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2009 North Texas Annual Conference

North Texas Annual Conference
June 7-9, Plano, Texas

The North Texas Annual Conference met with business sessions at Plano Centre, opening worship at First United Methodist Church, Richardson, and the service of ordination and commissioning at Custer Road United Methodist Church, Plano.

Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe presided over the conference for the first time. He challenged conference members to "rethink church" in his episcopal address, urging churches to unite around a common vision and reach a younger generation and work together toward developing a strategic plan for the future. "If we as an annual conference want to work together for change, we will need to get our priorities straight. We will have to let go of some of the things that we have done just because we have always done it that way. We will have to close the door to past hurts, disappointments and failures and allow God's grace, God's love and God's power to lead us to the place of promise," he challenged.

The conference overwhelmingly approved a year-long strategic planning process initiated earlier in the year at the bishop's suggestion. The plan will be brought to the 2010 annual conference. Houston Area Bishop Janice Huie, guest preacher for the opening service, challenged the conference to "GO" to the Christ waiting at the table. She used the image of table as a metaphor for the church's hospitality throughout the sermon. She particularly praised the inclusion of young people in the service, including 100 plus interns from the urban outreach program Project Transformation and C2K and college-age camping interns, who were commissioned to their work at the end of the service.

In the Laity Address, Richard Hearne, conference lay leader, cited recent accomplishments, such as the successful campaign to raise $1 million to build a health center and provide health science scholarships for Africa University. He emphasized that there is much more to do and called for laity to take leadership in programs that make a difference in their lives and lives of others. Africa University vice president and development director James Salley was on hand to receive a $500,000 check for scholarships and to announce a July 16 dedication for the health center, which he said would be the finest facility of its kind in the country. The conference presented a check for $500,000 in 2008 to build the almost-complete center. A delegation from the conference, including many leaders of the initiative, will be present for the dedication in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.

The conference witnessed the ordination of 13 elders and two deacons, plus a courtesy ordination of a deacon for the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, and the commissioning of 13 for the work of an elder and three for the work of a deacon. Average age of the 2009 class was 43.

Total membership was 158,606 (down 106), average worship attendance was 60,626 (down 1325), average Sunday School attendance was 31,861 (down 676), and total giving increased by 4.9% to $148,423,035.

-Joan G. LaBarr