed, one calling on local churches to be intentional in their prayer ministries and the other requesting a continuation of the initiative Strengthening the Black Church in the 21st Century. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Don House, Gil Hanke, Melvin Dillard, Ewing Werlein, Andy Hernandez, Ruth Palmer, Tom Wussow, Gib Walton, Betty Blackman, Sam Daffin, Bill Coons, Charlotte Newton, and Dawson Taylor. Clergy delegates: Robert E. Hayes Jr., Jim Moore, Jim Foster, Jim Welch, W. Earl Bledsoe, Elijah Stansell, Carol Turner, Morris Matthis, Jim Bankston, Frank Alegria, Steve Wende, Bettie Jo Hightower, and Gail Ford Smith. Bishop Dan Solomon (retired) was the guest preacher for the worship services each evening, including the Order for Consecration and Ordination. Bishops Norris and Solomon ordained five deacons and fifteen elders during the service. Sherry Daniels preached the Service of Commissioning and Sending Forth. Fourteen persons were commissioned in their journey towards being ordained elders in full connection, and 27 clergy members retired. Earlier in the conference, Norris reminded churches of his challenge to grow to 300,000 members by 2004. The conference has posted membership gains in recent years and currently numbers 287,462, an increase of 2,219 over 2001. Attendance in 2002 was 111,373, a decrease of 1,086 over 2001. - David W. McKay, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
Southwest Texas met June 4-7 and approved one petition to the General Conference. Written by Don Hand, the conference chancellor, the proposal would change Discipline ¶603.8 to authorize annual conferences to name associate chancellors. In 2002, the conference also approved a General Conference petition to designate 2005-08 as a time to study the Social Principles. The conference tabled five other potential petitions. Conference members decided those proposals were too complicated for action without further study. Those petitions would change the Discipline to allocate elected
directors for denominational boards and agencies based on membership in the central conferences and the five U.S. jurisdictions. In other business, the conference: 1) extended voting rights to all congregations regardless of size. Previously, conference standing rules gave congregations with fewer than 50 members that were on multipoint charges voice but no voting lay member. The change affects 28 congregations; 2) changed the way congregations pay the local share of health insurance premiums for pastors. Congregations will now pay approximately 50% directly to the insurance
provider. Previously, pastors paid the local share of the premium from their salary. The Board of Pensions pays the other half from apportionment income. By reducing a pastor's total compensation, the change will reduce the amount many congregations pay for pastoral pensions and disability coverage; 3) approved a $7.97 million 2004 budget, including a 26% increase for clergy health insurance coverage. The budget total represents a 6.03% increase over the 2003 conference spending plan; 4) established a nine-member Commission on Hispanic Ministries. Census data show that 54% of the population in the Southwest Texas Conference area identifies itself as Hispanic. That is reportedly the highest percentage of Hispanics in any U.S. conference area; 5) celebrated the 80th birthday of Mount Wesley Conference Center
by receiving nearly $75,000 in a special offering, also marking the end of a $3.2 million capital fund campaign for expansion and renovation of the 68-acre facility in Kerrville; and 6) commemorated the 150th annivirsary of the first Methodist sermon preached in Spanish in the United States. Clergy members needed 18 ballots to select delegates to the 2004 General and South Central Jurisdictional conferences. Laity members cast 12 ballots to fill their matching contingent. Laity delegates to the General Conference (in order of selection): Carol Loeb, Bill Ault, Barbara Ford Young, Jay Brim, Ilda Vasquez, and Beverly Silas. Clergy delegates: Kim Cape (head of delegation), Robert Schnase, Austin Frederick Jr., Barbara J. Ruth, Virgilio Vazquez-Garza, and J. Michael Lowry. Bishop Joel N. Martinez ordained 13 elders and two transitional deacons. He commissioned 11 probationary elders and two probationary deacons. Eight
elders, two probationary members, one associate member, and two local pastors retired. Membership stands at 120,915, up 52 from last year-the 10th straight year of net membership gains. Membership has climbed 13.2%-or 14,135 people-since 1993. Worship attendance stands at 51,147, down 1,197 from a 31-year high in 2001. - Douglas Cannon, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
