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2007 North Texas Annual Conference

June 3-6, 2007, Plano, Texas

The North Texas Annual Conference held its 141st session with Bishop Alfred L. Norris presiding. Some 1,000 United Methodist lay and clergy representing 325 congregations in 20 North Texas counties participated in a history-making annual conference.

The conference recorded two firsts when the Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball, pastor of Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, became the first woman elected to lead the conference's clergy delegation to 2008 General Conference. Mary Brooke Casad, conference director of connectional ministries, was elected to lead the lay delegation. This means that two women will lead the conference delegation to General Conference.

A deacon in full connection was also named to the clergy delegation for the first time when the Rev. Josephine Biggerstaff of Dallas was elected on the sixth ballot.

Clergy delegates elected to General Conference are Kathleen Baskin-Ball of Allen; James Dorff of Addison; Josephine Biggerstaff of Dallas; Tyrone Gordon of Dallas; Don Underwood of Plano; and Clayton Oliphint of Richardson

Laity elected to General Conference are Casad of Plano; Todd Bristow of Plano; Arthur Jones of Durham, N.C.; Amy Forbus of Carrollton; Billy Ratcliff of Dallas; and Richard Hearne of Dallas.

Clergy elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are Pat Beghtel-Mahle of Dallas; Lisa Wolcott of Commerce; Ron Henderson of Plano; John Rosenburg of Wichita Falls; Stan Copeland of Dallas; and Gary Mueller of Plano. Alternates are: Fred Durham of Sherman; April Bristow of Plano; and Paul Escamilla of Dallas.

Laity elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are: Pat Deal of Wichita Falls; Tim Crouch of Denton; Scott Smith of Carrollton; Tom Talbert of Wichita Falls; Alys Richards of Richardson; Kay Yeager of Wichita Falls; and alternates Tricia Loe of Allen; Frank Jackson of Dallas; and Ruth Robinson of Dallas.

Conference members shared a deeply moving moment when they approved extending the boundaries of the conference so that the Rev. William T. Stephenson could answer roll call for the 63rd time-from his home. Stephenson, who is in failing health, was also honored at the clergy session, which sang the hymn "There Is No Human Quality," which was composed in his honor by the Rev. John Thornburg, with music by Jane Marshall.

Another highlight came June 4 as Bishop Norris consecrated the conference's new 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art ministry center and dedicated the Rhymes H. Moncure Jr. Bishop's Chapel, named in honor of Bishop Moncure, who died in August 2006.

The conference celebrated the completion of the VISION 2020 finance campaign, which oversubscribed its goal of $12 million to plant new churches, reach out in innovative urban ministries and upgrade camp and retreat facilities.

Three people were ordained as elders, one as a deacon in full connection, and 14 people were commissioned on the elder track and one on the deacon track.

After extended debate, with 373 members voting in favor and 332 against, the conference adopted a resolution declaring that "all people, without exception, shall be allowed to attend its (United Methodist Church) worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection."

The resolution challenges Judicial Council 1032, declaring that it "misinterprets the authority of clergy in deciding who will be received into membership &ellipsis; and contradicts the Discipline of the United Methodist Church which stands for the full reception of all people who are seeking God's grace and who make commitments to the baptismal vows of the United Methodist Church."

Total conference membership at the close of 2006 was 159,490, a decrease of 234. Average worship attendance increased by 522 people to 61,896, and Sunday school attendance decreased from 33,597 to 32,946, a loss of 633.

The number of new members received declined from 10,077 to 9,788. Professions of faith were up 3.4 percent to 3,583, an increase of 117. The grand total paid to all causes increased by 4.2 percent to $136,461,581.

- Joan G. LaBarr