AC 2017 Saturday, June 17 Recap

Ziegler Preacher Thomas Blackstone. (See more photos in the gallery at right)

June 17, 2017

UMCOR Health Kits

Thank you to all who helped build UMCOR Health Kits – the 1,000 kits were completed on the first day of Annual Conference!

Bible Study

The Rev. Dr. Javier Viera, Dean of the Theological School and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ, was this year’s Bible study leader. He offered a two-day examination of the guiding Scripture for this session Psalm 137.
Dr. Viera said the vulnerability we feel when having these vital conversations about race is part of what makes them so difficult to have. He asked:
“How do we as a Church inspire and cultivate fortitude and courage and strength in our people so that we can actually have these conversations in a meaningful way? And that if we are confronted with our own bias, with our own blindness that we aren’t going to whither, that we aren’t going to somehow shatter, but that we can take it and we can be open to our brothers and sisters leading us to a new way of being and of seeing and of living in the world because we trust that people are in this with us, not against us. How do we create that kind of culture amongst ourselves so we can be strong?”
Hear Friday’s study
Hear Saturday’s study

Ziegler preacher

This year’s Wilbur C. Ziegler Preaching Award winner is the Rev. Dr. Thomas Blackstone, pastor at Pleasant Street UMC in Waterville, ME.
Rev. Blackstone said the “Spirit that we keep trying to squeeze into containers of fear so that it won’t change us, it’s time to let that Spirit loose.”
Read more

Licensed Local Pastors

The following Licensed Local Pastors were recognized at this year’s Annual Conference.
Allen, Travis
Brakey, Steven                         
Cushing, David                        
Dimanna, Dawn                       
Guest, Paul   
Hewett, Rebecca                      
Johnson, Ross
Jones, Chris
Judd, Barry   
Lee, Sunjae   
Merrill, Karen
Min, Bumshik
Rocco, Randi
Shim, David  
Stewart, Bob
Stone, Daniel
Thomas, Joanne                       
Thorpe, Michael
Woodward, Robert (Woody)

Deaconess commissioned

Roberta Bragan was consecrated and commissioned as a Deaconess before the Annual Conference. She was consecrated at General Conference in 2016, but could not attend the 2016 Annual Conference. Her ministry is photo journalism; Bragan works to tell the stories of churches and people living out the mission of The United Methodist Church.

RS-17-208 – United Methodist Foundation – Approved

The New England Conference supports the Foundation offering its “full array of services” to religious institutions outside of Methodism.

RS-17-214 Rules (portion removed for further consideration) – Approved

With input and collaboration from clergy, laity, the Connectional Table, the Committee on Rules and members of the Annual Conference a motion was made to introduce the following substitution to the paragraph in the Pre-Conference Materials on page 132, lines 13-31
The Connectional Table is the center of leadership for the New England Conference, and is charged with the implementation of the vision. This group will operate according to the example of the General Conference Connectional Table following the spirit of what is laid out for that body in Paragraphs 93 and 94 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
The Connectional Table will elect co-chairs, one laity and one clergy, from among its membership.
a) Six (6) at‐large* non‐staff seats to help ensure diversity elected by the Annual Conference. The Committee on Leadership/Nominations will nominate six people from a pool of 12: 6 clergy recommended by the Board of Ordained Ministry and 6 laity recommended by the Board of Laity.
b) Bishop (non‐voting)
c) Lay Leader   
d) Dean of Cabinet
e) Treasurer
f) BOOM Chair (co‐chairs will decide among themselves who will represent)
g) Chair of Conference Trustees
h) Director of Connectional Ministries
i) Representative from Conference Commission on Religion and Race


The Board of Church and Society and Conference Divestment Task Force brought three related resolutions to the Annual Conference. They are:
RS – 17 – 209 – Avoid Purchase of Hewlett Packard Products – Approved
RS – 17 – 210 – Consider Investing in Wespath’s Equity Social Values Plus Fund (ESVPF) – Approved
The ESVPF Fund is divested from Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions, and this resolution asks that clergy and lay employees consider investing a portion of their accounts in this fund.
RS – 17 – 211 – Protecting the Right to Peacefully Address Injustice Through Boycotts, Divestment, And Sanctions – Approved
The resolution states the conference’s opposition to any legislation that would curtail the right to participate in boycotts, divestment or sanctions. The resolution further asks the Conference Secretary to write a letter to the governors, the congressional representatives, and the ranking members of the legislatures of the states within the New England Conference, informing those elected officials of this resolution and attaching the full text of the resolution; said letter is to include the approximate number of congregations and church members within the state of each recipients.

RS-17-212 Expanding and Supporting Sanctuary – Approved with editorial changes

Brought by the Board of Church and Society, this resolutions states, in part: “The New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church declares itself in solidarity with individuals and families regardless of their refugee or immigration status or documentation, and those who come to their aid.”
Editorial changes were made to the following:
3. The New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church encourages that a sanctuary is not only a space for worship, but is primarily a place of refuge and safety; the NEAC therefore encourages that when a congregation or other body of the Conference discerns and declares itself a “Sanctuary” or in “Solidarity,” this definition applies to all properties owned and/or all ministry programs offered by that member congregation or group.

