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2007 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

May 30-June 2, 2007, Valley Forge, Pa.

The eighth session of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference took place in Valley Forge with Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar presiding. He guided the conference through lay and clergy elections for the General and Northeastern Jurisdictional conferences, a lengthy list of reports and legislation, consideration of numerous petitions to General Conference, and a challenging and comprehensive episcopal address.

The Rev. Tyrone Gordon, pastor of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, was the conference preacher. James Fleming, director of the Biblical Resources Center of Jerusalem in Atlanta, led a series of early morning Bible studies around the theme of the "Temptations of Jesus." Music was led by Mark Miller, one of the two worship designers for the 2008 General Conference.

One person was ordained a deacon in full connection and 14 people were ordained as elders in full connection. The conference saw 10 people commissioned as probationary members toward elders' orders. The conference included celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the United Methodist Homes of New Jersey and the 300th birthday of Charles Wesley.

Lay delegates elected to General Conference were: Constance L. Ace of Whitehouse, Jay W. Brown of Williamstown, John W. Bishop of Franklin Lakes, June D. McCullough of Vineland, and Lynn Caterson of Absecon. Clergy delegates: Galen L. Goodwin of Annandale, Charles A. Bender of Woodstown, Renee L. McCleary of Randolph, Bo-Joong Kim of Rutherford, and Lyssette N. Perez of Fort Lee. Galen Goodwin is the head of the delegation.

Lay delegates elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference were: Edna M. Barrier of Budd Lake, Janet W. Blohm of Glassboro, Elizabeth Hoffman of Port Norris, Florise Jackson Newton of Piscataway, and Donnalie Nelson of Asbury Park. Elected as reserves: Creed Pogue of Estelle Manor, Bethany Amey of Middletown, and Mark Miller of Plainfield.

Clergy delegates elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference: Vicki Miller Brendler of Bridgewater, Ramon A. Evangelista of Egg Harbor Township, Heasun Kim of Old Bridge, William B. Wilson of Collingswood, and Varlyna D. Wright of Columbus. Elected as clergy reserves: Robert E. Costello of Somers Point, Paul M. Maliel of Chatham, and Barbara Rambach of Manasquan.

Petitions to General Conference that were passed included several around the topic of human sexuality. Those petitions were processed using a model of holy conferencing similar to a format used in Minnesota. One petition seeks to change Paragraph 214 of the Book of Discipline to say that no person may be excluded from membership in The United Methodist Church on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another seeks to broaden the language of the Social Principles with respect to the civil liberties afforded to all persons.

Other petitions included a call to peacemaking; support for a rapid and just end to the war in Iraq; a call to grant sacramental authority to deacons; a proposal to grant voting rights to local pastors, associate members and probationary elders and deacons; and a proposal for a Decade of Evangelism (2010-2020).

A resolution that calls for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference to declare itself an "abolitionist conference," in response to the growing evil of global slavery, included the submission of a petition to the General Conference to declare The United Methodist Church to be an "abolitionist denomination." It also called on companies to certify that they are "slavery free."

Resolutions adopted included the establishment of a bishops' task force on mental health; the approval of including Bermuda in the Northeastern Jurisdiction; the creation of a task force to study strategies for effective fulfillment of missional responsibilities; revisions to the Safe Sanctuaries policy; and recommendations from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits that addressed, among other things, issues pertaining to start dates and eligibility, health insurance guidelines, and a statement of support for the work of the Task Force to Abolish the Death Penalty.

A Shared Ministry Plan for 2008 totaling $11,668,178 was approved.

Membership stands at 102,561, down 2,454. Worship attendance stands at 54,458, down 1,325. Church school attendance stands at 21,495, down 1,369.

Glenn C. Ferguson