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2010 Western North Carolina Annual Conference

June 11-13, Lake Junaluska

Western North Carolina Conference delegates gathered at Lake Junaluska, June 11-13, for their second conference with Bishop Larry Goodpaster presiding. At both clergy and laity sessions, he reported on the progress toward the Power of Three goals (see unveiled at conference the previous year. The good news in 2009 was the number of professions of faith increased by 7 percent, more local churches conducted confirmation classes, more people transferred into United Methodist churches from other denominations than out and the goal of sending out 3,000 mission teams was exceeded by 267. However, Goodpaster noted the declines in membership and church attendance needed to be addressed.

Though the conference was one day shorter than previous years, delegates worked diligently to complete all the necessary business. Delegates rejected a recommendation by the Annual Conference Meeting Task Force to move next year's meeting to the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, preferring to remain at Lake Junaluska. The task force, formed by the 2008 Annual Conference recommended the Greensboro location primarily because Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska could only seat 2,000 of the 3,500 eligible delegates. The conference will work with Lake Junaluska officials to address meeting space limitations, along with inadequate parking and other concerns.

Delegates approved a conference budget of $7,926,038 for 2011, a 1.74 percent increase over 2010. Two offerings taken during Annual Conference for Haiti Disaster Relief totaled $32,226.13.

Worship encompassed a variety of traditions: Taizé, Native American, African American, contemporary and traditional. During the Friday evening missions service, the conference celebrated the work of 14,653 volunteers who participated in the Impact Community Day the previous Saturday. All 15 districts sponsored community outreach projects that touched the lives of an estimated 630,000 people.

Preachers for this year's conference, in addition to Bishop Goodpaster, included Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Texas Conference; The Rev. Dr. Peter Graves, Centenary UMC, Winston-Salem and the Rev. Dr. Earl Wilson, Mount Tabor UMC, Winston-Salem.

Dr. Kathleen Lambert, a member of First UMC, Hendersonville, delivered the laity address. She emphasized the importance of observing the Sabbath, studying the Bible, making prayer a central part of life, engaging in compassionate work as means for following Christ and allowing Christ's love to flow.

The bishop introduced Jennifer Davis, from the Gastonia District, as the new director of connectional ministries, the first lay person to hold this position in the conference's history.

Bishop Goodpaster commissioned five provisional deacons and 20 provisional elders while recognizing one newly elected associate member. He ordained two deacons in full connection and 17 elders in full connection. The lives of 23 clergy and 32 clergy spouses who passed away during the previous year were honored at a Celebration of Life service. And, 35 retiring clergy with 876 years of service among them were recognized.

Membership stands at 292,824, down 356 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 123,783, down 1,962. Church school attendance stands at 57,897, down 2,927.

--Mark L. Barden, WNCC Director of Communications