by Alexx Wood, Director of Communications
The New England Annual Conference met in holy conferencing at Gordon College in Wenham, MA from Wednesday June 8 through Saturday, June 11, 2011. The clergy session was held in the afternoon of June 8. The theme of "Living side-by-side: the broken and the whole" was woven through the sessions as more than 1200 clergy and lay representatives from around the conference gathered together to share in worship, business, fellowship, learning and inspiration.
Bishop Peter D. Weaver preached during the opening worship session on Wednesday evening highlighting the theme of broken and whole through a message based on Ezekiel 37: Can these dry bones live? His sermon repeated the emphasis that even when all the places in our lives and in our world seem broken, hurting, or even dead, with the breath of God moving among us and within us: these bones can live!
Honored guest Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference preached during the ordination service on Thursday evening, capturing the congregation with her engaging combination of wit, humor, deep faith and witness. In a second session on Friday morning, Bishop Carcaño led the conference in reflection around our call to “welcome the stranger”, and shared thoughts and experiences in her ministry with and for immigrants. Her presentation engaged and challenged conference attendees to reflect on their own experience, and explore ways God may be calling us to stand for justice in this issue.
Highlights of Annual Conference:
The lives, and new eternal life, of departed pastors, spouses, and active lay members of the conference were affirmed and remembered. The memorial service honored clergy and spouses who have passed away. The service closed with communion and song affirming Christ’s victory over death.
26 retirees were named, and Bishop Weaver led the body in an expression of thanksgiving for the witness and service to God and God’s church rendered by these leaders. Some retirees chose to share reflections on their years of ministry through short videos which were shown throughout the conference session.
10 persons were recognized as newly licensed local pastors, 6 were ordained elders, and 4 were commissioned for the work of an elder.
The theme of Living Side-by-Side was manifested in a focus on mission and global health during the conference sessions, with events and offerings centered around this focus. More than $3,100 was raised in a “Miles for Mission” 5K fun run and walk to benefit Imagine No Malaria. Another project was a Stop Hunger Now packaging event was held throughout the conference, and churches, attendees and guests raised more than $10,000 and packaged more than 51,000 meals for families in Nicaragua who would otherwise go hungry.
Other collections included offerings for Cooper Community Center in Massachusetts, and the United Methodist Economic Ministry in Maine. All tallied, this year’s conference offerings and fundraising totaled more than any previous conference session.
The Ziegler Preaching Award was presented to Rev. Richard Capron, most recently serving in Lexington UMC in Massachusetts. In his sermon, Capron reflected on our collective call to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. He remembered the closing of the old Lone Ranger series, where some asks “who was that masked man?” and another would answer “don’t you know? That was the Lone Ranger!” He shared his vision of the church – where the world would see good things being done for God’s glory, and folks would say “who were those people?” and someone would say, “Don’t you know? Those are the Methodists!”
The Annual Conference tech team continued to work to extend the conference experience beyond those attending on-site. For the second year in a row, conference sessions were broadcast over the Internet in a live webcast. The webcast was viewed 3,820 times over the three conference days – nearly twice the viewership of the previous year. A lively twitter feed was also going on during the sessions, engaging attendees and other followers during the sessions.
In business, the conference:
- Approved a 2012 budget of $7,452,615, including a “connectional mission share” for churches unable to pay 100% of apportioned amounts;
- Elected these persons as General Conference delegates: Clergy: Rev. We Hyun Chang, Rev. Rebecca (Becca) Clark, Rev. William (Scott) Campbell, Rev. David Abbott, Rev. LaTrelle Easterling. Lay: Ms. Bonnie I. Marden, Mr. Ralph R. R. Oduor , Ms. Rene Wilbur , Mr. Oscar Harrell , Ms. JoAnn Carlotto.
- Elected these persons as Jurisdictional Conference delegates: Clergy: Rev. Martin McLee, Rev. Leigh Dry, Rev. Karen Munson, Rev. Nizzi Santos Digan , Rev. Gary L. Shaw. Lay: Ms. Annie MacNeal, Mr. Sam Purushotham, Ms. Fay Flanary , Mr. William Aldrich , Mr. Sean Delmore.
- Elected as Jurisdictional Conference alternates: Clergy: Rev. Sandra Bonette-Kim , Rev. Tsitsi N. Moyo , Rev. Pat MacHugh , Rev. Tom M. Getchell-Lacey , Rev. Thomas Bentum. Lay: Mr. Dight W. Crain, Ms. Rebecca Hewett, Mr. Philip Susag , Ms. Marla Marcum, Ms. Evie Doyon.
- Approved 33 resolutions; including a resolution calling for pressure on our state legislators to support the Dream Act, a “Call to Conscience” encouraging the conference to radical hospitality and to “raise our voices for a just and reconciled church and world where God’s welcome will be practiced throughout our human community,” several amendments to Conference Policies and Procedures, and the establishment of a Conference-wide “Disabilities Awareness Sunday”.
- Affirmed 14 petitions to be sent to the 2012 General Conference, including 2 petitions on disability issues and ministries; one calling for the alignment of UMC investments with the Church’s stated position on Israel/Palestine; and 11 petitions on various aspects of human sexuality and inclusiveness, most centered around removing discriminatory language regarding homosexuality from the Book of Discipline. After some debate on all of these petitions, the conference voted to affirm them all.
In a peripheral but related action, a group of a few dozen clergy stood in support during the closed clergy session while a statement was read indicating that 24 clergy in the Conference had signed on to an independent movement declaring their intention to perform marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples, a stand which is in defiance of the current church law in the Book of Discipline.
This clergy action was not addressed in the Annual Conference session or proceedings, but was an autonomous and voluntary effort by clergy supporting the statement. By the end of the conference sessions, more than 90 New England Conference clergy had signed the statement. In the two weeks following the conference sessions, the number had risen to 123. More details can be found at www.neumc.org/equality
Membership in the New England Conference stands at 95,871, down 2,108 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,721, down 1,559 from the previous year.
Additional information and news from the 2010 Annual Conference session can be found at www.neumc.org/ac11.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference blessed us with her preaching during the ordination service.