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2007 Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference

June 8-10, Princess Anne, Md.

The 223rd session of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference met on the campus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore under the theme "Changing Lives for a Changing World."

Clergy and laity sessions were held simultaneously June 8. Both sessions, as well as opening worship service that afternoon, featured the singing of hymns written by Charles Wesley, on this occasion of the 300th anniversary of his birth.

Bishop Marcus Matthews of the Philadelphia Area presided over the sessions. He was applauded by the annual conference for his "Distinguished Recognition" as a Fellow in the Society of John Wesley.

Bishop Matthews' sermon in the opening worship service reminded the conference members that life "after" encountering the risen Jesus determines the measure of "our" discipleship.

"Having been touched by the healing, transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we can be used by the Holy Spirit to go out and do miraculous things," he said. "The church should be outraged by violence in our communities and schools, and poverty resulting from hurricanes in the Gulf region. Young people are looking to church leaders as role models. Conversion is not simply a one-time event, but a life-sustaining process."

Rings attached to service bulletins were presented as an offering by the assembly, a sign of covenant reaffirmation.

Bible Study was led by James Salley of Africa University. He was accompanied by the Africa University Choir. Bishop S. Clifton Ives was the annual conference preacher, speaking at both the Service of Commissioning and Ordination, and the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion.

Conference members were introduced to the Bishop's Healthy Church Initiative. Everyone was given a ticket and invited to get on board the "Discipleship Express." The ticket included a stub, with space to fill in contact information and one's area of passion for ministry. The challenge was given to "gear up, reach in, reach out and live it!"

The annual conference celebrated its 22nd consecutive year of paying 100 percent of its general church apportionments.

In other business:

  • Jarrett Lemieux, a senior business management major from Dillard University in New Orleans, was welcomed as a Black College Fund Ambassador.
  • A Covenant Funding Plan or budget in the amount of $5,649,250 was approved.
  • A check was presented by the Rev. Bernard Keels, member of the board of the United Methodist Publishing House, in the amount of $6,212.02, and was directed by vote of the body to the Central Conference Pension Initiative.
  • Conference members raised a total of more than $44,000 for Africa University, Global AIDS, the Central Congo Partnership and Board of Ordained Ministry Scholarships.
  • Representatives from Black United Methodist Pastors reported on a trip to the New Orleans area to render disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Bishop Marcus Matthews will be leading a mission team to the Central Congo from July 2-11. A 15-person medical mission team will also be in service in the Congo from October 8-22.

The body also adopted resolutions:

  • Supporting Christian Education Sunday, Golden Cross Sunday, Rural Life Sunday and Disability Awareness Sunday
  • Committing to raising $1 per church member for the Global AIDS fund
  • Affirming support for the Social Principles in its opposition to the death penalty in both Maryland and Delaware
  • Requesting child care at annual conference sessions
  • Asking that charge conferences report concerning their use of Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, and nuts
  • Replacing the Conference's Nominating Task Force with a new Committee on Clergy and Lay Leadership
  • Replacing the IPA and Traditional Health Care Plans with a Consumer Directed Health Plan and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plan
  • Petitioning the 2008 General Conference to fill vacancies in general boards and agencies with persons from the same annual conference
  • Supporting the use of renewable fuel (wind, solar, or nuclear) instead of building more fossil fuel plants (coal, oil, or gas); charged local churches with improving their physical plants for cost effectiveness and energy savings
  • Recommending the inclusion of Bermuda within the boundaries of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
  • Supporting the new initiative of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to reduce the United States and global greenhouse gas emissions by increasing fuel efficiency and reliance upon renewable energy resources
  • Setting aside September 2, 2007 as a day of prayer for the Armed Forces, chaplains, all military leaders, advisers and support staff, to include families who have lost loved ones in service, while praying for peace.

The annual conference also renamed the Repentance and Reconciliation Task Force the J.T. Seymour Commission on Religion and Race. This action was taken to honor the Rev. James T. Seymour, the retiring director of connectional ministries.

The conference elected delegates to the 2008 General and Northeastern Jurisdictional conferences. The clergy elected to General Conference are Sandra Steiner Ball of Dover, Del.; Charlotte A. Nichols of Salisbury, Md.; and Boyd B. Etter of Dover, Del.

The laity elected to the General Conference are Kevin Goodwin of Newark, Del.; William E. Westbrook, Jr. of Newark, Del.; Gene A. Cray of Mardela Springs, Md.

The clergy elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference are James T. Seymour of Newark, Del.; Jonathan Baker of Wilmington, Del.; and John K. Shitama of Centreville, Md. The laity elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference are Mildred Hamilton of Bear, Del.; Dona Rayne of Millsboro, Del.; and Megan Shitama of Earleville, Md.

Clergy reserves delegates to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference are William T. Sterling, Jr. of Easton, Md.; Elaine Ayres of Dover, Del.; and Patricia Bryant Harris of Wilmington, Del. Laity reserves to the Northeastern Jurisdiction Conference are Ruth Higgins of Preston, Md.; Howard J. Mason of Seaford, Del.; and Harvey Hyland, Jr. of Laurel, Del.

Five pastors retired; nine probationary members were commissioned toward the order of elder; one associate member was ordained a deacon; one probationary deacon was ordained under the 1992 Book of Discipline; and eight elders were ordained and received into full conference membership.

Membership stands at 91,271, down 1,010 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 36,367, down 965 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 24,043, up 681.

--Boyd B. Etter