Saturday Morning – Bishops Ward & Goodpaster, Appointments, Commissioning and Ordination

The morning began with a platform conversation between Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Conference and Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Conference.

The bishops spoke of missional partnerships within the two annual conferences and among the two conferences, including a commitment to partner with public schools across the state for the benefit of children.

Following the bishops’ conversation, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson — a member of First UMC in Cary — continued on the theme of church-school partnerships.

Atkinson urged congregations to renew their resolve to help the 1.5 million children in the state’s public schools. “They need our help more than ever before,” Atkinson said.

After Atkinson’s remarks, new appointments were read and all the appointments were fixed. Bishop Ward adjourned the conference.

The end of the business portion of annual conference was not quite the end, however, because the service for the ordering of ministry followed. Twenty-three clergy were recognized as retiring from active ministry; 39 were recognized as first-time licensed local pastors; 17 were commissioned as ministers on the deacon or elder track; one person was commissioned as a missionary; one was ordained as a deacon and seven were ordained as elders.

In her sermon at the service, Bishop Ward referred to the call to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as “the greatest calling a person can possibly have.”

Picnic For Higher Education & Stop Hunger Now

The picnic celebrating higher education, delayed from Thursday night due to weather, took place with perfect timing.  The business of the Conference was officially completed and, combined with the delightful weather, created a perfect opportunity for fellowship

Many attendees wore a t-shirt from their favorite school, leading to new connections as they met other alumni of their alma mater or (for those of us who attended smaller and lesser known schools) shared information about their school with curious table mates.

A dinner of pulled pork, barbecued chicken, boiled potatoes, green beans, Brunswick stew, hush puppies, corn bread, and banana pudding was catered by the friendly staff of Parker’s barbecue.

After a delicious and filling meal, everyone happily lined up for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, provided by Eddie Barber. Donations from those who enjoyed the ice cream totaled $1045.00, and this figure will be doubled by Ben & Jerry’s. All of these funds will go to Stop Hunger Now.

Donations were also collected at the tables to support the work of higher education and, more specifically, students who are discerning a call to ministry.

Friday Morning Business Session – Resolutions, Statistician’s Report

Heritage DS Randy Innes lead the opening prayer and hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “Thou Art Worthy” to open the plenary session.

As Bishop Ward opened the plenary session with encouraging words from several emails she’d received, Rev. Jodi Lampley asked for a moment of personal privilege, sparking a flash mob led by the Sound District to the song, “Our God is Greater.” By the end of the song, most of the room was on its feet, joining in.

Resolutions

The schedule was then adjusted to allow for the Resolutions to be addressed. The Resolutions Committee report included action on 5 resolutions before the Annual Conference.

Resolution 1, Concerning Health Care, was submitted by the Conference Board of Church and Society and passed overwhelmingly after minimal discussion. It asked that the Annual Conference call on the Governor and General Assembly to reconsider their rejection of Medicaid expansion and work for the common good of all North Carolinians.

Resolution 2, supporting Maternal Health, was also submitted by Church and Society, and was passed overwhelmingly, endorsing the Healthy Planet, Healthy Lives Initiative of the General Board of Church and Society promoting maternal health and international family planning. The Annual Conference is asked to provide leadership and advocacy on the conference level and urge Congress to increase funding for the same.

Resolution 3, Concerning the General Conference’s Decision Regarding Homosexuality, was submitted by Anita Tyndall from Wendell UMC and came with the endorsement of the Annual Conference Session for youth. The resolution urged the General Conference to seek to use more inclusive language in regard to LGBT persons, and came with the recommendation for adoption form the Resolutions Committee. This resolution prompted heated debate, two motions for referral, which failed, and was ultimately passed.

Resolution 4 addresses the trial of Dr Kermit Gosnell and the actions of the General Board of Church and Society. As written, the resolution reflected Rev. Paul Stallsworth’s concern that the GBCS has not issued a statement decrying the murders committed by Dr. Gosnell. Rev. Stallsworth worked with the Resolutions Committee to amend the resolution in light of the completion of the trial and the GBCS’s response, commending them for their public statement.

Resolution 5 came from the Church Council of Fairmont UMC and consisted of a number of issues of social justice to be addressed by the governor and General Assembly, including voter participation, education, health care, unemployment, and renewable energy. Debate ensued over whether to split the resolution into its parts, bit it was ultimately passed-after 2 standing votes.

Statistician’s Report

George Speake celebrated with us the following:

  • 5800 new members
  • 229,064 total members
  • 19,000 in Covenant discipleship groups
  • 9,500 active in missions projects
  • an increase of $211,000 sent in apportionments
  • $12,600,000 spent in benevolent giving.

Worship attendance is slightly down, but George urged us to count carefully. He also suggested that a net decrease of 2205 members owed significantly to audits and corrections to church records. He also encouraged us to be accurate in our financial reporting.

A decision of law was requested from Bishop Ward in budgeted funds for the National Council of Churches and whether our support of that body violated the Discipline’s restriction on funding projects or organizations that promote homosexuality. Bishop Ward indicated she will respond in writing within 30 days, as required,

A report from the Lake Junaluska Associates celebrated 100 years of history and shared details of planned expansions. The mission continues to celebrate spiritual formation and care of mind, soul, and body.

Key Challenges Facing The UMC – Lovett Weems’ Breakout Session

Lovett Weems’ breakout session in Key Challenges Facing the UMC addressed the crises of funding and faulty assumptions that have begun to affect the global church, and are expected to accelerate in the future.

