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2011 New York Annual Conference

New York Annual Conference Report
June 8-11, 2011, Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

When conference clergy and laity gathered, they explored what it means to be "heart-warmed United Methodists in mission" through worship, Bible study and holy conferencing.

During opening worship, Bishop Jeremiah Park noted, "Warm hearts are in our DNA, thanks to John Wesley, so mission is in our DNA, too."

Continuing the theme in his episcopal address, the bishop emphasized the need for radical change to turn our inward focus outward. He encouraged the body to redirect the flow of its attention, energy and resources to making vital congregations by reaching out into the world for Christ.

"As vital Christians, we need to love numbers. There's a book of the Bible called Numbers. God loves numbers!" the bishop exhorted. He admitted that while numbers may tell only some of the story, "what we measure does receive our attention." The bishop urged the gathering to make reaching young people their number-one objective, and received a hearty "amen" when he asked for agreement.

Saturday's festival of mission kicked off with a banner parade of more than 1,500 extra laity and youth in attendance. The banners highlighted the ministry and mission work of each congregation. Also honored were the hundreds who had served as Volunteers in Mission during the past year and the 137 churches that won the Mission Gold Award. Thomas Kemper, Harriett Jane Olsen and Una Jones all from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries were guest speakers.

Midway through the celebration, Bishop Park walked to center stage, and said, "This is the moment you've been waiting for!" The arena filled with a roar because the crowd knew that meant just one thing: the bishop's pushup challenge was about to begin.

He removed his jacket and microphone before dropping to the stage as the crowd counted out 130 quick pushups. During the 2010 annual gathering, Park had completed 120 pushups to emphasize the connection between spiritual and physical health. Afterward, he promised to repeat the stunt in 2011 and challenged each of the conference's 475 churches to donate $1 for each pushup.

Two of the conference's own led the morning Bible studies: Wesley scholar Jerry Eyster helped us understand John Wesley's understanding of happiness, and the Rev. Randy Nugent stressed the need for human contact in the digital age.

But technology did play a key role in getting out the news of the conference with updates via Facebook, Twitter and the conference website; and the live streaming of the worship services thanks to GNTV. Electronic devices also streamline voting for conference delegates.

Clergy delegates elected to General Conference include William Shillady, New York; Adrienne Brewington, Freeport, N.Y.; Tim Riss, Hicksville, N.Y.; Constance Pak, Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.; and Noel Chin, New York. Lay delegates elected to General Conference are Fred Brewington, Freeport, N.Y.; Jorge Lockward, New York; Carolyn Hardin Engelhardt, Hamden, Conn.; Marva Usher-Kerr, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Rashid Warner, Bronx, N.Y.

Clergy delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference include Ed Horne, Westport, Conn.; Kun Sam Cho, Fairfield, Conn.; Ken Kieffer, Hamden, Conn.; Evelyn McDonald, Newburgh, N.Y.; and Luisa Martinez-Buck, New York. Lay delegates elected to Jurisdictional Conference are Roena Littlejohn, Bridgeport, Conn.; Kevin Nelson, New York; Natassia Velez, Middletown, N.Y.; Chan Gilliam, Stamford, Conn.; and Bob Hunsinger, Monroe, N.Y. The lay delegation includes two 20-year-olds.

Clergy alternates are David Henry, Freeport, N.Y.; Judith Stevens, Staten Island, N.Y.; and Stephen Bauman, New York. Lay alternates are Maria Maine, Hauppauge, N.Y.; Richard Nicodemus, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; and Darlene DiDomenick, White Plains, N.Y.

Delegation leaders are the Rev. William Shillady and Fred Brewington.

In the legislative arena, the following annual conference petitions were adopted in plenary:

  • Support of the retired UMC bishops' statement seeking to amend the Discipline statement on the "incompatibility" of homosexuality to Christian teaching;

  • Resolution that the conference place print ads welcoming the LGBT population and apologizing for the denomination's "prejudiced policies" against the community;

  • Aligning UMC investments with resolutions on Israel/Palestine;

  • Ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines; and

  • Solidarity with working people and their unions.

In plenary, delegates also voted to send the following petitions to General Conference:

  • Amendment to the constitution seeking a code-of-ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for general church organizations, councils, boards and agencies, their members and employees;

  • Five different "Marriage Equality" resolutions seeking amendments to the Discipline to strike language referring to heterosexual marriage and to marriage between a man and woman, and to permit clergy to perform same-sex unions;

  • Amendment to the Discipline permitting the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals; and

  • Two separate amendments to the Discipline permitting clergy to perform same-sex unions without fear of reprisals.

Delegates adopted the following General Conference petitions in legislative sessions:

  • Marriage Equality: Amending Discipline paragraph 162J to include the words "civil marriage, civil unions";

  • General Church Ethics: Amending Discipline paragraph 702 seeking a code-of-ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for general church organizations, councils, boards and agencies, their members and employees;

  • Restructuring of General Agencies/Boards/Commissions during changing times; and

  • A call for peace march to end the Korean War.

Other highlights of conference included:

  • The welcoming of new ministers: Four persons were presented with the license for pastoral ministry. Seven were commissioned as provisional elders and one as a provisional deacon. Two were recognized as associate members. Nine were ordained as elders in full connection, and one elder from another denomination was received as a full member. One also received professional certification in adult education. The average age of the ordination class is 45, and for the commissioning class, 42.

  • Ten new Vision Bearers will begin ministries ranging from young adults to those who are recent immigrants.

  • Eighteen retiring clergy members, who have served for a total of 503 years, were honored.

  • Two congregations in Manhattan, Broken Builders UMC and Morningside UMC, were chartered.

  • Bishop Violet L. Fisher, retired episcopal leader of the Northern and Western New York conferences, gave a rousing message during the ordination/ and commissioning service.

  • A memorial service honored the passing of 44 members of the clergy, clergy spouses and children, and special friends of the conference. Long Island East District Superintendent Adrienne Brewington delivered an inspiring sermon.

  • The 2012 conference budget of $8,968,709 was approved; this is a .4 percent increase over 2011.

  • Henry Denman Awards for Evangelism went to youth Julian Ashong, layperson Paul Bernabe Jr. and clergy couple the Rev. Zhaodeng Peng and the Rev. Qi Bi She.

  • fferings totaling more than $14,000 were received for Anchor House, the Black College Fund and the Ministerial Education Fund.

Membership stands at 114,663, down 1,150 from 2009. Worship attendance stands at 35,013, down 2,059 from 2009. Church school attendance stands at 10,120, up 587 from 2009.

Rev. Joanne S. Utley, communications coordinator, New York Annual Conference