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2007 Virginia Annual Conference

June 10-14, 2007, Roanoke, Va.

The Virginia Annual Conference held its 225th session at the Roanoke Civic Center with Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer presiding. In this year of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, there was a distinctive Native American flavor to the gathering.

The Rev. Larry Jent, pastor of Amelon United Methodist Church, Lynchburg District, who is of Cherokee and Sauk heritage, was the preacher for the service of remembrance. "We honor those elders who, for 400 years, were silenced and squelched, whose voices, against all odds, continue to sound forth," Jent said. "I pray that their voices will never again be silenced in our midst."

Steve Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Tribe, brought greetings and asked members to support federal recognition of Virginia's Indian tribes. The conference approved a motion to write U.S. Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb, asking for support of that legislation.

George S. Lightner, who has attended annual conference for 73 consecutive years, opened the gathering with prayer.

Conference members approved a plan to expand and renovate the existing conference retreat center in Blackstone and begin a capital campaign to raise the estimated $8-9 million needed for the work.

Members rejected four resolutions about repentance, the purpose of membership, prospective membership and the relationship between membership and pastor's role. The conference approved a resolution titled "A Call to Peacemaking" and forwarded it to the 2008 General Conference.

A task force organized a year ago offered its vision for creating 250 new congregations in the next 30 years-a vision affirmed by this year's annual conference "without a negative vote," noted Bishop Kammerer.

A conference offering was taken for the children of Brazil, education in Mozambique, leadership development in Russia, Native American ministry in Alaska and the Global AIDS Fund. The conference collected UMCOR kits and held a "potato drop" for the Society of St. Andrew's hunger relief efforts. Conference youth collected more than $7,500 for the Youth Service Fund.

Following a video on Nothing But Nets, the floor of the arena became a fun "can you top this?" competition in making donations and pledges, totaling more than $103,500 for the denomination's anti-malaria campaign.

The Rev. Trevor Hudson from South Africa was conference preacher and said that Americans need to give up the "driven" life and "take up the called life." Driven, he said, "is a word that Americans use a lot that we don't use in the rest of the world. You're purpose-driven, value-driven &ellipsis; no wonder you're so tired!"

The conference honored the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley with a celebration filled with the writer's hymns. Delegates recognized the 175th anniversary of Virginia Advocate, the 75th anniversary of the Retired Clergy Housing Corp. and the conference's historical society.

Those who oppose the death penalty held a prayer vigil on the day of a scheduled execution in Virginia. (Gov. Tim Kaine later granted a temporary stay of execution.)

The theme of annual conference was "Let's Get Growing!" The Rev. Lovett Weems of Wesley Theological Seminary and the G. Douglass Lewis Center for Church Leadership offered statistics showing that Virginia's population is expanding rapidly while getting younger and more diverse, meaning that "the harvest is plentiful" for The United Methodist Church.

An evangelism expo was a new element this year. About a dozen organizations and agencies and 14 Virginia Conference churches offered resources and ideas for local churches to energize their evangelism efforts.

The Rev. Michael Slaughter was preacher for a special evangelism service and told members that there is no better time to be United Methodist. "We have the wine; we just need to change the wineskins. We have the right theology; it's just the methodology that needs to change," said Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio. He said the key is to become a missional church and to fulfill the requirements in Micah-to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. "The light of the church goes forth when you demonstrate the righteousness of God in the community where you live," he said.

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, led Bible study each day and conference lay leader Shirley Cauffman said "clergy and laity need to trust each other to work as partners, because neither of us can do it all alone."

The annual conference unanimously approved a motion from the Committee on the Episcopacy requesting that Bishop Kammerer be reassigned to Virginia for the next quadrennium.

Bishop Kammerer licensed 38 local pastors, commissioned 34 probationary members, received two associate members, ordained four deacons, ordained 22 elders and recognized the orders of one elder.

Clergy delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Tom Berlin, Bruce Tuttle, Clarence Brown, Rhonda VanDyke Colby, Brenda Biler, Denise Honeycutt, Young Jin Cho, Marc Brown, Beth Downs, Susan Garrett, Ileana Rosas, Larry Jent, Peter Moon, Mary Beth Blinn and Youtha Hardman-Cromwell.

Lay delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Darlene Amon of Suffolk; Jim Branscome of Richmond; Ron Hardman of Smithfield; Shirley Cauffman of Arlington; Nathaniel Bishop of Christiansburg; Betty Whitehurst of Virginia Beach; Rex Wolf of Kenbridge; Churhae "Debbie" Yangof Annandale; Susie Wolf of Kenbridge; Dorothy Ivey of Richmond; Ann Davis of Richmond; Laarni S. Bibay of Chesapeake; Martha Stokes of Richmond; Marshall S. Bailey of Midlothian; and Sandra Baker of Winchester.

Clergy delegates elected to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Tammy Estep of Parksley; James A. Hewitt III of Winchester; Melissa R. Dunlap of Burke; Theodore Smith of Burke; Jeffrey P. Mickle of Richmond; Robert C. Blinn of Martinsville; Myrtle F. Hatcher of Newport News; Stephen C. Hundley of Roanoke; Mark A. Miller of Stafford; David F. McAllister-Wilson of Washington, D.C.; Steven R. Jones of Williamsburg; George H. Freeman of Lake Junaluska, N.C.; Mark V. Ogren of Ashland; David R. Drinkard of Lynchburg; and F. Elizabeth Givens of Ashland. Alternates: G. Kirk Nave of Richmond; Ralph W. Rowley of Springfield; Alvin J. Horton of Midlothian; Lorenzo D. Hill of Lorton; Kendall Soulen of Alexandria; Kenneth J. Jackson of Annandale; Jay M. Hanke of Arlington; Rita A. Callis of Woodbridge; Margaret T. Kutz of Chester; and Amanda M. Garber of Danville.

Lay delegates elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Hohn Pl. Clark of Virginia Beach; Carol Gaston of Salem; Addie Haynes of Topping; Joshua King of Waynesboro; Adam N. Jenkins of Warsaw; Tom Miller of Danville; Aldo Gonzalez of Fairfax; Janet. W. Bracey of Virginia Beach; Carol Sanger of Blackstone; C.M. "Kip" Robinson Jr. of Richmond; Virginia H. Harrod of Fairfax; Sherri Shumate of Onancock; Kevin M. Sabo of Alexandria; Larry Baker of Madison; and Larry Tubbs of Fredericksburg. Alternates: Susan Putnam of Rocky Mount; David Brown of Falls Church; Leigha McReynolds of Farmville; Brenda Brooks of Roanoke; Janice Webb of Leesburg; Aimee L. Roberson of Winchester; Kendall Carter of Callao; Larry Burian of Reedville; JoAnn S. Liskey of Harrisonburg; and Louis L. Miller of Roanoke.

Membership stands at 340,084, down 1,262 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 120,637, down 2,766. Church school attendance stands at 52,941, down 1,353.

-Neill Caldwell