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2008 Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

May 29-30, 2008, Philadelphia

Building the connection was the theme when nearly 1,000 members met for the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

Opening worship of the 222nd annual session began with the steel drum band of Christ United Methodist Church in Easton playing hymns in Caribbean style.

Bishop Marcus Matthews gave an upbeat report in his message. "Good news!" he said. "Pennsylvania has sent more Volunteers in Mission teams in mission around the world than any other place! In 2006, more persons worshiped in our churches. We cut our decline by more than 50 percent. After 20 years, this annual conference paid in 2007 100 percent of its apportionment for ministry and mission around the world!" Bishop Matthews asked churches to say, "Here I am. Send me!"

Ruth Daugherty presented a check from Cokesbury for $11,974, which will be contributed to the Central Conference Pension Fund.

Moses Kumar, conference treasurer, along with conference staff and leadership of the conference council on finance and administration, presented the budget for 2009: $3,984,030 for conference ministry, $1,480,938 for World Service, and $1,305,650 for General Church Funds. With no questions, the total $6,770,618 was approved unanimously.

Nominees for bishop

The General Conference delegation, represented by co-chairs Mary White and Charles Yrigoyen, presented nominees for the episcopacy: The Rev. Michele Wright Bartlow and the Rev. Melinda L. McKonly. The Rev. Renez Perez nominated the Rev. Dorothy Watson Tatem. The annual conference voted to approve the three nominees.

Evening worship opened with the praise band of El Redentor United Methodist Church in Lancaster.

"What would Jesus think of the way churches advertise themselves today?" asked Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey. "Soccer, free movie, bingo, car show?" McCleskey, resident bishop of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, suggested that invitations to experience Jesus should be direct, not entertainment first, springing the Gospel on people later.

The conference received $4,446 in an offering during evening worship for the Hope for the Children Initiative for ministry with children in poverty.

Kingdom behavior

The Rev. Kelvin Sauls of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship led Bible study Friday morning, issuing a challenge to move from belief to Kingdom behavior, from hearing the Word to putting it into action, from learning to living, from articulating to implementing, and from memorizing to mobilizing, adding that Jesus invites us to "incarnational" discipleship for the transformation of the world.

Mary White, the conference lay leader, encouraged laity to take more effective leadership roles in increasing membership and increasing giving, and with taking responsibility for keeping the track record of 100 percent giving to the general church. The conference honored Dorthea Burnett, who retired as coordinator of Older Adult Ministry.

Twenty-five retirees representing 744 years of ministry were celebrated in the Retiree Recognition Service on Friday morning, as they passed the mantle of ministry to the 2008 ordinands.

The Rev. Lillian Smith, director of connectional ministry, led conference program staff in celebrating the highlights of the Making Disciples effort and conference program ministry in 2007 and 2008.

The Bishop's Hope for the Children Award of $5,000 was presented to Grace Community United Methodist Church in Chester, the Rev. Andrew Foster, pastor. The Kim Jefferson Award for excellence in urban ministry went to Berry-Long Memorial United Methodist Church, the Rev. Raymond Mitchell, pastor, which continued vibrant ministry in its Philadelphia community after being robbed of its water and heating pipes and altar ware.

Dissolving the negatives

The Memorial Service on Friday evening opened with the music of Bethel Hill United Methodist Church's choir. Bishop McCleskey preached on the shepherd that lay in the entrance of his sheepfold to check each of his flock and minister to their wounds, urging pastors to care for their flocks similarly.

Marcia McFee led dynamic worship throughout annual conference. McFee introduced experiential tables prior to communion where participants could write their "negatives" down on paper that they then placed in water and watched them dissolve away, as well as communion elements and candles.

The Service of Ordination took place June 1 at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pa, with a standing-room only crowd.

Sauls preached, urging listeners to follow Jesus' root commission, "Love one another the way I love you," by making their generosity extravagant and their hospitality radical, and by taking risks in mission and service. An offering for $2,356 was received for scholarships for Eastern Pennsylvania undergraduate and seminary students. Eight people were ordained for elders' orders, and one for deacon's orders. Eight people were commissioned for elders' orders, and one for deacon's orders.

Key actions and stats

Highlights of the conference session:

  • Deacons were present for the first time at the table for annual conference assisting with Holy Communion.
  • Rodney Miller was elected conference secretary.
  • Churches donated items and gift cards for the Methodist Home for Children in Philadelphia.
  • Members approved 13 resolutions, including those relating to adoption of a Safe Sanctuaries Policy, reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church; support of a Death Penalty Moratorium; support for "One Handgun a Month" Legislation in Pennsylvania; and approval of 18 ministries as conference Advance specials.

Membership for 2007 stands at 123,360, down 1,014 from 2006. Worship attendance for 2007 stands at 49,915, down 752 from 2006.

-- Suzy Keenan