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2007 North Carolina Annual Conference

June 10-13, 2007, Greenville, N.C.

Using the theme "Working in the light of God," the North Carolina Annual Conference met in Bible study, worship and prayer, and members elected delegates to General and Jurisdiction Conferences.

Conference members also discussed resolutions and celebrated the ministry of new and retiring clergy. Retired Bishop Marion Edwards conducted Bible studies on two mornings and preached during an Hispanic/Latino evening celebration. The Rev. Vance Ross of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship offered an altar call during the June 15 evening Laity Celebration which resulted in the stage being surrounded by almost everyone at the celebration. The conference elected Christine Dodson as conference treasurer.

Clergy elected as delegates to the 2008 General Conference are: Paul Leeland of Raleigh; Beth Hood of Aberdeen; Belton Joyner of Bahama; Carol Goehring of Fayetteville; Robert Bergland of Rocky Mount; Patricia Archer of Wilmington; Gray Southern of Greenville; Albert Shuler of Greenville; Carl Frazier of Sanford; and Leonard Fairley of Laurinburg.

Laity elected as delegates to General Conference are: Emily Innes of Raleigh; Cashar Evans of Kitty Hawk; Gary Locklear of Pembroke; Bill Norton of Raleigh; Ben Adams of Smithfield; Laura Little of Greenville; Anna Gail Workman of Mebane; Mack Parker of Raleigh; Beth Norris of Raleigh; and Steve Taylor of Lumberton.

Clergy elected as delegates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Sam Wynn of Raleigh; Won Namkoong of Elizabeth City; David Banks of Sanford; Edgar DeJesus of Hurdle Mills; Charles Cook of Henderson; Paul Stallsworth of Morehead City; Samuel McMillan of Laurinburg; Timothy Reaves of White Oak; Steve Hickle of Raleigh; and Gail Carlton Felton of Rougemont.

Laity elected as delegates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Duncan McMillan of Laurinburg; Emily Farnell of Smithfield; Malachi Wade of Fayetteville; Jimmie Blake Shuler of Greenville; Barry Merrill of Princeton; Irene Brownlee of Apex; Patrick Mann of Morehead City; LaNella Smith of Durham; Laura Lord of Louisburg; and Paul Chitnis of Raleigh.

Clergy alternates are: Kong Namkung of Fayetteville; Rosanna Panizo-Valladares of Durham; Edith Gleaves of Englewood, N.J.; Powell Osteen of New Bern; and Laurie Hays Coffman of Durham.

Lay alternates are: Thomas Walden of Youngsville; Annie Fairley of Maxton; Sam Isley of Raleigh; Sandra Ray of Camden; and Darlene Jacobs of Lake Junaluska.

Paul Leeland, assistant to the bishop and director of ministerial relations, was elected delegation chairman; Emily Innes, conference lay leader, was elected vice-chairperson; and Carl Frazier, pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford, was elected secretary.

Resident Bishop Al Gwinn, in his State of the Church Address, told the conference about two initiatives with The Duke Endowment, Duke Divinity School and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference directed at rural areas.

Over the next six years, the "Thriving Rural Communities Initiative" will place three seminary graduates each year in rural areas. They will work to show future leaders how small churches can be vital, healthy, spirit-filled and dynamic congregations. By working in the churches for five to eight years, their seminary training will be paid in full.

In the second initiative, The Duke Endowment has announced a seven-year, $12 million plan with the two conferences and the Duke Divinity School to assess and improve the health of United Methodist clergy across North Carolina.

The Healthy Congregations Task Force introduced an overview document, a Bible study, a healthy church assessment and a ministry action plan to help churches determine their current health and to strengthen areas that should be stronger. This is the second part of an initiative by Bishop Gwinn for effective clergy and lay leadership and healthy congregations in the conference.

Conference members passed resolutions: opposing human-induced climate change, establishing a Hunger Awareness Day, favoring United Methodist Church withdrawal from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and agreeing to the addition of wording to paragraph 161J of the Book of Discipline concerning abortion. Members defeated a resolution on Health Care Reform and some form of Universal Health Care Insurance and one opposing the war in Iraq. The conference passed a motion to pray for peace and healing of all people affected by the Iraq War and to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of soldiers, veterans and their families.

In addition, the conference:

  • Received recommendations designed to help clergy identify personal debt problems and information about reputable assistance services;
  • Presented the Francis Asbury Award to Reginald W. Ponder Sr., president of Louisburg College; the Key Taylor Rural Church Award to Rhems United Methodist Church; the Saints of God Award to Dr. William M. Presnell; and the Denman Evangelism Awards to Dotsy Reynolds and Dr. Camille Yorkey Compton;
  • Heard a report from the Insurance Committee that health insurance premiums would not increase next year, but some benefit modifications were announced;
  • Heard that more than 2,000 hits were recorded on video streaming of the conference, including one in the Netherlands.

Fourteen elders in full connection were ordained, 17 were commissioned as probationary members on the elders track, two as deacons in full connection, one person was received as an associate member, two were received as elders in full connections from another denomination, and one deacon from another denomination was received as an associate member. Twenty-two clergy retired.

Members designated a $12,755 check from Cokesbury Bookstore for the Central Conference Pension Initiative and offerings of $12,439, taken at conference, for support of clergy and district superintendents in Liberia.

Membership stands at 236,634, up 91 from the previous year. Average worship attendance is 85,958, down 66. Average attendance at Sunday school is 40,076, down 1,149.

-Bill Norton