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2009 Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference
June 4-6, 2009, Grantham, Pa.

"Galilee is where the people of The United Methodist Church will be, and Jesus is there ahead of us," said Bishop Jane Allen Middleton in her keynote address to approximately 1,200 United Methodists gathered in a legislative session at Messiah College, June 4. The bishop was referring to the angel's message to Mary Magdalene and Mary following the Resurrection recorded in Matthew 28; "He is going ahead of you to Galilee, you will find him there."

"At a time when skepticism and despair is so prevalent, the people of The United Methodist Church live in the third largest mission field, the United States, and we are on our way to Galilee. We are going where the people are to offer life, life through Christ, for the transformation of the world," Middleton said.

"What will happen in Galilee?" she asked. "We will see Jesus there. He calls us to risk. We will experience Jesus in the lives of others. We will receive our marching orders. We have been called to step outside of our comfort zone. We are called out of the familiar into places that may be uncomfortable for us. It is when we move out of the familiar, when we dare to leave behind the way we've always done it, that we are on our way to Galilee."

During the annual conference session, the Rev. Timothy Baer and the Rev. Beth Jones reported on the prior year's discernment of the Vision Team related to the formation of a new annual conference in 2010. The new conference would be formed from the present Central Pennsylvania Conference and two districts of the Wyoming Conference, which are located in Pennsylvania.

The team found a scriptural foundation for their work in Isaiah 43, which includes the words, "Do not remember the former things&ellipsis;Behold I am doing a new thing." (verses 18-21) Jones noted the Isaiah passage gave the team "a sense of the chaos and the hope" for the formation of a new annual conference. The team proposed the name Susquehanna Conference, noting the image of the cleansing and renewing qualities of water are as important to the Church as the watershed of the Susquehanna River, closely following the boundaries of the new conference. Following the vote in favor of the name "Susquehanna Conference," members of the annual conference joined in singing, "Shall We Gather at the River."

The Central Pennsylvania Conference unanimously condemned a proposal to allow video poker in Pennsylvania restaurants and taverns by supporting a resolution that "in the strongest language possible, condemns this ill-advised proposal. The creation of these mini-casinos could negatively change the nature of neighborhoods throughout Pennsylvania. Video poker and similar devices are specifically designed to lure bettors into wagering more money more quickly&ellipsis; [while] numerous scientific studies show video poker to be a potent harbinger of gambling addiction."

In a June 4 Bible study, the Rev. Michael Bealla, director of connectional ministries, referred to the national United Methodist media expression "Rethink church." "This is a vision-driven process, rather than a structure-driven process, a time to rethink church. It is an opportunity to do a new thing, helping those outside the church to give our congregations across the annual conference another chance. Not only do we re-think church, but we are now at a place to re-think the annual conference as we move toward the exciting possibilities of our future together as a new body."

Zedna Haverstock, the conference treasurer, reported that the annual conference paid 100 percent of its apportionments to the United Methodist Church for 2008. This represents 14 years of uninterrupted commitment to the connection and paying the general church apportionments in full.

The 23 amendments to The United Methodist Church constitution that deal with the worldwide nature of the church passed with affirmative vote totals that ranged from 81 to 87 percent. At 64 percent, Amendment I failed to pass because if fell short of a 2/3 majority vote. Amendments 2 through 9 passed with affirmative votes ranging from about 93 to 99 percent. All vote tallies are posted at

Special offerings received at the conference totaled $76,575.91: $21,924.36 for Mission Central, $25,611.46 for Nothing But Nets, $22,131.13 for Cup of Water Fund, $3,161.05 for Tom Cartwright Scholarship Fund, and $3,747.91 for the Youth Service Fund.

Bishop Middleton ordained seven elders; 12 were commissioned as provisional members, and one was recognized as an associate member.

Membership stands at 136,626, down 4,416 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 63,503, down 1,200. Church school attendance stands at 25,948, down 727.

-Gerald (Jerry) Wolgemuth