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2009 Virginia Annual Conference

Virginia Annual Conference
June 14-17, 2009, Norfolk, VA

The Virginia Annual Conference celebrated current and future diversity when it gathered for its 227th session at the Scope arena in Norfolk.

Bishop Charlene Kammerer reminded members that there is a place for everyone at God's table. "How much will we expand the table of Jesus' fellowship and his radical hospitality? What kind of table will we set in our United Methodist congregations?" Bishop Kammerer asked. "Jesus is the one in charge. It's not our choice who is invited," she concluded.

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Northern Illinois Conference, the conference preacher, challenged attendees to be the leaders in reaching out to others. "We've spent too much time arguing about who is in and who is out. &ellipsis; It's not about retention, but recruitment. You have to be willing to go somewhere you've never been and do something you've never done."

An "expo" brought representatives from local churches that are succeeding in diversity to the conference to share their success stories. Videos celebrated churches that are modeling Bishop Robert Schnase's "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations."

Bible study led by the Rev. Anne Burkholder, associate dean of Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, talked about the difficulties of achieving diversity, using the conflicts among the first Christians as an example.

Mozambique's Bishop Joaquina Nhanala thanked Virginia for its ongoing "Initiatives of Hope" partnership with the Methodist church in Mozambique.

The conference approved a $15 million capital campaign to support the "All Things New" strategy of the conference to start 250 new faith communities over the next 30 years. Church change expert Gil Rendle talked about "All Things New" and said to make it work, "Do we have the will to be made into new people?" With the primary objective to change the church culture to fruitfulness, he reminded members that they would need to be willing to change its norms and standards.

The Rev. Glenn Tyndall, who just completed 35 years of service as campus minister at Virginia Tech, spoke for the 2009 retirees, who totaled more than 477 combined years of ministry. Tyndall challenged the "voices who seek to diminish the importance of campus ministry" as foolish, especially in a time of new faith community development. "Where will new pastors originate if not from campus ministry?"

In other conference action:

  • Sixty-five existing congregations signed on for a renewal program called the "5 Talent Academy."
  • Recipients of this year's Denman Evangelism awards for laity were David Glass and Steve Clark, members from Beulah United Methodist, Richmond District. This year's clergy recipient was the Rev. Sherry Daniels, pastor of Norfolk United Methodist Church. Daniels was also the preacher for the Service of Remembrance.
  • Conference members donated a total of 38,070 kits for UMCOR, and monetary donations were $76,804. Also, 9,800 pounds of non-perishable food items were donated for local agencies. The Conference offering for missions in Mozambique and Brazil, and the Pathways ministry in Petersburg, totaled more than $200,000.
  • The conference also organized a special offering for the Central Conference Pension Initiative to offset the loss of the annual "Cokesbury checks" this year.
  • Volunteers including more than 100 youth bagged 35,000 pounds of sweet potatoes for area food pantries.
  • The conference passed resolutions on protecting the Chesapeake Bay, energy conservation and study of the itinerant system and clergy compensation.
  • Thirteen were ordained elder, two ordained deacon, 28 commissioned as provisional members and 26 licensed as local pastors.
  • In constitutional amendment voting, only Amendments 8 (adds gender) and 22 (Bermuda) received more than a two-thirds support. Sixty-one percent voted in favor of Amendment 19, which would allow local pastors to vote on General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates. Amendments 2, 6, 9 and 17 also received majority support but not two-thirds. Other amendments failed outright.

The communion table used during annual conference had a sentimental touch as well. It was made from recycled wood from structures in the Driver community in southeastern Virginia, which were destroyed by tornados in April 2008.

The Virginia Conference showed positive membership growth in 2008. Membership stands at 338,602, up 968 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 117,020, down by 932.

-Neill Caldwell