West Michigan gathered in Grand Rapids June 6-9 under the theme "All My Relatives, Reconciling the Body of Christ Through God's Abundance." Members participated in a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation that included African Americans who left the Methodist church and those who stayed, as well as Native American UMs who experienced expressions of racism. Guest preacher for the service was Vashti McKenzie, the first woman elected bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The conference presented its Peacemaker of the Year Award to Sen. Debbie
Stabenow (D), a lifelong UM. Conference members recognized two new church starts: one in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and one south of Grand Rapids. They also recognized more than $200,000 collected in the Michigan Area for aid to Haiti and 15 West Michigan VIM teams sent to Haiti since the last annual conference. For the seventh year, West Michigan is the conference with the highest per-capita giving to the Advance ($18), the highest percentage of churches giving to the Advance, and second in total Advance giving, trailing only West Ohio Conference. The conference adopted resolutions that: 1) call each church to establish an invitational Statement of Hospitality, proclaiming it ministers to "all people"; 2) set concrete goals to implement the West Michigan High Priorities: "evangelism, social justice, Igniting Ministry, invitational preaching, and encouraging daily spirit-filled Christian living and witnessing"; 3) encouraged all congregations to engage in biblical studies on sexual orientation using a wide variety of studies representing the various positions in the UMC; 4) urge energy audits for every UM conference building and church; 5) express concern about the current Michigan criminal justice system and advocate and urge use of principles of restorative justice instead of retributive justice; 6) ask for prayer and advocacy for children living in Middle Eastern countries experiencing war, terror, and daily acts of violence; 7) support U.S. and U.N. efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine; and
8) return to the Social Principles position that "war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ" while showing love and concern for those who are being drawn into war. Citing a Judicial Council ruling, Bishop Linda Lee ruled out of order a resolution to declare the West Michigan Conference a "Peace Conference." The conference endorsed General Conference petitions that: 1) enhance rights and opportunities for local pastors, including creation of an order for
local pastors and associate clergy members of conference comparable to the orders of deacon and elder; and 2) oppose mandatory retirement for clergy. Bishop Lee ordained six elders and commissioned seven persons for ministry
in the elder track. The conferencr recognized the orders of a pastor transferring from the Southern Baptist Convention. General Conference lay delegates elected: Cristina Bobier, David Wiltse, Joel Pier-Fitzgerald, and Laurie Dahlman. Clergy delegates: Benton Heisler, Russell McReynolds, Laurie Haller, and Lynn Pier-Fitzgerald. Membership stands at 69,973, down 1,273 from 2001. Average worship attendance in 2002 was 45,336, down 1,834 from 2001. - Ann Whiting, as reported in Newscope; June 20, 2003.
THE FOLLOWING WERE REPORTED IN THE June 27, 2003. NEWSCOPE:
Czech and Slovak Republics Annual Conference took place in Plzen May 17-18, with Bishop H. Bolleter presiding. The program was filled with regular reports from churches, committees, and units, greetings from guests (United States, Austria, Germany), and worship. The conference worked on new Czech and Slovak texts of the local Book of Discipline to adjust it to local (European, Czech, Slovak) circumstances. There were no petitions sent to the General Conference. Lay delegate elected to General Conference is Jana Krizova. Clergy delegate is Pavel Prochazka (head of delegation). Bishop Bolleter ordained one elder and two deacons. No one retired. Membership stands at 1,529, up 69 over the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 818, up 41. - Jana Krizova, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Kansas West Annual Conference met May 28-31 at the Bi-Centennial Center in Salina, Kan., with Bishop Fritz Mutti presiding. The theme for the 35th session of the conference was "Focus the Flame," developed from the vision and priorities the conference adopted in 2002. The conference voted to stay with its existing health insurance plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas but encouraged the Conference Board of Pensions to continue its search for a more economical choice. The UM Health Ministry Fund, a philanthropic organization created by the conference to address health issues around the state, announced community health and healthy lifestyle choices as two of its priorities for the next five years. The conference adopted a $5,034,128 budget for 2004, a decrease of nearly $200,000 from the 2003 budget. The conference also