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2010 Oklahoma Annual Conference

May 30-June 2, 2010, Tulsa, Okla.

Using Internet live streaming for the first time, the Oklahoma Annual Conference welcomed more than 4,600 virtual guests on May 30-June 2 at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa.

Because the technology enabled more people to experience the event, leaders hoped the education and inspiration always central to the annual gathering were expanded across the connection. Typically, about 1,200 people attend in person.

Whether online or in the historic Boston Avenue sanctuary, people were witness to sacred rituals of leadership; excitement about new church plants; news of health care projects in Oklahoma and Africa and faith testimonies by new ethnic Christians, once-struggling students, and former prisoners. The theme was "Following the Plan---Faithful Witness, Transforming Presence."

The ordination ceremony recognized 13 elders and two deacons. In the service of commissioning, seven provisional elders and four provisional deacons were celebrated. Overall, 14 of the 26 were women.

In his episcopal address, Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. vowed to help erase clergy educational debt. He noted about 5 percent of Oklahoma's clergy are younger than 35. "Gifted and desiring young men and women who want to go into ministry cannot afford it," the bishop said. He called for financial gifts to the newly created LIFE endowment fund, established with the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.

Two new church plants launch in June in Edmond. Now one year old, CrossTimbers United Methodist Church in Moore reported 47 professions of faith.

Oklahoma City University announced the renaming of Centennial Hall, its new dormitory, to be Oklahoma United Methodist Hall, in recognition of the support the university receives. Oklahoma Conference Campus Ministries presented Francis Asbury Awards to outgoing OCU President Tom and Brenda McDaniel. Incoming OCU President Robert Henry was introduced. He is stepping down as a federal judge to serve the university. Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University will celebrate its first graduating class next May, announced Elaine Robinson, dean of Saint Paul at OCU.

The 2011 budget, $16,534,735, reflects an apportionment increase of 3.4 percent. The majority of that increase-67 percent-is due to rising health care costs. The Oklahoma Conference health benefits plan is self-insured. Increases also were announced in monthly premiums and drug and office-visit co-payments.

The Annual Conference Offering, approximately $53,600, supported the denomination's "Imagine No Malaria" project for Africa and Cookson Hills Center, an Advance project in Oklahoma that serves the rural poor, especially Native Americans. The late Wilma Mankiller, a former chief of the Cherokee Nation, was featured in a video recording. She told how Cookson Hills Center helped her when she was in need as a young, single mother. "Imagine No Malaria" was affirmed by Bishop Thomas Bickerton, guest preacher and leader of the denomination's Global Health Initiative.

Hayes announced the Oklahoma Conference United Methodists donated $613,509.43 through the Church, as of May 1, for disaster response in Haiti. More than 2,200 UMCOR kits for Haiti were collected during the days of the conference. In November, Volunteers In Mission teams will begin serving on site in the earthquake recovery work.

The Advance recognized the Oklahoma Conference with two awards: for the highest church participation in designated giving in 2009 in The United Methodist Church; and for the highest amount of missionary support and highest church participation in 2009 in the South Central Jurisdiction.

Scouting ministries repeatedly claimed the spotlight. The Silver Torch Award was presented to Judy Benson and Joseph Harris. Two Boy Scout troops received the Bishop's Award for Excellence.

The Harry Denman Award for Evangelism was presented to two clergy: Sharen Hale and Stan Warfield. A new award, for advocacy against racism, was presented to Hayes and named in his honor by the Commission on Religion and Race. United Methodist Men named Warren Neff as a Fellow in the Society of John Wesley.

New awards, for Addiction Ministries, were presented to 50 churches. Also, 43 congregations earned the Five-Star Church honor for missions.

Three clergymen were appointed as new district superintendents: David Wiggs, George Warren, and David Burris. A total of 18 official clergy retirements were announced.

The "Record of Remembrance" memorialized 38 clergy and spouses.

Three churches were officially closed.

Membership stands at 238,056, down 3,277 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 57,903, down 471. Church school attendance stands at 30,738, down 754.

--Holly McCray, Department of Communications, Oklahoma Conference