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2008 Western North Carolina Annual Conference

June 5-8, 2008, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey presided over his final conference as an active bishop for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. He will retire Aug. 31 following 45 years in ordained ministry, 12 as a bishop. Conference delegates honored McCleskey and his wife, Margaret, at a reception on June 6. On June 5, they gathered to honor retiring Conference Secretary Charles D. "Denny" White, who has held the position for the past 25 years.

The first order of business was to enact changes in conference rules to conform to the reorganization plan adopted at a February special session of conference. The plan includes the addition of a 15th district, reorganization of conference structure, development of dashboard indicators and formation of clergy peer groups.

On behalf of the cabinet, McCleskey reported six signs of hope for the conference: the creation of the Lake Norman district, the Clergy Health Initiative, the Thriving Rural Churches program, the African-American Initiative, a turnaround in financial stewardship; and the "growing of our own" pastors.

The conference celebrated several United Methodist milestones: the 100th anniversary of the Social Creed, 100th anniversary of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, 60th anniversary of the Advance for Christ and His Church; and 40th anniversaries of the Conference Resource Center and the Commission on Religion and Race.

Denman Awards were presented to the Rev. Hubert Clinard and Elizabeth Montgomery and the group KidzJAM from East Flat Rock United Methodist Church.

The conference approved a budget of $15.4 million for 2009. Conference treasurer Bill Wyman reported a 5 percent increase in the payout of conference askings in 2007.

The conference also passed petitions:

  • Affirming the direction of the task force reorganizing program ministries toward a connectional table model;
  • Calling for the study of the annual conference meeting to evaluate business, programs, location and holy conferencing;
  • Encouraging local churches to focus on the United Methodist Articles of Religion during August;
  • Requesting that a Town and Country celebration, such as the one at the 2008 General Conference, be held at annual conference sometime during the next quadrennium; and
  • Calling on United Methodists to write their senators and representatives to enact and implement comprehensive immigration reform;

The bishop ordained 25 elders in full connection, three deacons in full connection and one elder in probationary membership. He commissioned eight probationary deacons and 28 probationary elders. The conference recognized 22 newly licensed local pastors.

Membership stands at 293,772, down 683 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 126,551, down 987. Church school attendance stands at 62,002, down 1,152.

Mark L. Barden