voted to explore becoming one conference with the Kansas East Conference. In other business, the conference voted: 1) to purchase the conference office building from the conference's Pension Endowment Fund; 2) to discontinue seven churches; 3) to explore turning two existing Hispanic churches into mission churches; 4) to create a special Sunday with offering for both Camping Ministries and the conference's Ministerial Education Endowment Fund. Petitions to General Conference call for: 1) general agencies and UM institutions to make affordable training accessible in rural areas; 2) addition of the category of certified lay minister; 3) recognition of the role of rural people in the global economy; 4) creation of a Global AIDS Fund and Global AIDS Initiative Committee to address the AIDS crisis; and 5) a quadrennial study on Food, Justice, and Creation Care. Laypersons elected to General Conference: Dixie Brewster, Penney Schwab, Mollie Harberer, and Brian Sutton. Clergy: Cheryl Bell, Dianne Tombaugh, Mark Conard, and Pat Ault-Duell. Bishop Fritz Mutti consecrated one diaconal minister, commissioned four new probationary members, and ordained four deacons and three elders. Two additional elders were elected into full membership of the conference. Four clergy retired. Membership stands at 88,286, down 1,187 from the previous year. Average attendance stands at 37,997, down 743 from the previous year. - Lisa Elliott Diehl, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Wyoming Annual Conference met May 28-31 at the University of Scranton, Scranton, Penn. The theme for the 152nd session was "Strength Is for Service." In her opening address, Bishop Susan Murch Morrison challenged everyone to let go of self-reservations and to reach out to others by offering themselves in servant ministry. During the opening worship, members were invited to bring forward items their congregations had collected in recent weeks for UM Committee on Relief flood buckets. These will be delivered to the Central Pennsylvania Conference Mission Center and to UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana. Leaders of the Bible studies held during the first three days were Amanda Brummer Choi, John Goodell, and Virginia Samuel Cetuk, who each led discussions of various aspects of Romans 15:1-7. Each preached a message based on that same Scripture the day after leading Bible study and was available for discussion at "Lunch with the Preacher." The Denman Evangelism Award was presented to Margaret Johnson (lay) and William Bouton (clergy). Members of Kirkwood UMC and High Street UMC, Binghamton, received certificates of recognition for their sponsorship of refugee families. William B. Reid Jr. received the Guy Leinthall Award for his continued work in the area of social justice. The George Akers Award for ministry in rural settings was presented to Mary Jean Simonin. Members welcomed Sanda Sanganza, dean of the United Theological College in Zimbabwe, who thanked the conference for its help in educating pastors. Amelia Tucker-Shaw, a member of the Communications Resourcing Team at UM Communications, was on hand to introduce Royya James, the 2003-04 recipient of the Judith Weidman REM Fellowship. She will work in the Wyoming Conference for the next year exploring and learning the role of conference communicator. Three young women from Cuba and their chaperone were unable to attend and share their musical abilities because the U.S. Government would not grant visas enabling them to travel to Scranton. Resolutions were approved: 1) calling on clergy and laity to refrain from all gambling and calling on elected officials in Pennsylvania and New York to oppose any expansion of gambling; 2) seeking a moratorium and elimination of the death penalty in both states; 3) opposing the sale of alcohol on Sunday in Pennsylvania and attempts to privatize the sale of wine and liquor; and 4) creating a study commission to plan a structured, educational, and continuous dialogue on sexual orientation. Lay delegates elected to general Conference: Ray Hamill and Blenda Smith. Clergy delegates: Brolin Parker (head of delegation) and Jan Marsi. Six pastors retired, and Bishop Morrison commissioned three probationary members and ordained one elder. Membership in the conference stands at 64,894, a decrease of 1,354. Average worship attendance is 16,318, a decrease of 2,587. - Don Perry, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
