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2011 Kentucky Annual Conference

Kentucky Annual Conference, by Cathy Bruce, Director of Communications

More than 1,200 United Methodists felt God's presence during the 2011 Kentucky Annual Conference session.

"Called by Christ, Sent to Sow" was the theme for this year's conference, and that theme was evident throughout the time together. Even the visuals on stage carried a rustic theme to remind participants that all are called to sow God's word.

In the opening worship, the Rev. Rebecca Curry, Louisville District superintendent and assistant to the bishop, preached a sermon titled "Celebrating the Sower." She encouraged those present to "give thanks for those who have gone before us and the seeds they planted." Participants also remembered 19 clergy and clergy spouses who died in the past year. The opening worship concluded with the serving of Holy Communion.

Other worship services consisted of:

  • The ordination and commissioning service, where 14 people were commissioned as provisional members, two were recognized as associate members, and eight were ordained as elders in full connection. Bishop James E. Swanson Jr. of the Holston Conference preached on "The Essential Nature of the Call."

  • The retirement service, where the conference recognized, with gratitude, the ministry of 18 clergy retiring from active service this year. The Rev. Eddie Fox's sermon was "Therefore, by God's Grace, We Do Not Lose Heart."

  • The Mission and Ministry Night, where participants were again treated to a sermon by Fox. Through the mission offering, more than $82,000 was raised to plant a new church in Thailand and to help support the United Methodist seminary in Venezuela preparing clergy to be church planters.

In keeping with the theme, the three Bible study leaders were pastors who recently planted new churches. The Rev. Rosario Picardo, the Rev. Brian Ebel and the Rev. Matt Johnson shared how they planted God's word and today see the fruit of their labor. Participants were also introduced to three new church planters: the Rev. Mark Windley and the Rev. Anthony Everett, who will plant new churches in the upcoming year, and the Rev. Chris Campbell, who will strive to revitalize an existing congregation. Video presentations, interspersed throughout plenary sessions, told stories of other new church starts.

During business sessions, awards were given to churches that have hosted refugee families, implemented special-needs ministries and shown exceptional growth. The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards go to individuals who have a passion for evangelism and make an impact on The United Methodist Church. Those receiving Denman awards this year were Bryce Osborne, Linda Gayheart and Don Barnett. Clergy members who have reached the milestones of 25 and 50 years of service also received awards.

Delegates were elected to represent the Kentucky Conference at the 2012 General Conference and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Clergy delegates to General Conference are Debbie Wallace-Padgett, Bill T. Arnold, Tom Grieb, Mike Powers, Maxie Dunnam and Thomas W. Smith; laity delegates are Carol Ackley, Michael B. Watts, Linda Underwood King, Ed Shytle, John R. Denham and Jayne Squires.

Delegates to jurisdictional conference are the above-named clergy plus Julie Hager Love, Eliseo Mejia-Leiva, Rebecca Curry, Tamara Brown, John Hatton and David Grout. The laity delegates are the above-named laity plus Jan Brown-Thompson, Linda Gayheart, Terry Cunningham, Chrysanthia Carr-Seals, John Crissman and Nancy Wetzel. Clergy alternates are Brian Ebel, Charles Brockwell and Elvyn Hamilton. Laity alternates are Lewis D. Nicholls, Brenda Glover and Tim Roach.

Other business at this year's conference included recognizing this year's Lay Academy of Church Excellence (LACE) graduates. The conference continued to celebrate its partnership with the Red Bird Missionary Conference. The Rev. Farley Stuart, Red Bird superintendent, brought greetings. Pam Buck from United Methodist Communications discussed Impact Appalachia, a one-day service event in which community and church volunteers from the Kentucky and Red Bird conferences will work together on projects in the Red Bird Missionary Conference.

Conference members also approved the 2012 budget, which will keep spending at the same level as 2011. The Rev. Debbie Wallace-Padgett was nominated and endorsed for the episcopacy in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

More than 800 people participated in more than 24 projects in the second annual Afternoon of Service, where conference members give back to the community by serving in the area where the conference is meeting. Fifty-eight people donated blood to the local blood bank, 600 agape letters were written to missionaries and military personnel, and more than1,500 health kits were assembled for UMCOR. Volunteers also led worship services at nursing homes, served meals at the Grace Campus of Immanuel United Methodist Church, did repairs at the Ida Spence Mission and delivered books to children living in the area surrounding the mission.

For the second year, people not in attendance were able to follow the activities of the conference sessions via live streaming. More than 500 unique viewers, both nationally and internationally, watched at least some portion of the conference.

Conference membership stands at 150,822, down 1,230 from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 56,571, down 1,320 from the previous year, and average church school attendance stands at 26,878, down 980 from last year.