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2011 New England Annual Conference

The 2011 session of the New England Annual Conference
June 8-11, Wenham, Mass.

The New England Annual Conference met in holy conferencing at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., from Wednesday, June 8 through Saturday, June 11, 2011. The clergy session was held in the afternoon on June 8. The theme of "Living Side-by-Side: the Broken and the Whole" was woven through the sessions as more than 1,200 clergy and lay representatives from around the conference gathered together to share in worship, business, fellowship, learning and inspiration.

Bishop Peter D. Weaver preached during the opening worship session on Wednesday evening highlighting the theme through a message based on Ezekiel 37, "Can these dry bones live?" His sermon repeated the emphasis that even when all the places in our lives and in our world seem broken, hurting or even dead, with the breath of God moving among us and within us, these bones can live!

Honored guest Bishop Minerva Carcaño preached during the ordination service on Thursday evening, capturing the congregation with her engaging combination of wit, humor, deep faith and witness. In a second session on Friday morning, Bishop Carcaño led the conference in reflection on our call to "welcome the stranger" and shared thoughts and experiences in her ministry with and for immigrants. Her presentation engaged and challenged conference attendees to reflect on their own experience and explore ways God may be calling us to stand for justice in this issue.

Highlights of Annual Conference:

The lives and new eternal life of departed pastors, spouses and lay members of the conference were affirmed and remembered. The memorial service honored clergy and spouses who have passed away. The service closed with communion and song, affirming Christ's victory over death.

Twenty-six retirees were named, and Bishop Weaver led the body in an expression of thanksgiving for the witness and service to God and God's church rendered by these leaders. Some retirees chose to share reflections on their years of ministry through short videos, which were shown throughout the conference session.

Ten people were recognized as newly licensed local pastors, six were ordained elders and four were commissioned for the work of an elder.

The theme of Living Side-by-Side was manifested in a focus on mission and global health during the conference events and offerings. More than $3,100 was raised in a "Miles for Mission" 5K fun run and walk to benefit Imagine No Malaria. Another project-a Stop Hunger Now packaging event-was held during the conference, and churches, attendees and guests raised more than $10,000 and packaged more than 51,000 meals for families in Nicaragua who would otherwise go hungry.

Other collections included offerings for Cooper Community Center in Massachusetts, and the United Methodist Economic Ministry in Maine. All tallied, this year's conference offerings and fundraising totaled more than any previous conference session.

The Ziegler Preaching Award was presented to the Rev. Richard Capron, most recently serving at Lexington UMC in Massachusetts. In his sermon, Capron reflected on our collective call to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. He remembered the closing of the old Lone Ranger series, where someone asks, "Who was that masked man?" and another would answer, "Don't you know? That was the Lone Ranger!" He shared his vision of the church where the world would see good things being done for God's glory, and people would say, "Who were those people?" and someone would say, "Don't you know? Those are the Methodists!"

The annual conference tech team continued to work to extend the conference experience beyond those attending on-site. For the second year in a row, conference sessions were broadcast over the Internet in a live webcast. The webcast was viewed 3,820 times over the three conference days nearly twice the viewership of the previous year. A lively twitter feed was also going on during the sessions, engaging attendees and other followers during the sessions.

In business, the conference:

  • Approved a 2012 budget of $7,452,615, including a "connectional mission share" for churches unable to pay 100% of apportioned amounts;

  • Elected General Conference delegates: Clergy-the Rev. We Hyun Chang, the Rev. Rebecca (Becca) Clark, the Rev. William (Scott) Campbell, the Rev. David Abbott and the Rev. LaTrelle Easterling. Lay-Ms. Bonnie I. Marden, Mr. Ralph R. R. Oduor, Ms. Rene Wilbur, Mr. Oscar Harrell and Ms. JoAnn Carlotto.

  • Elected Jurisdictional Conference delegates: Clergy-the Rev. Martin McLee, the Rev. Leigh Dry, the Rev. Karen Munson, the Rev. Nizzi Santos Digan and the Rev. Gary L. Shaw. Lay-Ms. Annie MacNeal, Mr. Sam Purushotham, Ms. Fay Flanary, Mr. William Aldrich and Mr. Sean Delmore.

  • Elected Jurisdictional Conference alternates: Clergy-the Rev. Sandra Bonette-Kim, the Rev. Tsitsi N. Moyo, the Rev. Pat MacHugh, the Rev. Tom M. Getchell-Lacey and the Rev. Thomas Bentum. Lay-Mr. Dight W. Crain, Ms. Rebecca Hewett, Mr. Philip Susag, Ms. Marla Marcum and Ms. Evie Doyon.

  • Approved 33 resolutions including: a resolution calling for pressure on our state legislators to support the Dream Act; a "Call to Conscience" encouraging the conference to radical hospitality and to "raise our voices for a just and reconciled church and world where God's welcome will be practiced throughout our human community;" several amendments to Conference Policies and Procedures and the establishment of a conference-wide "Disabilities Awareness Sunday."

  • Affirmed 14 petitions to be sent to the 2012 General Conference including: two petitions on disability issues and ministries; one calling for the alignment of UMC investments with the Church's stated position on Israel/Palestine; and 11 petitions on various aspects of human sexuality and inclusiveness, mostly centered around removing discriminatory language regarding homosexuality from the Book of Discipline. After some debate on all of these petitions, the conference voted to affirm all of them.

In a peripheral but related action, a group of a few dozen clergy stood in support during the closed clergy session while a statement was read indicating that 24 clergy in the Conference had signed on to an independent movement declaring their intention to perform marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples, a stand which is in defiance of the current church law in the Book of Discipline. This clergy action was not addressed in the annual conference sessions or proceedings but was an autonomous and voluntary effort by clergy supporting the statement. By the end of the conference, more than 90 New England Conference clergy had signed the statement. In the two weeks following the conference sessions, the number had risen to 123. More details can be found at www.neumc.org/equality.

Membership in the New England Conference stands at 95,871, down 2,108 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,721, down 1,559 from the previous year.

Additional information and news from the 2011 annual conference session can be found at www.neumc.org/ac11.

- Alexx Wood,
Communications Director, New England Annual Conference