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2011 Austria Provisional Annual Conference

Austria Provisional Annual Conference
May 19-22, 2011, Steimbach am Attersee

Theme: "With heart, mouth and hands believing, communicating and acting together."

Opening worship service
In his sermon on 1 Corinthians 12, Superintendent Lothar Pöll emphasized that the church will not be the body of Christ someday, but that it already is now. Since Paul wrote that "God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor," it might be necessary for the church to honor particularly those who do not hold posts of honor and to highlight those who accomplish the tasks that do not bring honor and recognition, tasks that are often overlooked and which nobody wants to take on.

Report of the superintendent
Pöll drew attention to two centenaries: In 1911, the Mission Conference Austria-Hungary was established. This was an important step toward the self-sustainability of the Methodist work in this area, although a few years later this mission conference was divided up into three parts - Austrian, Hungarian and Yugoslavian - as a result of World War I. Also in 1911, the United Methodist congregation in Graz was established.

In 2012, the leaders of the various ministries will be elected, along with members of the boards and councils in local churches and the annual conference. Since God calls both pastors and lay people to lead the church, Pöll recommended that we honor the ministry of lay leaders. In addition, he suggested that local churches should work more with job descriptions in order to ease taking on a new task. He also said it should not be considered taboo to elect new people to lead ministries or serve on boards, to introduce a moderate rotation strategy or to recruit young people for leadership positions.

Clergy members of the annual conference

  • Martin Siegrist was commissioned as probationary pastor.

  • The Rev. Laura Trent will conclude her seven years of service at Vienna English-speaking United Methodist church in June 2011 and return to the United States. Her successor, the Rev. Kathy Young, will start her ministry in Vienna in July 2011.

  • The Rev. Markus Fellinger has applied for a position as prison chaplain in Krems. Because of an agreement between The United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church, he can serve in this position as a United Methodist pastor and he thus remains a member of the Austria Provisional Conference.

  • Linda Holmes-Ulrich will serve as part-time pastoral assistant at Linz United Methodist Church as of July 1, 2011.

Finances and church properties
Since church leaders economized on church finances, the budgeted deficit for 2010 was avoided. For 2011, all local churches have promised to increase their apportionments by 5 percent, which will actually be necessary in order to have a balanced budget.

Work with children and youth
As a result of several recent cases of abuse in church- or state-run institutions, the Children's and Youth Department has developed guidelines for work with children and youth, as well as an emergency plan, entitled "Child Abuse - Violence - Prevention of Violence." These documents were approved by the annual conference and will be shared with the local churches in the upcoming weeks.

United Methodist social-work organization Zentrum Spattstrasse
Dr. Merl, medical director of the United Methodist Diakonie social-work agency Zentrum Spattstrasse, reported on projects implemented within the last 12 months: Camino, a residential community for male youth; KAYA, a residential community for girls and young women with eating disorders; NIDO, an integrative playgroup for babies and toddlers; and a kindergarten focusing on physical activities. A new special clinic will be built and will probably open in Spring 2012.

Closing worship
The annual conference was concluded with a joyful worship service at Salzburg United Methodist Church. In his sermon on 1 Peter 4:10, Bishop Patrick Streiff emphasized the importance of good stewardship in the church. It will not work in the long run to have higher expenditures than income, and there is a need for solidarity between the weaker and the stronger. But this is not only true in financial matters; this is also part of our ecological and social task. And it is true concerning our faith: we cannot give more than we are ready to receive from God.

--The Rev. Stefan Schröckenfuchs, Vienna