North Texas Annual Conference was preceded by a May 31-June 1 event known as "Sunday School Makes a Difference." The event included sermons by Bishop Richard Wilke (retired) and John Ed Mathison, pastor of Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, Ala. Wilke and his wife, Julia, are co-creators of the Disciple Bible study, and the two of them led a workshop. Mathison's 7,000-member church is credited with having the denomination's largest Sunday school. With Bishop William B. Oden presiding over the June 1-4 conference, members launched a New Visionaries program. This will appeal directly to the 162,000 members in the conference's 315 churches to buy "shares" in increments of $100 each annually for five years. The goal is 16,000 shareholders. Funds raised will support new-church development and church revitalization, missional programs, and camp and retreat centers. Conference members signed 328 pledge cards, bringing the pre-launch total to 801 shares worth $400,500. The program builds on VISION 2020, begun in 1998 and garnering $12.6 million ($600,000 beyond its goal) in gifts and pledges for creating congregations, urban ministries, and camps and retreat centers. Bishop Joe E. Pennel Jr. (Virginia Area) preached twice, including the ordination sermon. Bishop Alfred Norris (Houston Area) preached at the Service of Repentance and Reconciliation. Participants included Bishop McKinley Young of the African American Episcopal Church 10th District, Dallas. Conference approved resolutions or motions to: 1) urge removal of all vestiges of racial segregation such as signs, images, and impressions, particularly in public places; 2) conduct a one-year study of options for a new conference center; 3) designate Five Sundays of Faithfulness in February 2004 to encourage worship and Sunday school attendance; and 4) urge all UMs in the conference to speak out publicly and forcefully on the need for God's justice and for law enforcement accountability at local and national levels. Petitions to General Conference would: 1) amend portions of ¶705 to insure inclusiveness in general church board and agency representation; 2) add "Please explain the role and significance of the sacraments in your ministry" to ¶315.9; 3) amend ¶313 to state clearly the need for chairs of ministerial orders to be visible in the life of the order; 4) amend ¶315 to allow ministerial candidates to enter conference membership up to two years earlier; and 5) call upon the 2004 General Conference to make Africa University a priority and to allocate an apportionment of $10 million over four years and an additional $10 million from World Service Special Gifts for the school. Lay delegates to General Conference: Mary Brooke Casad, Thalia Matherson, Arthur Jones, Tim Crouch, Richard Hearne, Todd Bristow, Scott Smith, and Alys Richards. Clergy delegates: Don Underwood (head of delegation), Ron Henderson, James Dorff, Pat Beghtel-Mahle, Scott Jones, Stan Copeland, Fred Durham, and Kathleen Baskin-Ball. Membership is 161,290, up 1,261, or 0.8%. Average worship attendance was 62,595, down 1,420, or 2.2%. Average Sunday school attendance was 35,404, down 510, or 1.4%. - John A. Lovelace, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Central Texas Annual Conference met June 1-4 in Fort Worth. The theme, "Joining Our Neighbors Around God's Table," was brought to life on stage with persons representing the conference's diversity seated at a round table. An empty chair symbolized the need to welcome all strangers to the table. The bread and cup were reminders that the table is God's and not possessed by the people. Bishop Ben R. Chamness presided over the conference, which: 1) dissolved the conference's self-funded Medical Benefits Plan and adopted the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits program, with the conference picking up 50% of the premiums for eligible clergy at an increase of $290,000 in apportionments; 2) approved a 2.05% budget increase for a total budget of $8,707,832; 3) exceeded 60% of the goal in a capital funds campaign (Offer Them Christ) for campus ministry facilities and new church starts; 4) set aside a standing rule for one year in order to complete the conference restructuring; 5) endorsed continuation of the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry; 6) supported Jenna's Hope of Grace mission project; 7) closed four churches and recognized four new church starts; 8) celebrated four churches receiving UM Historic Markers and two churches receiving Texas Historical Markers; 9) received more than $22,000 in conference offerings to benefit Aldersgate Enrichment Center, which provides a working/residential environment for mildly to moderately retarded adults; and 10) endorsed a limited capital funds campaign for the conference's Glen Lake Camp & Retreat Center lake/grounds improvements. Lay delegates elected to General Conference in order of election: Bliss Dodd (head of delegation), Tom Harkrider, Pat Stroman, Hiram Smith, Burnham Robinson, Paula Whitbeck, and Edna Davis. Clergy delegates elected to General Conference: Eric McKinney, Clifton Howard, Brenda Wier, Judy Sands, David Mosser, Karen Greenwaldt, and Doyle Allen. Bishop Chamness ordained five elders, and six elders retired. Membership stands at 156,874, up 114 from the previous year. This marks the 29th consecutive year of growth in membership. Worship attendance stands at 48,365, down 236. - Carolyn E. Stephens, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
