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2008 Wyoming Annual Conference

May 29-31, 2008, Scranton, Pa.

The 157th session of the Wyoming Annual Conference met using the theme "Passionate Spirituality: Have You Not Heard," at the University of Scranton and Elm Park United Methodist Church in Scranton, Pa. In her opening address, Bishop Susan W. Hassinger challenged the 600 lay and clergy registered for the session to raise enough money during the event to purchase 600 mosquito nets for the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign in Africa. The resulting collection will purchase 627 nets at $10 each.

Visiting Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference delivered a series of messages during morning worship on "passionate spirituality," based on Isaiah, chapters 28-31. Special care was taken to make all gatherings accessible to those with difficulty hearing. In addition to assisted listening devices, text was displayed on screen using a system known as C.A.R.T., made possible through a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Ministries with Deaf, Late-Deafened, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind People.

Resolutions were approved allowing transition teams to begin working with other conferences in New York and Pennsylvania toward the creation of new conferences in each state, if approved by the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference in July. Other resolutions will result in a change of plans for retirees' health insurance; allow charges to send young adult representatives with voice but no vote to conference at a reduced rate; establish a bishop's task force to study disagreement between United Methodists on the issue of homosexuality; create two new churches in communities now served by six congregations; and set accessibility standards for sites hosting conference and district events open to all.

The conference recognized five retiring pastors. Three new pastors were commissioned and two ordained. Special efforts by two local congregations were celebrated. The Waverly (N.Y.) United Methodist Church shared efforts to overcome extreme losses in its congregation due to death. The church used a grant of $3,000 from the conference to advertise a contemporary service that has helped bring in new families and individuals. The Nimmonsburg United Methodist Church in Binghamton received recognition for its emphasis on radical welcoming. This has led the congregation to be cited as the only church in the denomination listed as a welcoming congregation for seven consecutive years. The efforts have resulted in an increased attendance of 100 percent over the past five years.

Denman Evangelism Awards were presented to the Rev. Art Yetter of the Cortez United Methodist Church and Bettie Mangum of First United Methodist Church, Wilkes-Barre. The Blair Memorial Scholarship was given to Rachael Barnhart, a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Linda Clemow, who attends Colgate Rochester School of Theology, is the recipient of the Sister Spirit Educational Grant. The Akers Award for Excellence in Rural Ministry was presented to the Rev. Rick Stackhouse, pastor of the Hartwick-Mount Vision Charge. The Kim Jefferson Award for Urban Ministry went to the Rev. Steve Heiss and the ministry of Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton.

The Safe Sanctuaries Team updated the conference on its activities since the initiative was approved one year ago. Through at least 17 training events, more than 450 people have completed the basic training, 42 have completed advanced training and can now train others, 94 churches have safe sanctuaries policies in place, and 98 percent of clergy have completed background checks.

Bishop Hassinger, whose interim assignment to the Albany Area is due to end Sept. 1, was thanked for her leadership and presented with a basket of fair trade yarn, representing the purchase of a gift of four llamas and four sheep through Heifer International.

The Rev. William B. Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology and a conference native, delivered a message sharing ways that the Wyoming Conference and its members have made a positive difference in the church and the world. He suggested ways the conference must be involved in continuing to express passionate spirituality to reach people where they are and make a difference in the world today.

Membership stands at 61,534, down 1,379 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 15,814, down 593. Church school attendance stands at 4,355, down 942.

Don Perry