|Greater New Jersey Annual Conference|
Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
May 28-30, 2009. King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Sparked by the celebrations and challenges lifted up by presiding Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference – more than 1,200 strong -- met for the 10th time at the Valley Forge Convention Center. “Disciples Transforming the World: Through Prayers” was the theme of the three-day assembly.
In Devadhar’s opening night episcopal address, he urged leaders to pray boldly for God’s kingdom using the Scripture of the “Lord’s Prayer” focusing on “Your Kingdom Come.”
He urged leaders not just to pray, but to follow with action introducing the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church for this quadrennium - congregational development, leadership development, global health and ministry with the poor. He then explained how each of these areas directly connects to Jesus' prayer "Thy Kingdom Come." He lifted up the B1 program, a fasting and hunger awareness program being implemented out of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, challenging the conference youth to raise $1 million by the year 2019.
Devadhar also celebrated the development of the B1 program into a general church program, having been born from a sermon preached at the Ocean City Youth Weekend in 2007, where he said, “My challenge to all of you is to partake in 24 hours of fasting and prayer. Give the money you would have spent on meals to the hungry children all around the world including the United States. Yes, it is about prayer. Yes, it is about fasting. Yes, it is about sharing our resources.” The program was piloted in Greater New Jersey in 2008.
Devadhar also reinforced that Rethink Church calls us to become a movement, to take action, moving beyond our churches with our witness, making disciples for the transformation of the world as opposed to waiting for new people to come to us. He challenged church leaders to "think outside the box" for the sake of the Realm of God.
The district superintendents followed the bishop’s advice in thinking outside the box. Due to time constraints, they decided to sing their report. They performed “Table of Grace,” a theme song that accompanied a video played at each charge conference this year. Afterward, they said their full report would be made available on the web and in the conference newspaper.
Conference Lay Leader Ressie Fuller asked leaders to reflect on the conference’s ministry using the example of Jesus calling Peter to cast out his nets, despite a tiring and fruitless night of fishing. She posed the question, “How do we face the challenge for laity and for clergy who like Peter say to us, we have toiled all night and still my attendance is down, I have no young people in my church?” She said that lay and clergy might be tempted to think that God has overlooked them in their ministries. “Perhaps we are doubting our call or measuring our worth by the empty nets we face day to day,” said Fuller. “Jesus is not calling you or me or Peter to be anything but who we are.” She called leaders to continue in their ministries with the help of the one who called them.
Leaders accepted the preliminary recommendations of the Report of the Structure Study Taskforce which was commissioned at the preceding year’s annual conference.
The annual conference commissioned 12 probationary elders. Bishop Moon-Goo Shin, resident bishop from the Seoul Annual Conference, Korean Methodist Church preached a challenging sermon for the commissioning service. Bishop Felton May, retired United Methodist bishop, also participated in the ordination service. Later in the annual conference session, May gave a clarion and prophetic call to conference members to get involved in the multi-ethnic ministries of the church, specifically by supporting the Multi-Ethnic Center of the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
Ordained into full membership were six elders and one elder was received into full membership from the Korean Methodist Church. In Bishop Devadhar’s ordination sermon, he preached on the theme of What Got Into You? using for his text Matthew 14:22-33.
Offering inspired spiritual leadership were the Rev. Adam Hamilton, conference preacher, and Bible study leader, Marjorie L. Kimbrough. Hamilton, founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., led three sessions. The central idea of the series was "Leading Beyond the Walls" focusing on leadership and highlighting effective worship, preaching, evangelism and the future of Methodism.
After extensive Holy Conferencing, leaders voted upon the 32 proposed Constitutional Amendments that were brought forward at General Conference last year.
Additionally, the conference collected $21,644.37 in special offerings. The offerings benefited:
- The District Superintendent Sustenation fund $ 6,243.59
- NE Jurisdiction Youth – Mission of Peace $ 3,567.41
- Central Conference Pension Initiative $ 4,188.00
- North Katanga Annual Conference – Congo $ 5,174.70
The conference celebrated the fact it had submitted 100 percent of its Shared Ministry apportionments in 2008 and received the symbols of recognition from Africa University and the General Council on Finance and Administration. Following the Conference Council on Finance and Administration’s recommendations, the conference approved a budget for 2010 of 12.1 million. The CF & A had submitted a budget sensitive to the economic times that represented a request of no increase in local church Shared Ministry giving.
Membership in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference stands at 94,280 down 2,647 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 51,194 down 2,015. Sunday school attendance stands at 17,312, down 1,287. However, the conference reports 56,474 participants in Faith Formation groups, an increase of 19 percent.