RS-17-128 – Share your Call – Approved with editorial changes

Calls on churches to observe Share Your Call Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Easter (Shepherd’s Sunday) with an offering to be received to “provide support for the recruitment and education of ordained and diaconal minster and courses of study.”

RS-17-130 – Nicaragua Covent – Tabled at the request of the makers

The resolution regarding the Nicaragua Covenant establishing partnerships with NGOs and ministry organizations in Nicaragua was tabled. The makers will work on a resolution to present to the 2018 Annual Conference. This resolution was removed from the Consent Calendar.


Board of Trustees 

In his report to Annual Conference, Bernie Campbell, president of the Conference Board of Trustees offered an update on the move of the Conference offices.
New Conference office: While he did not release the location (tenets currently in the building have not yet been informed about the sale), the conference has found a new building, and is currently doing its due diligence on the property. Campbell said the expected date for the closing is sometime in August, and once renovations are completed, the staff could be in the new offices in early 2018. The purchase price is $1.2 million. The conference will occupy one floor of the two-floor building and will sell the other half of the building for half the purchase price.
566 Commonwealth Ave., Boston: A buyer has been found for the former conference offices; the buyer is currently doing their due diligence on the property and the sale will require approval from the coop board. The sale price is $350,000; closing could happen by August.
276 Essex St., Lawrence: A “significant offer” has been received to purchase the current Conference offices in Lawrence; a non-binding letter of intent has been signed. If this agreement can be consummated, this sale, along with the sale of the Boston property, will offset most if not all of purchase of the new building, Campbell said. 

Personnel Committee

Daniel Genannt, P. Stewart Lanier, chair; Barbara Cann and Milka Gonzales, members of the newly re-energized Personnel Committee, gave a report on behalf of the committee.
The committee listed the following among its projects:

  • Update the job description of the Personnel Committee, including clarifying its reporting relationships

  • Review and update the Employee Handbook, including Personnel Policies and Procedures

  • Update the Performance Management tools and procedures

  • Clarify the annual merit bonus procedure

  • Review stipend positions (one has been transitioned to a staff position)

  • Clarify the role of the relatively new Human Resource Manager position 

United Methodist Women

Roberta Bragan, president of the New England Conference United Methodist Women, showed a video on the UMW’s work with the Hattie B. Cooper Community Center.
See the video

Resolutions and requests from the floor

Observation on costs of health care

The Rev. We Chang spoke on the issue of higher health care costs for the Conference; while the factors outlined by the Treasurer are accurate, Rev. Chang said, there is another significant factor: “the for-profit, corporate-based private health care system that is costing two, three, four times more than other developed countries that are insuring all of their people.” He said he wanted to encourage the churches to use the power they have to advocate for reform and health care justice reform.

Annual Conference will use gluten/dairy-free elements – Approved

Rev. Beverly Stenmark and Rev. Pat MacHugh brought a resolution that would make it a practice at the Annual Conference level to always use gluten-free/dairy-free communion elements. This practice, they said, will ensure that everyone can participate equally in communion and prevent any possible cross-contamination. The resolution would encourage the same practice at the district level.

Consider school schedule when selecting dates for Annual Conference – referred to Sessions Team

Robin McMahan, equalization member and high school sophomore, brought a resolution asking Annual Conference leaders to consider the school calendar when setting the dates for the Annual Conference session so that more young people will be able to attend.

Continue the Vital Conversations on Race – request

Pastor Jamie Michaels, who is a member of the California-Nevada Conference serving Old South UMC in Reading, MA, spoke to thank the Sessions Team and the Annual Conference for this “holy moment” to talk about race. She asked “that this body prayerfully consider the opportunity to continue these conversations into further Annual Conference sessions.” This is our intention, Bishop Devadhar said.


Laity Address award

Conference Lay Leader Rene Wilbur spoke on behalf of the Board of Laity to express gratitude for the “wonderful Laity Address,” and presented Steven Dry with an award that reads: “The New England Conference of The United Methodist Church has been blessed by Steven Dry, 2017 Laity Address presenter.” It is signed by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and Wilbur.
Wilbur also made the following motion: That the Laity Address be printed in its entirety in the 2017 Annual Conference Journal; the motion was approved.
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One Matters Awards

One Matters Awards are presented by Discipleship Ministries to churches that are putting a focus on discipleship with baptisms and professions of faith. Three New England churches were honored this year:
  • Ripley UMC, Ripley ME (under 50 in worship)
  • Christ UMC, Lawrence, MA (50 to 250 in worship)
  • Rock Church Ministries, multisite, Plaistow, NH (more than 250 in worship)