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2008 Central Texas Annual Conference

June 1-4, 2008, Fort Worth, Texas

With the theme of "Reaching Out to Others," Bishop Ben R. Chamness presided over his eighth and final business session of the Central Texas Annual Conference June 1-4 in Fort Worth before retiring from the active episcopacy in August. Under his leadership, the conference celebrated its 34th consecutive year of membership growth, full payout of General Church apportionments, four new Hispanic church starts this year and the joyful afterglow of hosting United Methodists from around the world for the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth. Bishop Chamness and his wife, Joye, served their entire eight years in episcopal leadership in the Central Texas Conference. Their gracious spirits will be missed.

General Conference lead delegates the Rev. Tim Bruster and Bliss Dodd shared the sights and sounds of General Conference with a video and brought highlights of the legislative decisions. Bishop B. Michael Watson, episcopal leader of the South Georgia area, was guest preacher for all worship services and stressed John Wesley's three simple rules to do no harm, do good and stay in love with God; giving thanks for God's use of imperfect people to share His love and accomplish His goals; and celebrating those who are set apart for ordained ministry.

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, a Central Texas Conference member and top executive of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, led members through an extended time of explanation and practice of Christian conferencing.

With a narrative budget that shared personal stories of how ministries of the Central Texas Conference are transforming lives around the world, members approved a $10.6 million budget that reflects a 3.78 percent increase.

Among the honors the body presented were the Board of Laity's Morris Walker Awards for outstanding achievement to Jack Teddlie and the Rev. Hubert Austin; scholarships to three graduating high school seniors; the Bishop's Award for exemplary service in the field of ecumenism to Jesse Sowell, professor at Texas Wesleyan University; the Restorative Justice Newgate Award in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of Fort Worth Police Sgt. Richard Morris and Meadowbrook United Methodist Church for their community involvement with people living in hard places; scholarships to those involved in studies that will benefit people with handicapping conditions; three Faith Community nursing scholarships for those who will serve a local church, and a number of scholarships for those in ministry studies.

In other actions, members:

  • Heard an update on the ongoing need for work teams to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Rita in Louisiana;
  • Heard plans for the publication of the conference history for the 100th anniversary in 2010;
  • Discontinued two churches; and
  • Designated the annual conference offering for the Justice For Our Neighbors ministry operated jointly by the Central and North Texas conferences.

Conference members also approved resolutions calling for a just minimum wage; inclusive local church membership; support of restorative justice education and the forming of partnerships with existing ministry programs; encouraged federal budget priorities aimed at health/education/energy/job training/repayment of the national debt; urged national leaders to cooperate with the United Nations to resolve differences without resorting to violence; and called local churches to reduce their electric consumption by 10 percent by 2010. The conference voted down a Council of Bishops' resolution asking for an end to the war in Iraq.

Membership stands at 162,511, up 776 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 46,837, down 1,038. Church school membership stands at 60,717, up 437. Church school attendance stands at 23,453, down 664.

Carolyn Stephens