South Georgia Annual Conference met June 1-5 under the theme "Write the Vision: Faithful, Fruitful, and Bold." The conference approved a restructuring plan to enable the conference to carry out its new vision statement and serve local churches in their disciple-making mission. Actions included: 1) establishing an Office of Connectional Ministries to replace the current Council on Ministries; and 2) the creation of four discipleship teams-nurture, outreach, witness, and advocacy-taking the place of 20 former committees. Members also spent time in worship with Eddie Fox, director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council, who served as the conference preacher. He also led the conference in Bible studies. In other actions, members: 1) were led in morning worship each day by Robin Pippin of Upper Room Ministries, Nashville, and the conference's summer youth leadership team; 2) celebrated a milestone with the elections of James Swanson, the first African American to lead the clergy delegation to General Conference, and Beth Randall, the first youth to be elected to the General Conference delegation; 3) approved a budget of $11 million; 4) asked that an Elections Task Force be formed to study the elections process for General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations; 5) received $11,150 from the UM Publishing House for the pension fund and then voted to give this money to be utilized for clergy pensions in the central conferences; 6) heard a report from the newly established office of congregational development; 7) agreed to continue direct billing of clergy healthcare premiums. Last year's conference required clergy participation in the conference's HealthFlex program and billed churches directly for the cost of coverage for their pastors; and 8) passed a resolution calling on the 2004 General Conference to make Africa University a priority and to allocate an apportionment of $10 million over a four-year period and an additional $10 million to be raised through World Service Special Gifts. Laity elected to General Conference: Charlene Black, William S. Hatcher, J. Taylor Phillips, Sunshine Bird, Miriam Carruth Hagan, Beth Randall, and Steve L. Rumford. Clergy elected to General Conference: James E. Swanson (head of delegation), Timothy J. Bagwell, James H. Rush, Hal N. Brady III, Creede M. Hinshaw, Cynthia Hooks Autry, and Michael A. McAfee Sr. Bishop B. Michael Watson commissioned eight people and ordained six-four as full elders and two as probationary deacons (1992 Discipline). Sixteen pastors retired, and eleven were recognized for achieving their 50th anniversary in ministry. Membership stands at 141,336, down 638 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 53,392, down 2,292. - Kelly Haggerty, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
South Indiana Annual Conference met June 4-7 at Indiana University, Bloomington, where Bishop Woodie W. White led a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation. Bishop Marshall Gilmore, Dallas, senior bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, received White's words of repentance given on behalf of the conference. Gilmore, a former classmate of White's at Paine College, was also the conference preacher. The conference approved a plan to pay for the pension benefits of 311 pastors under student and part-time charges appointed to serve in the South Indiana Conference between 1982 and 1997, total liability estimated to be $4.2 million. This was done by allocating 2003 pension assets and funds from the sale of conference land in Indianapolis and through a 15-year low interest secured loan with the South Indiana Foundation of the UMC. In other business, the conference: 1) approved a study to be carried out by the episcopacy committee regarding merging the north and south annual conferences; 2) approved a $10.9 million budget for 2004, up less than 1% over 2003, and anticipated $12.1 million in income; 3) celebrated the Bishop's Initiative on Children and Poverty by reporting on the United for Children march to the State Capitol on April 26, with more than 400 participants; 4) re-designated $100,000 not used in building dormitories at Africa University to be used for scholarships; 5) consecrated eorge Lawson to begin a new congregation near New Albany; 6) asked churches in Orange County to help defeat a local referendum giving organizers permission to build a casino; and 7) established equitable elder's salary for 2004 at $30,121. Petitions to General Conference call for: 1) giving local pastors the right to vote for general and jurisdictional conference delegates; 2) giving local pastors who have completed the course of study the right to vote on