This year's Bible study leader is Javier Viera, Dean of the Theological School and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Drew Theological School. In Friday's study Dr. Viera examined Psalm 137. Looking at this passage, he said, required him to "unlearn" some things he was taught as a child and young adult about the meaning of this psalm.
Listen to an excerpt
At morning worship Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi told members she’s grateful to one of the saints of the Western Pennsylvania Conference for admitting to being a racist and “starting a vital conversation with her bishop.”
That saint, Bishop Moore-Koikoi said “is in good company” with Paul and even Jesus.
The bishop urged Annual Conference members to stop denying racism, even stop talking about racism and start doing something about it.
Hear her sermon here
State of the Cabinet report
Surrounded by the New England Conference Cabinet, Central MA DS Rene Perez, who serves as Cabinet Dean, gave the annual State of the Conference report. He and his Cabinet colleagues wore caps to celebrate the 25th
anniversary of Africa University, which took place earlier this year.
Rev. Perez admitted that as a Conference “We face many challenges, but they are not insurmountable.” As part of the report, folks read Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”
“It has been obvious for a while that, when it comes to some of the matters that matter the most, we are not all on the same page,” Rev. Perez said. “However, if the New England Conference is to rise in the midst of strife, we need to genuinely love one another, not ignoring our differences but with eyes-wide-open, respecting each other for the sake of the love of Christ, which binds us together. We ought to do it, not because we are asked to do it, but because Christ compels us to do it.”
“But let me say, we can fight and argue until there is no one left to fight with, or we can learn to live together, find new solutions together, embrace change together, so that what we leave for new generations is far better and fairer than what was given to us,” he said. “That’s the decision.”
Read the full report
Conference Statistician Joy Mueller delivered her annual report on the changes in numbers of churches, congregants and those attending worship, etc. for 2015-2016.
Mueller pointed out that only 1 percent of our churches are in cities where the population has fewer white people than people who are other than white.
“While our Conference diversity does not match the area where we are located, our Conference is becoming increasingly diverse,” Mueller said. “Comparing the number of reported members for different races in 2009 with those reported in 2016, the population of African Americans, Asians, and Latinos are all increasing while the white population is decreasing. Slowly, we are looking more like the general population.”
Bishop Devadhar pointed out that 26 percent of New England congregations are growing. We need to ask these churches ‘What’s working for us in New England?’ The bishop said he hopes to see 40 percent congregations growing by 2020.
Leadership/Nominations Report – Approved
Members accepted, with editorial changes/additions, the report of the Committee on Leadership/Nominations. The slate will be published in its entirety in the 2017 Annual Conference Journal to be published later this year.
Bishop Devadhar asked the body to thank Committee Chair Bonnie Marden and the entire committee for their work on filling leadership positions in the Conference.
Justice For Our Neighbors Board presented for election – Approved
Board of directors for the Methodist Conference Home presented for election – Approved
Karen Munson noted that the MCH is proposing a change to its bylaws that will reduce the number of directors from 15 to 14 – Approved
United Methodist Elder Care Board presented for election – Approved
The New England Annual Conference is the MCH’s General Board of Directors and as such elects the functioning board. The bishop is a full member of the board with voice and vote.
Board of Directors United Methodist Foundation of New England – Approved
The New England Annual Conference is the Foundation’s General Board of Directors and as such elects the functioning board.
The Annual Conference, acting as the general board, also approved a motion by Rev. We Chang to request that the Foundation make the bishop or his or her representative a member of the executive committee.
Foundation President James Mentzer said the Foundation board was likely to be agreeable to this recommendation, but it will necessitate a change in the bylaws.
District Committees to be elected by Annual Conference – Approved
- Distract Committees on Ministry
- District Committees on Superintendency
- District Boards of Church Buildings and Location
- During the Episcopal Evening Thursday $3,258.39 was received for the Mission of Peace
- During Friday morning worship $2,544 was received for the Northeastern Jurisdiction Multi-Ethnic Center
The Rev. Erica Robinson-Johnson, Director of Connectional Ministries/Assistant to the Bishop, introduced the directors of the Conference’s camps.
“At the center of the Strategic Plan for our Conference is the value of developing spiritual leaders, and one of the best ways we know to do that is through our camp and retreat ministries,” she said.
The directors are: James Tresner, Wanakee United Methodist Center; Norm Thombs, Camp Mechuwana, and Lawrence Jay, Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center. Jenn Baker Carpenter, Camp Aldersgate, was not able to attend.
Many Annual Conference members responded to the invitation to wear their “camp swag” to Friday’s session to help celebrate the ministry of the Conference’s camps.
Steve Dry, Metro Boston Hope District Lay Leader, was chosen to deliver the Laity Address on Friday afternoon. Speaking on the guiding Scripture for the AC session, Dry said the traditional interpretation gets a couple things wrong:
“First, the idea that we can only worship in Jerusalem does not allow us to creatively think about the evolving form of the church …,” Dry said. “Second, the anger of the Israelites leads to a demonization of the other.”
The proposed budget was adopted with no changes. The budget materials can be found on the website here
Consent Calendar – Approved
Items removed from the Consent Calendar are:
- RS17-128 Call Sunday
- RS17-130 Nicaragua Covenant
- RS17-125 Updated Racial Harassment Policy (Approved on June 15)
Annual Conference members voted on the five proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution. The vote tallies are passed to the Council of Bishops for compilation. The individual vote results in each Annual Conference are not announced. To be ratified, the amendments must be approved by 2/3 of the members voting.
Election of General Conference Delegates
After hearing passionate voices on both sides, Annual Conference members voted to send the 2016 Delegation to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference rather than elect a new delegation.
The Rev. Becca Girrell, who is a member of the 2016 Delegation, called on members to defeat the motion “so we can pass a new motion with the potential to elect a new delegation.”
The current delegation, she said is “not inclusive enough. ”She pointed out there are no women of color (Bishop LaTrelle Easterling was a delegate before being elected bishop in 2016) and only two people who identify as LGBTQ – “and we are both white and both reserves.”
The Rev. Abiot Moyo spoke in favor of the motion saying that he sees the Special Session of General Conference as a “continuation of the deliberations that took place at the last General Conference,” and said he felt the 2016 Delegation represented the Conference well and would do so again.
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar asked the clergy being ordained as full elders, Preston Lee Fuller and Cheryl Meachen, the Historical Questions in preparation for their ordination that evening.
Those clergy who are retiring in 2017 were recognized and this time. This class of retirees have a combined 596 years in the ministry.
As is the tradition, the retirees passed the mantle to the new clergy by presenting them with a gift. This year it was a walking stick.
The Rev. Brigid Farrell, Vermont District Superintendent who is retiring this year, said the traditional symbols have meaning for those in the church, but perhaps not for those outside it.
“This inside-a-church-place may not be the venue that you will be doing all your ministry in, so we wanted a symbol that may be meaningful to those outside your doors, those who you are called to serve,” she said. “So the theme of a journey, walking with people came to mind. A walking stick or staff seemed an appropriate symbol to pass on to you for your ministry that calls you into the streets with the people of your neighborhood.”
Service of Ordination and Commissioning
At the 2017 Service of Ordination and Commissioning, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar told the new clergy “roll up your sleeves” to prepare for the work of the ministry. He encouraged the six being commissioned and two being ordained to be “risk takers” not “undertakers.”
Preston Lee Fuller
Cheryl L. Meachen
Offering for Ministerial Call Fund – $2,808.51
Read more and see photos