2007 Arkansas Annual Conference
June 10-13, 2007, Russellville, Ark.
"A Church Alive in Worship, Evangelism and Ministry" was the theme for the gathering of 1,200 clergy and lay members of the Arkansas Annual Conference. Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield, in his Episcopal Address, praised the net increase of 501 church members, the net increase of 161 (or a total of 2,153) professions of faith, and the effective outreach to the unchurched by the conference's newest church starts. "We have claimed our covenant calling with Jesus Christ," the bishop said. "We are called to make disciples for the transformation of the world," which means "far more than trading members with the Southern Baptists or the Presbyterians. It means claiming new lives for Jesus."
Crutchfield issued a serious but lighthearted challenge: If the conference doubles the 2006 rate of growth for a net increase of 1,000 new members and 246 more professions of faith, he will deliver next year's Episcopal Address dressed as Spiderman.
In addition to preaching, special guest Bishop William W. Hutchinson of the Louisiana Annual Conference gave an update on recovery efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and expressed thanks to Arkansans for caring for the 60,000 persons who sought refuge in the state following the 2005 storms. He commended Arkansans for sending dozens of Volunteers in Mission teams and supporting churchwide appeals. He applauded the work of UMCOR disaster response coordinator Tom Hazelwood, a member of the conference, calling him "Arkansas' gift to UMCOR." An offering of more than $4,600 went to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
The conference's Holy Healthy Initiative emphasizes the vital ministries of parish nurses, the impact of local church health-related programs, the importance of clergy self-care and ongoing partnerships with such entities as the Memphis, Tenn.-based Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and Philander Smith College's Kendall Science and Health Mission Center. Crutchfield announced that he and the cabinet had exceeded their 2006 pledge to take the initiative to heart and lose a total of 100 pounds. Together, they shed 132 pounds over the past year.
The conference continues to raise money to drill water wells in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Crutchfield will visit the region this summer. Arkansas' Central District announced a gift of more than $35,000 for the water well project. In addition, the conference is providing scholarships to three Congolese students to attend Philander Smith College, and Arkansas college students were instrumental in raising funds to establish the first Wesley Foundation in Congo.
The June 11 worship service celebrated youth and young adults. Members delved into the seven Conference Strategic Initiatives during breakout sessions. They also celebrated the planned establishment of four new churches, including a Vietnamese congregation in Fort Smith.
Nine people were ordained as elders in full connection, four were received as associate members and 12 were received into probationary membership in the elder track. Seventeen clergy retired.
Lay delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Asa Whitaker of Batesville; Karon Mann of Little Rock; Karen Millar of Searcy; Carole Teague of Conway; Clefton Vaughan of Little Rock; and Sarah Steele of Conway.
Clergy delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Rodney Steele (head of delegation) of Conway; Rebekah Miles of Dallas, Texas; C.E. McAdoo of Hot Springs Village; Judith J. "J.J." Whitney of Conway; Roy Smith of Little Rock; and Tony Holifield of Fayetteville.
Lay delegates elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are: Stark Ligon, of Little Rock; Brenda Norwood of Little Rock; J. Harris Moore of Bentonville; Diane Clark Vogler of North Little Rock; Deborah Bell of Little Rock; Bill Scurlock of El Dorado; and alternates Jay Clark of Little Rock; Robert Miller of Fort Smith; and Jeff Standridge of Conway.
Clergy delegates elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are: Jeff Hampton of Little Rock; John Miles II of Jonesboro; Mike Morey of Hot Springs Village; Lu Harding of Clinton; Britt Skarda of Springdale; Aubrietta Jones of Cabot; and alternates David Orr of Fort Smith; Pamela Estes of Hot Springs; and David Bush of Heber Springs.
The body approved resolutions to:
- Call the church to a renewed commitment to the Doctrinal Standards and Discipline, while urging General Conference to maintain current language regarding human sexuality, marriage and pastoral authority;
- Require local churches to develop a Safe Sanctuary Policy in the next year;
- Oppose any changes in the Discipline that restrict appointed local pastors from providing the sacraments; and
- Oppose the Commission on General Conference proposal to change the manner in which conferences are allocated delegates.
Petitions were approved to:
- Call the General Conference to identify factors that have set the denomination "down a path of consistent decline" and have annual conferences discuss the findings; and
- Clarify Disciplinary language that pastors must be informed of any meeting of the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations or Staff-Parish Relations.
Membership stands at 138,818, up 501 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 56,610, up 38. Church school attendance stands at 28,059, down 1,700.