clergy matters including the board of ordained ministry and district committee; 3) giving all clergy the right to be elected to general and jurisdictional conferences; 4) establishing an Order of Associate Members and Local Pastors; 5) including an associate member or local pastor who has completed course of study on district committee of ordained ministry; 6) allowing local pastors to serve as mentors in the candidacy process; 7) adding Certified Lay Minister position to ministry team with supervision and support of a clergy person; 8) adding the category of Commissioned Local Pastor; and 9) changing the definition of town and country settings to correspond with U.S. Census data. Laity elected to General Conference: James C. Shaw, Patricia Miller, David Crane, Charles Porterfield, Brian Jarmon, and John Lawson. Clergy: Kent Millard (head of the delegation), Gregory McGarvey, Ida Easley, James Gentry, Darren Cushman-Wood, and Deborah Cronin. Bishop White ordained seven elders and one deacon. He commissioned 13 candidates for ministry, and 15 elders retired. Membership stands at 118,649, down 2,145 over the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 67,241, down 2,503. - Daniel R. Gangler, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference met June 4-7 at Messiah College, Grantham, under the theme "Changing the Landscape: Building Bridges to People" for its 215th session. In his keynote address, Bishop Neil L. Irons called on the churches to eliminate the barriers that divide people. He stated that the primary barrier to reaching others lies in the hearts of those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Also addressing the conference were Ann Van Dyke, civil rights law enforcement agent with Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. In her remarks to the laity, Van Dyke spoke to the growing diversity within the conference boundaries and encouraged members to eliminate everyday acts of prejudice. Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church spoke at the Service of Repentance and Reconciliation. In response to the growing diversity, the cabinet called for new and innovative approaches to ministry, called for teamwork between clergy and laity, and challenged the conference to follow Christ "as a missionary people into the future with confidence and courage." The conference: 1) established a scholarship fund providing full tuition service loans for students attending UM theological schools; 2) approved the formation of a task force to plan a proposed $5 million capital funds campaign to improve conference camps; 3) approved a recommendation releasing funds collected for the African aviation ministry of Jim and Bernice Keech to their new assignment in Asia; and 4) forwarded $14,000 received from the UM Publishing House/Cokesbury to the Overseas Pension Fund. The conference approved resolutions opposing the expansion of legalized gambling, capital punishment, and the privatization of wine and liquor sales. Also approved were resolutions: 1) requiring local church child advocates; 2) granting Certified Lay Speakers assigned to serve local churches as pastors the privilege of attending conference with voice but not vote; and 3) observances of TV Awareness Week and a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Proposals to change the current system of funding conference clergy health insurance were referred for study. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Phyllis Bowers, Zedna Haverstock, Joy Wilcox, Suella Barto, Brent Salsgiver, Joan Gordon, Gary Sowers, and Ryan Bostdorf. Clergy delegates: Lewis Parks (head of delegation), Michael Minnix, Marlin Snider, Mark Webb, Patricia Woolever, Anthony Alexander, Dianne Salter, and Karen Layman. The delegates to General Conference included one youth and one young adult. Bishop Irons ordained 11 elders, one deacon in full connection, and commissioned and received into probationary membership four persons. Fifteen elders and five local pastors retired. Membership stands at 155,168, down 2,748 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 72,865, down 770. - Skip Spangler, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) met June 5-7. The NIC received the largest offering in its history-$108,854.07-for The Millennial Challenge, a campaign to raise $1 million this quadrennium for projects to help children in the conference and throughout the world. The conference approved a resolution, 56%-38%, affirming that homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality are all gifts of God. The resolution says the current disciplinary statement that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" is "not reflective of the historic Wesleyan unwillingness to limit prerogatives which belong solely to God and is not representative of every Biblical/theological perspective." The resolution: 1) encourages clergy