AC 2017: Thursday, June 15 Recap

Folks check in at Annual Conference 2017. See more photos in the gallery at right.

June 15, 2017

Opening statement

The 2017 Annual Conference session opened with a joint statement by the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) and the Board of Laity acknowledging the confusion and hope across the denomination regarding the recent decision of the Judicial Council regarding the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto. 
BOM Co-Chair Charlotte Pridgen-Randolph said: “(BOM) respectfully maintains its current posture with regard to our discernment with those called to ministry. We will continue to look for the Holy Spirit’s indicators of calling to see that God has gifted and empowered those articulating a call. This is the guiding principle in what compels us to license, commission and ordain.”
Read the full statement


Members completed the following business Thursday morning:
Passed the enabling motions; no discussion.

Approved RS-17-101 offerings be received for:
  • Nicaragua Covenant - $4,580.13 was received during the Memorial Service.
  • Mission of Peace
  • Ministerial Call Fund
  • Northeastern Jurisdiction Multi-ethnic Center
Approved RS-17-214 and RS-17-215 pertaining to the Conference Rules and Policies and Procedures respectively. The resolutions were adopted with editorial changes announced by the Rules Committee. There was no discussion.

Approved RS-17-135 Clergy Couple Housing – without discussion.
David Nicol, chair of the Commission on Equitable Compensation, presented the resolution, and said “The resolution tries to balance three things: Equity in compensation for clergy couples who are living together, so only one party is receiving housing; stability for the finances of local churches, so they can participate in open itinerancy and not be disadvantaged by the leaving of a non-housed member of a clergy couple, and the overall interest of the Annual Conference to care for all of its members.”

Approved RS-17-125 Updated Racial Harassment Policy – with editorial changes; no discussion.  

Conference members approved the discontinuance of the following churches (RS-17-203 to 207):
  • Eaton Memorial UMC, Livermore Falls, ME
  • Deering Memorial UMC, South Paris, ME
  • River UMC, Burrillville and Woonsocket, RI
  • Bloomfield UMC, Vermont
  • Chelsea West Hill UMC, Chelsea, VT
  • Lexington UMC, Massachusetts
Bishop Devadhar prayed for churches being discontinued saying that the pastors and laity of these churches have worked so hard and so faithfully.
“It is painful,” he said. “It is painful. Our prayers are with you.”

The bishop said, “You may be closing this church, but you have given birth to another church.” In many cases assets from closed churches are used to start new faith communities. 

"Discipleship is not about bricks & mortar,” Bishop Devadhar said, “but about leading people to live Lord's Prayer."

These churches were also remembered during Thursday morning’s Memorial Service.

Members also supported RS-17-217 Transfer of the parsonage of the former Immanuel UMC in Waltham, MA, to Grace Vision UMC in Watertown, MA.

Memorial Service

Those clergy and spouses who died in the past year were remembered during the annual Memorial Service at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 15.
Pittsburgh Area Resident Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi is this year’s guest preacher, and gave the sermon at the Memorial Service.

See a slide show of the clergy and spouses who were remembered at this year’s Memorial Service.

Read the story and see photos

Circle Process

Members of the Annual Conference gathered after lunch on Thursday for Circle Process conversations around this year’s conference theme: Vital Conversations: Race.
The Rev. Barbara Lemmel, leader of the Circle Process Team, introduced the team and shared the Circle Process Covenant and some directions.
“We have no illusions we are going to solve the problem of racism today,” she said. “We’re here to practice using this tool so that we can take it back with us to have these conversations.”
The Rev. Beverly Stenmark, a member of the Circle Process Team, said it’s important to acknowledge that “we are all people of good will,” but are “in different places” on the issue of race (or any issue).
“We are all over the map on this, and the Circle Process is designed to help us listen to the perspective and thoughts of other people,” she said. “… we may not realize initially what the impact of the sharing will be. None of us knows what someone else will take back to their church or home or how what someone hears may change their perspective and experience.”
Members watched the following three videos before considering each of the questions:
  • When did I first become conscious of race?
  • Where have I recognized personal prejudice in myself or others? 
  • Where have I recognized institutional/systemic racism?
  • What can I do every single day?
Annual Conference members got copies of the Vital Conversations video series created by the General Commission on Religion and Race and a study guide to take back to their home churches.
Watch the videos shown during Circle Process:
Meaningful Conversations About Race

Circle Process: World Trust video

Deconstructing White Privilege

Laity Session

The Annual Conference theme and Scripture passage were a focus during the Laity Session on June 15.

Bible study leader for the Laity Session was Dr. Glory E. Dharmaraj. Dharmaraj retired as the director of spiritual formation and mission theology for United Methodist Women. She has co-authored several books including “Many Faces, One Church” and “Mutuality in Mission: A Theological Principle for the 21st Century,” written with her husband, Jacob. She holds a PhD from Loyola University in Chicago.

Dharmaraj’s study focused on Psalm 137, from which the guiding Scripture for the Annual Conference was drawn.

Dharmaraj called this Psalm “a heavy load of choking grief.” She pointed out, however, that it had been used as an anthem by many groups who felt oppressed including the Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution and later by those fighting slavery.

This Psalm may make us uncomfortable, Dharmaraj said, but it should not be dismissed as ancient history because it is relevant to the experience of many immigrants today.

“It is about more than just two sets of characters,” she said. “It is about a third character: a place.”

“Any place of oppression is a place of exile,” Dharmaraj said.  

Following the Bible study, members of the Board of Laity shared vital conversations on race. Won Park spoke on celebrating differences; Bonnie-jean Rowe on Celebrating Sameness and Bobbi Bragan on Coming Together as One.

Click the link to listen to W. Pearl Wilkinson’s opening conversation.

Laity also heard short presentations about the upcoming Mission u and the Walk to Emmaus.

Episcopal Address

In his annual address, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar offered a strong message about welcoming immigrants and all people. Taking a line from the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” the bishop urged United Methodists: “Don’t throw away our shot.”
Read the story

Setting of Appointments

Thursday’s session closed with the setting of appointments. See photos in the gallery at right and read the complete list of appointments here.