2007 Western New York Annual Conference
June 8-10, 2007, Buffalo, N.Y.
Bishop Violet L. Fisher opened the 198th session of the Western New York Annual Conference at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo. She urged Christians to let go of personal agendas and to put trust in God.
In her Episcopal Address centering on "Seeking the Promise of a Future with Hope," Bishop Fisher issued six challenges to:
- build strong leaders;
- strengthen small churches;
- improve urban ministries;
- facilitate global presence;
- root out ineffective clergy; and
- encourage the young to answer the call to ordained ministry.
"It's most imperative that we embrace the future with hope. Continue in the journey with us. By the grace of God, we can create a sense of urgency," she said.
Bishop Fisher, who will retire next year, said she is hopeful that the conference will move into the future with hope. "This will only happen with a fresh pouring of the Holy Spirit. A new Pentecost will be upon us," she said.
District superintendents suggested we tell a new story if we want to change the world. They shared successes in ministry over the past year and ideas for reshaping how we are in ministry together.
Conference co-lay leaders shared their journey as they are living into that promise of hope and looking to a future that comes from saying "yes" to the call to serve in ways not fully known or understood by the ones who are called. They announced plans to visit and listen around the conference.
Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, served as guest preacher. He called on Christians in the United States to help bring peace to Africa by promoting Christ's message of love. "It's all right to give us money, but give us Jesus first," he said.
Ntambo said people in Africa, especially in his country, are killing each other. The answer to peace is tied, he said, not to the donations of dollars but to sharing of the love of Christ.
He said promoting the love of Jesus would unite the fighting factions. "If we remain divided, how can we do God's work?"
Using the story in Acts about Jesus' disciples helping a beggar, Ntambo said love helps people to attain dignity while the giving of donations continues to make beggars of people.
The assembly voted to establish a scholarship to support a Congo student at Africa University in Zimbabwe. The conference has a partnership with the North Katanga Conference in the Congo. Members also supported the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.
The assembly passed 10 General Conference resolutions. Six deal with human sexuality; others relate to global warming, Bermuda, peacemaking as a missional priority and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
Elected as lay delegates to the 2008 General Conference are Eleanor Collingsworth of Brockport (head of the delegation) and Jan Rothfuss of Ontario. Clergy delegates elected are Larry Baird of Jamestown and Sinnathamby Thevanesan of Brockport.
Maidstone Mulenga and Christine Doran, both of Rochester, are lay delegates to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Clergy delegates elected are Jennifer Green of Lyndonville and Cathy Stengel of Penfield.
Mulenga is an alternate lay delegate to General Conference, and Green is an alternate clergy delegate. Anita Youtzy of Geneseo is an alternate lay jurisdictional delegate, and Gregory Van Dussen of Springville is an alternate clergy delegate.
Keith A. Manry, Alice Karen Ford and Bon Hee Sung were ordained as elders in full connection. Alicia J. Blake, Thomas J. Blake Jr., Amy Beth Jones, Ann C. Kemper, Rick Ladue and Karen L. Smith were commissioned for service.
Churches were asked to complete a survey provided by a Conference Older Adult Ministries Team. The group will use the results to guide and direct its mission.
A Denman Lay Evangelism Award was presented to Charles Hodges, who has been senior high youth Sunday school teacher at Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown for 20 years. The Denman clergy award was presented to the Rev. Theodore Anderson, conference youth leader who has led global youth mission trips
District superintendents were asked to conduct a year-long assessment of the ministry potential of the urban congregations in their districts. They are asked to bring a report and any recommendations to the 2008 district and annual conference sessions.
Following a June 9 discussion, the conference adopted a 2008 Shared Ministries budget totaling $3,210,494.
Membership stands at 56,127, down 969 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 21,086, down 487. Church school attendance stands at 7,547, down 873.
-Marilyn J. Kasperek and Maidstone Mulenga