to proclaim from pulpits that homosexual orientation can be compatible with Christian teaching; 2) encourages lay people to teach it in Sunday school classes; 3) affirms that loving, monogamous, intimate relationships between persons of the same or opposite gender are an expression of God's love; and 4) affirms that persons of all sexual orientations are equally called to ordained ministry. The conference also approved resolutions that: 1) demanded that detainees in the war on terrorism be accorded full status as prisoners of war in accordance with international agreements and that if charges are leveled against detainees, all trials shall be held under an internationally recognized judicial process; 2) urged a boycott of Tyson Foods products because of the corporation's violation of federal wage and hour laws; 3) supported Bishop C. Joseph Sprague in his ministry and witness; 4) urged Israel to cease all additional occupation of Palestinian territories immediately; 5) urged local churches to purchase fair trade coffee; and 6) urged churches to engage in "concrete acts of unambiguous support" for our armed forces and to pray for their safe return home. Resolutions approved for submission to the 2004 General Conference included: 1) allowing General Conference to adopt enabling legislation for any constitutional amendments approved by General Conference, subject to ratification of the amendment by the required two-thirds members of annual conferences; and 2) deleting the phrase "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching" from the Discipline. Laity delegates to General Conference: Roger Curless, Harriet McCabe, Irma Clark, Lonnie Chafin, Judy Siaba, and Ana Kelsey-Powell. Clergy delegates: Myron McCoy (head of the delegation), Sung-Ja Lee Moon, James Preston, Diana Facemyer, Luis Reyes, and Danita Anderson. Twenty of the 24 delegates elected to General and Jurisdictional Conferences had signed a statement calling the UMC to be open to all people, including homosexuals, and opposing pressure from conservative renewal groups to make the denomination a "creedal" church. Bishop Sprague ordained one elder, commissioned ten candidates for probationary membership toward elders orders, and commissioned two candidates into probationary membership toward deacons orders. Eleven local pastors were licensed, and ten elders and one deacon retired. Membership at the end of 2002 was 116,336, down 1,980 from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 46,550, up 4,492. - Linda S. Rhodes, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference met June 5-8 near Anadarko, Oklahoma. The theme of the conference was "Christian Discipleship: Building Our Community; Proclaiming to Our World." Bishop Bruce Blake (Oklahoma Area) preached throughout the conference on the role and responsibility of Christian disciples. The conference celebrated its accomplishments last year, including local support and being number two for per-capita giving to the Youth Service Fund. Health and property insurance costs were the major discussion during the finance reports. Delegates approved a petition to General Conference that affirms the sacredness of Native people, the languages, cultures, and gifts to the church and to the world. Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Ann Saunkeah (head of delegation). Clergy delegate: David Wilson. No persons were ordained as elder, and one elder retired, Kenneth Deere, associate general secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race. Membership stands at 6,282, up five over the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 2,334, down 44 from the previous year. - David Wilson, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Western North Carolina Annual Conference met June 5-8. Celebrating the theme "Walk Humbly with God," taken from the passage in Micah 6:8, more than 2,900 laity and clergy delegates, friends, and visitors engaged in worship and celebration of the conference's missions and ministries over the past year. The Friday evening service included praise and celebration through preaching, singing, praying, and dancing. In an act of reconciliation, Bishop Charlene Kammerer addressed special guest Councilwoman Marie Junaluska representing the Cherokee Nation and other gathered Native Americans. "We have not always honored your land, your people, your creator God. . . . We seek reconciliation and healing in our relationships. We yearn to become brothers and sisters of the same creator God," she said. Kammerer thanked Councilwoman Junaluska for her presence and presented her with a ceramic pitcher that a local potter created with silt from the Junaluska lake bed. Bishop Ruediger R. Minor (Eurasia Area) served as the conference preacher. The Liberian A Cappella Boys Choir provided music during the Celebration of Life Service. The conference approved a budget of nearly $21 million. The members also voted to retain current statements in the Discipline regarding homosexuality on three accounts: 1) not to conduct homosexual unions in UMCs or by UM pastors; 2) not to accept self-avowed practicing homosexuals as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the UMC; and 3) to affirm God's grace to all people regardless of sexual orientation. