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2011 East Ohio Annual Conference

East Ohio Annual Conference
June 13-16, 2011, Lakeside

Bishop John L. Hopkins welcomed East Ohio back to Hoover Auditorium as he opened the 42nd session of Annual Conference.

"If these walls could talk, we would hear the holy hum of Hoover," Hopkins told the 1,501 in attendance on a sunny, 75-degree day along the shore of Lake Erie. "We stand on the shoulders of others who have worshipped here."

The Service of Communion and Remembrance offered the opportunity for East Ohio to pay respects to those who dedicated their lives making disciples for Jesus Christ. Lighted candles were processed through Hoover Auditorium and then placed on the altar to honor the 55 saints who joined the church triumphant since last year's annual conference. Among them was Bishop James Samuel Thomas, who shepherded East Ohio for 12 years.

The morning scripture from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, reminded us that the church, despite its many parts, is one body. Like a human body, it functions best when each of its parts performs its task properly. The lesson was a perfect way to introduce, "If We Are the Body..." this year's annual conference theme.

The State of the East Ohio Conference report showed a 1.14 percent decrease in membership to 163,603, and a 0.9 percent decrease in average weekly worship attendance to 64,602. There were 2,049 baptisms performed in 2010 and 20,359 professions of faith.

One provisional deacon and five provisional elders were commissioned Monday night. The evening was also a time to honor 27 retiring pastors for their years of faithfully carrying out Christ's work.

Tuesday's featured speaker, the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, shared reasons why and how Grace United Methodist Church in Coral Gable, Fla., is heralded as a vital congregation. The key lesson brought by Acevedo is that his church is vital because it is in ministry with the marginalized but it's able to do ministry with the marginalized because it is a vital congregation. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Acevedo shared further examples with Bishop Hopkins during the opening of the Episcopal-Cabinet address. The second half of the address highlighted, through personal testimony, video and PowerPoint, vital ministries of East Ohio.

The conference welcomed five elders and one deacon during the Tuesday evening Service of Ordination.

Bishop Julius Trimble of the Iowa Conference led worship Wednesday morning. Trimble received a warm welcome back to East Ohio, where he previously served two churches and was dean of the cabinet. During his sermon, Trimble challenged the crowd that we are not doing enough to be the body of Christ. "We don't give a damn about the poor. Period. End of story," Trimble proclaimed. He continued, "Maybe we need fewer songs about Jesus and statements about who will get into heaven and who is going to hell."

Thursday morning's sermon, "Faces of Grace," was given by the Rev. Gary George. Continuing to build on the theme of "If We Are the Body..." George lifted up the stories of three individuals whose lives have had an impact on his. The sermon concluded with a cardboard testimony featuring participants from around the conference and liturgical dance.

George's West Ohio Conference counterpart, the Rev. Joyce Fry, brought greetings on behalf of West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, who was out of the state and unable to attend. Fry will retire at the end of June. She thanked East Ohio for bringing her to Christ. Fry was ordained in East Ohio in 1971, one of the first female pastors in the conference.

Fourteen clergy and 14 lay members were elected as delegates to General and North Central Jurisdictional Conference, and a $12,168,020 apportioned budget was adopted. The budget approved amount is the same as was approved for 2011.

Five resolutions were proposed and passed during the 2011 annual conference:

  • "A Call to Advocate for the Enforcement of the Human Trafficking Laws in Ohio" -
    The resolution asked that the conference contact Ohio governmental agencies encouraging new legislation and upholding legal action against human traffickers. It further asked that the Church and Society committee, in partnership with the East Ohio United Methodist Women and the Commission on the Status and of Women of East Ohio Conference, advocate for this cause.

  • "A Call to Support the Ohio Food Banks" - The resolution asked the conference to commit to educate and encourage congregations to support local food banks with donations and volunteering. It further advocated for changes in public policy on state and local levels to decrease hunger.

  • "A Call to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day" - The resolution askedthat each United Methodist church suspend activities and meetings unless it is to commemorate the holiday's observance.

  • "A Call to Advocate for Continued Participation in Political Process and Support of Collective Bargaining" - The resolution asked the conference to educate themselves and affirm the historic support of education, rights of workers and right to collective bargaining and to vote their conscience regarding the referendum initiative Ohio Bill 5.

  • "A Call to Ensure Youth a Place on Committees and Councils" - The resolution asked that local churches make it a focus that youth be a part of leadership and mission.

Bishop Hopkins closed annual conference by reminding those in attendance to Aid, Advance and Advocate on behalf of Jesus Christ.

The 43rd session of annual conference will take place at Lakeside June 18-21, 2012.

--Rick Wolcott, director of communications