As baby-boomers age and younger people tend to identify as spiritual, but to affiliated with any church, we need to rethink how we do the work of ministry. Resetting our church’s financial priorities with an eye toward sustainable ministry and missions and rethinking outdated assumptions about who will come to church and why will be the key to a vital future.

He encouraged us to focus on connecting people to God through worship, making the church inviting and accessible to visitors, and looking beyond our traditional membership base, and to focus on our community by reconnecting to the community around us, and remembering that churches exist to serve others.

Friday Morning 5k and Breakout Sessions

This morning started off with a bang as the first Annual Conference 5K began at 6:30 am. Morning communion was offered for those who didn’t run, or ran really fast. The morning’s first business were the breakout sessions, consisting of focused learning on various topics of interest to clergy and laity alike.

Sessions included:

  • Lovett Weems on Key Challenges facing United Methodist Churches
  • Tom Berlin on Leading Toward Fruitfulness
  • Derek Leek and Douglas Ward on Connecting Through Social Media
  • Christine Dodson on Your Gift$ Bear Fruit
  • Ed Moore on Pastor and Parish
  • Candace Lewis on Strengthening the Black Church
  • Christine Harman on Spiritual Practices for Growing Disciples
  • Conference Youth on Listening to Our Timothys

Did you attend a session? What did you think?

Tom Berlin – Thursday Evening

Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, VA, and co-author with Lovett Weems of Bearing Fruit, encouraged pastors to seek out the congregation’s history and calling, and called on laity to learn about their pastors particular calling.

The real energy and excitement is found there they intersect, when everyone is working in the same direction and at the same time. “You don’t know how important your church is,” he challenged, “There are people depending on you to bless them…Claim your birthright as children of God.”

Laity Celebration

The Laity Celebration opens with energetic worship by Jay Locklear and the Pilgrimage Band. The Holy Spirit is rising as the attendees worshiped in one voice to the Risen King. This evenings opening worship centered around the Kingship of Jesus Christ … the gathering Spirit that does empower the Laity and today’s church.  Tonight’s message is to witness, how God is alive and active in ministry, and God’s vision in ministry.

First, Seaside United Methodist Church from Sunset Beach, NC shared about Older Adult ministries. They have a vibrant ministry that embraces active ministry and NOT age specific ministries (i.e. Older Adult Ministries). As communities change and churches change in demographics. As churches struggle to find the right way to reach the community, maybe the right question is who are our neighbors and what are their needs?

Next, Campus Ministries shared about opportunities from the Methodist Foundation. These ministries are local on area ministries and international ministries. The Body of Christ is a family and we have many college students that through campus ministries have a family that have embraced them. Also, the Methodist Foundation through campus ministries help lead college students that are seeking spiritual growth in study and action.

Lastly, Agape Christian United Methodist Church share a personal testimony by Jen Lee. Ms. Lee shared how she became a born again Christian through the United Methodist Church and believed that a hard working Christian was a good Christian. Through a quest of personal holiness Ms. Lee described a deep longing and personal assurance from God that brought her to Agape Christian UMC.

Dr. Laura Early and the Children of All God’s Children United Methodist Church from Aulander, NC deliver an emotional message that the Laity are the church and there is always one more child to hold. The future of our believed church is in good hands with a strong Laity led by King Jesus.

Celebration of Laity Ministries

Gary Locklear led a celebration of laity ministries that included video messages from the Board of Laity, United Methodist Women, and United Methodist Men.  An overview was given of the new role of lay servant ministries.  Ellen Beasley, President of the United Methodist Youth, gave a presentation of the activities of the youth over the last year and was thanked with a standing ovation for her service for Christ.

District Ministries of the Year were awarded as follows:

  • Beacon District – Soul Patrol – Sharon UMC
  • Capital District – Newton Grove Charge – Maple Grove UMC and Newton Grove UMC
  • Corridor District – Christmas Market – Duke Memorial UMC
  • Fairway District – Martha’s Place – Page Memorial UMC
  • Gateway District – Evangelism in Action – Mount Olive UMC, Lumberton
  • Harbor District – Prayer Shawl Ministries – Warsaw UMC
  • Heritage District – St. Paul UMC and Williford Elementary School Partnership – St. Paul UMC
  • Sound District – Steps for Sydney – Trinity UMC, Jacksonville

Charles Barrow, home missioner, celebrated the 125th anniversary of the home deaconess and gave an update of the work of the home missioners and deaconesses in the NC Conference.

The celebration of laity ministry ended with thanks for the colleges, UM Foundation and Methodist Home for Children for their sponsorship of the picnic on Friday evening.

Steve Taylor announced that over 98,000 meals have been packaged for Stop Hunger Now and our goal of 100,000 meals will be met!  We have also received 6,000 birthing kits for ministry!

Official registration for annual conference this year is 1,644 persons.

Dates for Annual Conference in 2014 will be June 11-14, 2014, with the theme of Strength to Strength: Thrive!  The location of the 2014 Annual Conference was approved to be the Greenville Convention Center.

The business of the annual conference was completed.  The meeting was adjourned for the Higher Education picnic with members to return at 7:30 for the Laity Celebration.

Awards Presentations

Awards were presented in celebration of many ministry areas.  The recipients of those awards are:

  • John Wesley Fellow – Wally Mills
  • Key Taylor Award – New Hope UMC, Beacon District
  • Jack & Kay Crum Award for Prophetic Ministry – Youth for Hope, Rev. Harold Salmon
  • Harry Denman Evangelism Awards: for youth – Jennifer White, for laity – Todd Rentz, for clergy – Rev. Jerry Mitchell
  • Saints of God Award – Rhems UMC

Bill Gattis brought an update from the Academy for Leadership Excellence on the growing ministry of the Academy.