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Jack Young, Dawn M. Hand, Les O. Fowler, Courtney L. Russ (youth), Janet H. Collins, Raul Andriano, Josefa E. Bethea, Betty Jo Hardy, Joetta F. Rinehart, Mildred S. Carter, Sarah H. McKinney, James C. Windham Jr., Matthew T. Sink (youth), and John F. Howard Jr. (youth). Clergy: Charles D. (Denny) White Jr. (head of delegation), Arnetta E. Beverly, Thomas A. (Andy) Langford III, Sally O. Langford, William C. Wyman Jr., Mark J. Key, Nancy Burgin Rankin, Julianne (Jan) Brittain, Kenneth H. Carter Jr., James H. Graves, Patricia A. Lewis, Kimberly T. Ingram, Claudia G. Harrelson, and Harold K. Bales. Bishop Kammerer ordained 38 elders and commissioned 37 in probationary membership. Two persons were admitted to associate membership and ordained deacon, and one was admitted to full connection as a deacon. Twenty-seven clergy retired. With 13 consecutive years of membership growth, membership stands at 292,071, up 344. Worship attendance average was down 1,079. - Dawn M. Hand, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
Holston Annual Conference, meeting June 8-11 under the theme "Empowered by the Spirit," was presided over by Bishop Ray W. Chamberlain Jr. The conference passed a 2004 budget that was 18.1% lower than the previous year. The reduction reflects the elimination of pre-1982 clergy pensions following last year's fundraising campaign. The $14.46 million budget for 2004 was passed after the Council on Finance and Administration withdrew an $11.21 million budget, which included direct billing. The conference also voted to move retired clergy and spouses to a Medicare health insurance plan. The vote followed a Board of Pensions presentation by Chair Bill Lawson, who advised members that Holston's current health plan is losing money: $500,000 in 2001 and $700,000 in 2002. Holston's representatives of 930 congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia also gave $96,548 in an offering for Kenya Methodist University and collected food, health, and school supplies valued at $228,755 for missions in Kenya, Liberia, and Zimbabwe. In other actions, the conference voted to support three resolutions: 1) urging every Holston congregation to observe Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday; 2) appointing a task force to study parsonage allowances; and 3) establishing a task force and ministries to strengthen and nurture marriages and families. A petition calling the UMC to adopt missions among Muslims as a 2004 quadrennium priority was sent to General Conference. In standing-room-only worship services, more than 1,600 representatives of Holston congregations heard preaching by Bishop Violet Fisher (New York West Area); William Willimon, dean of Duke University Chapel; and Bruce Stanley, director of field education at Duke Divinity School. Grace Imathiu, Kenya Methodist Church clergywoman, led a Service of Repentance and Healing addressing racism and reconciliation. Mattye Bowman, 95, one of Holston's earliest female clergywomen, led the closing prayer for a service honoring 27 retiring clergy and spouses. In a youth presentation themed "We Are the Church of Today," audience members were visibly moved by the testimony of 17-year-old Meagan Brandl of Memorial UMC, Oak Ridge District. Brandl told of suffering from depression and attempting suicide before attending Junior High Assembly in July 2000 and giving her life to Christ. "I know I'm called to pastoral ministry," she said. "Every time I see my pastor, I say, 'Yeah, I know that's what I'm going to do; that's where I'm going to be.'" Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Jean Henderson, Bob Lockaby, Ginny West Case, Becky Hall, Alan Groseclose, Joyce Moore, Howard Hatcher, and Mary Frances Tucker. Clergy delegates: Albert Bowles, Mary Virginia Taylor, Eddie Fox, Dennie Humphreys, Carol Wilson, Jerry Russell, Stella Roberts, and Charles Lippse. Bishop Chamberlain ordained ten elders, and 19 elders retired. Membership stands at 169,395, down 1,451 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 75,644, down 504. - Annette Bender, as reported in Newscope; June 27, 2003.
* * * * *
- Roland McGregor, pastor of Asbury UMC, Albuquerque, New Mexico
In our desperation to keep the world in our fold, we have become no different than the world. We have lost our alien status, and we don't even know it. We will realize it when the world says to the church, 'You have nothing we need because all you have is of the world.