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2008 West Michigan Annual Conference

June 5-8, 2008, Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Stirring the Waters" was the theme for the 40th session of the West Michigan Annual Conference, which met in Grand Rapids June 5-8 during severe thunderstorms and heavy rain.

The theme was based on the story in the Gospel of John of a man who sat beside the pool of Bethsaida for 38 years waiting to be lifted in for healing when an angel of the Lord stirred the waters. Jesus healed the man by telling him to stand up and walk. The Rev. Tara Sutton, Detroit Conference clergy, explored the theme with two sermons: "Stirring the Waters of Deliverance" and "Stirring the Waters of Healing."

Highlights of the conference session included:

  • Endorsement of the Rev. Laurie Haller, Grand Rapids district superintendent, for the episcopacy;
  • A concert by Christian artist Ken Medema;
  • A celebration of 40 years of the West Michigan conference, formed when the Methodist and EvangelicalUnitedBrethrenChurches merged in 1968;
  • A celebration honoring "Mr. Mission," the Rev. Bob Smith, widely recognized as the impetus for West Michigan's stellar record in mission giving;
  • Work on a Habitat build in Grand Rapids; and
  • A lecture and discussions by the Rev. Gil Rendle, senior consultant with the Institute for Clergy and Congregational Excellence and formerly of the Alban Institute. His topic was "Making the Faith Ready for the Next People."

After lengthy debate, the conference adopted a resolution encouraging members to urge their legislators to enact comprehensive immigration reform that is not punitive and that provides "earned pathways to citizenship for all immigrants."

Offerings were generous. The $70,000 goal set to construct a Habitat home in Grand Rapids, with an additional $7,000 for a home in Haiti, was exceeded with receipts of $90,000. Other offering totals were: $6,556 for Nothing But Nets; $3,800 for the Ministerial Education Fund; and $3,700 for UMCOR.

Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton ordained two deacons and nine elders and commissioned two for ministry.

Statistical information was not immediately available.

Ann Whiting