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2011 Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference
May 19-21, 2011, Oaks, Penn.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference met May 19-21, 2011, at the Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, Penn., with the theme "Journeying with the Poor."

The laity session on the morning of May 19 featured keynote speaker, the Rev. Joseph Daniels Jr., Emory United Methodist Church in Washington D.C., who spoke on being the REAL church (relevant, enthusiastic, authentic and loving).

Opening Worship, organized by the young adult clergy of the annual conference featured preaching entitled, "Jesus vs. Superheroes," by Mrs. Jennifer Berry-McNulty, a young adult from First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus led three teaching sessions at the conference. Rasmus said, "We love God with our heart, mind, soul, strength, but we have trouble loving our neighbor as ourselves." He is author of TOUCH: Pressing Against the Wounds of a Broken World, a book on how to touch the lives of "the least of these" in our own communities.

In a Service of Recognition, the conference honored twenty-two retiring clergy. The Rev. Michele Wright Bartlow, retiree, passed the mantle of ministry to ordinand, the Rev. Jonathan Wesley Hall.

Bishop Julius Trimble, Iowa Area of the United Methodist Church, preached for the Service of Ordination, saying, "What a privilege it is to be in ministry, and what a privilege it is to bring the love of God to a hurting world." One person was commissioned toward deacon's orders, seven people were commissioned toward elder's orders, two people were ordained deacons, three people were ordained elders and the orders of two persons were recognized.

Bishop Peggy Johnson preached for the Memorial Service, "Blessed Comfort," quoting Jesus from the Beatitudes that "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted" and urging listeners to live and carry on the example the faithful lives of those we mourn-to honor them by being like them in this world.

Two churches received the Kim Jefferson Award for effective urban ministry: Iglesia Metodista Unida Nuevo Nacimiento, Elena Ortiz, pastor, and Grace United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Grant Johnson, pastor. Two clergy and one lay person received the 2011 Denman Evangelism Award: the Rev. David Woolverton, the Rev. Steven T. McComas and Mr. Earl Rutledge.

Dr. Mary White, conference lay leader, gave the laity address, "The Joy of Christian Service."

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference elected five General Conference delegates, five delegates for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference (NEJ) and three alternates.

Laity delegates elected were: GC: Mary White, Judith K. Ehninger, Thomas Gibson, Ruth A. Daugherty, Brenda Tildon; NEJ: Jordan Harris, Candace Carter, George Hollich, Elisabeth (Lisi) Santos Fisher, Ann Jacob; Alternates: Lenora Thompson, Jason Perkowski, Jane Bonner.

Clergy delegates elected were: GC: James B. Todd, Robin M. Hynicka, Lillian C. Smith, Dawn Taylor-Storm, Tracy L. Bass; NEJ: Doris K. Dalton, Alan J. Smith, Joseph DiPaolo, Christopher Kurien, Andrew Foster; Alternates: Dorothy Watson-Tatem, Michele Wright Bartlow, Bronwyn Yocum.

Mission projects reflected the "Journeying with the Poor" theme of the conference. The United Methodist Men distributed 50,000 pounds of potatoes for local food banks. Delegates and Youth Day participants packaged dehydrated, high protein meals to be distributed by Stop Hunger Now.

Over 100 youth attended The Big Event on Saturday, May 21, with speaker, Sean McBride, and music by the Josh Blackmun Band. Youth put Bishop Johnson, Conference Secretary Rodney Miller and others "in jail" and received "bail" donations going to the Youth Service Fund.

The annual conference session was viewed by 1,300 people through live video streaming. Interpretation in American Sign Language, assistive listening devices and on-screen transcription of the spoken word were offered for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. A big-screen reader made written materials available to people with visual impairments.

The conference collected several offerings including: Imagine No Malaria and Hope for the Children - $8,519.41; scholarships for undergraduate and seminary students - $2,898.33; and Central Conference Pension Initiative - $2,152.14.

Worship Arts were coordinated by Mrs. Mary Smith. The Rev. Lydia Munoz served as worship leader, accompanied by the worship band: Irving Cotto, Andres Cotto and Chris Schiavino. Reflecting the opening worship theme "Renewing God's Creation," Katie Naber, a young adult, created a ten-foot high cross of dry tree branches, which gradually came to life with greenery over the three days of the conference.

In business, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference approved a motion to amend the Rules of Order, adding a new Article XVII with all articles following it to be re-numbered accordingly. The new article reads: "The Annual Conference shall not consider, debate, or vote on any General Conference-related resolution or proposed Disciplinary change unless submitted for endorsement by a Conference agency, board, or standing committee. Rather, the Conference Secretary shall instruct all others submitting such proposals to forward them directly to the General Conference secretary without Eastern Pennsylvania Conference endorsement."

As a result of this approved change to the Rules of Order, Resolutions 2011-3 and 2011-20 through 30 were to be submitted directly to the General Conference secretary.

Resolutions included: designating Simpson House a Heritage Landmark; against privatization of alcohol in Pennsylvania; for immigration reform; urging Gov. Corbett to tax natural gas drilling related to the Marcellus Shale drilling; discontinuing four churches and merging two; and approving 15 Conference Advance Specials for second-mile giving.

The annual conference approved the 2012 budget of nearly $6 million including $3.4 for conference ministries and $2.6 million for General Church ($1.3 million for World Service and $1.3 million for the General Church apportioned funds).

Membership stands at 114,991, down 3,373 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 45,867, down 1,509. Church school attendance stands at 19,178, up 2,890.

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-Suzy Keenan, Director of Communications