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2011 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Greater New Jersey Annual Conference Report

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference concluded its four-day agenda waiting for the results of the final ballot to be counted in general and jurisdictional delegate elections. With the final count tallied, a prayer for the delegation was offered by Resident Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and the conference was adjourned. In the preceding days, lay and clergy members of the conference that convened in Valley Forge, Penn., shared in the rousing worship, inspired preaching and enriching fellowship that are the hallmarks of the gathering. This year's conference preacher, Mike Slaughter, repeatedly called on United Methodists to "stop playing Church." "Our business," he said, "is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If we are going to make disciples, we need to strengthen the core of our community." Strengthening the core of the community was at the heart of the presentations by Breakfast Bible Study leader, John Holbert who led a three-session survey of biblical teachings on God's gifts.

The conference began with a service of tribute, remembering those clergy and laity who died in the previous year and a service of Holy Communion. In his address on behalf of the district superintendents, Dean of the Cabinet, the Rev. Sung Hoon Ahn, continued the theme by celebrating the "fruit-bearing ministries" of the conference. His address included thanksgivings for the gifts and ministries of outgoing superintendents Robert Smith, Renee McCleary and Vivian Rodeffer. Ahn is also leaving the Cabinet to take the newly created position of Director of Connectional Ministries. The new dean will be Barbara Rambach. In other cabinet news, Robert Costello is moving from the Raritan District to the Gateway South District. Bishop Devadhar has named Jisun Kwak, Varlyna Wright, Stephen Bechtold and Wayne Plumstead as new superintendents.

The delegate elections were some of the most unusual in the conference's history. In what some considered to be significant surprises, the conference chose a delegation made primarily of first time representatives to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Clergy elected to General Conference were: Drew Dyson (Bloomsbury, N.J.), Varlyna Wright (Columbus, N.J.), Tanya Linn Bennett (Chatham, N.J.), Heasun Kim (Old Bridge, N.J.) and Jessica Campbell (Thiells, N.Y.). All are first time elected delegates.

Lay delegates elected were: Lynn Caterson (Absecon, N.J.), John Bishop (Saddle River, N.J.), Jay Brown (Williamstown, N.J.), Mark Miller (Plainfield, N.J.) and Bethany Amey (Blackwood, N.J.) Amey is a first time delegate. Caterson will be the chair of the delegation and Dyson the vice-chair.

Clergy delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference were: Sung Hoon Ahn (Harrington Park, N.J.), Chris Heckert (Maplewood, N.J.), John DiGiamberardino (Brick, N.J.), Lysette Perez (Camden, N.J.) and Charles Bender (Woodstown, N.J.). Clergy reserve delegates elected were: Robert Costello (Roseland, N.J.), Vivian Rodeffer (Moorestown, N.J.) and Jisun Kwak (Metuchen, N.J.).

Lay delegates elected to the Jurisdictional Conference were: Samuel Sim (River Edge, N.J.), June McCullough (Vineland, N.J.), Judy Colorado (Warren, N.J.), Rosa Williams (Teaneck, N.J.) and Constance Ace (Whitehouse, N.J.). Lay reserve delegates elected were: Cynthia Kent (Belleville, N.J.), Creed Pogue (Estell Manor, N.J.) and Weagba Nelson (Union Beach, N.J.).

The service of ordination saw 13 persons received into the Order of Elders: Byungil Ahn, Barbara Frohock, Daniel Gepford, Erik Hall, Brian Joyce, Hyoik Kim, Hannah Hyokyung Lee, Erik A. Ostrow, Isabel Quezada, Hugo Edison Rey, Geunsu James Ryoo, David Schumacher and David Yun. The average age of those ordained is 47.69. Rey was not ordained but was received as a full member from the conference of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas and his ordination from that church was recognized. Bishop Devadhar preached at the Ordination Service with the participation of Bishop Felton Edwin May, Bishop In Kwan Kim and the ecumenical representative, President Iain Torrance, from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Bishop Kim preached for the Commissioning Service and called on those being commissioned to "be an example for the believers." Those commissioned were: Yohan Baik, Sharon Burniston, Peter Jamieson, Sandra Jenkins, Brian Neville, Donald Stevens, Cynthia Stouffer and Kee Young Yang. They were commissioned in the same service as the conference celebrated the ministries of those retiring in 2011. A symbolic passing of the mantle highlighted the afternoon.

A Shared Ministries budget of $12,362,418 was passed as were resolutions approving the creation of a Disabilities Awareness Sunday with offering, a petition to General Conference to create a Committee on Disability Awareness, a Disaster Response Plan and the creation of a committee to study the use of conference-owned office facilities.

The highlight of the conference occurred on the last day. The delegates had previously made a colorful paper airplane flying offering of $80,820 for Wings of the Morning, but in a moment described by some as a first ever "conference flash mob" of the Spirit and at the urging of one of the clergy members, people began lining up at the microphones to pledge additional money. Bishop Devadhar spent the next 45 minutes joyfully recognizing people as they spoke on behalf of their churches and when it was all over an additional $108,421 for a total of $195,109 for the ministry of North Katanga. The words of Bishop Devadhar's episcopal address earlier in the conference came to the minds of many: "When we ask, 'What gift can I bring to the table?' and by considering faithfully this question, we will unleash a torrent of fruitfulness that will make a lasting impact."

Membership stands at 93,415, down 786 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 48,696, down 1,234 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 14,957, down 1,323 from the previous year.

-Glenn C. Ferguson