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2011 Oklahoma Annual Conference

2011 Oklahoma Annual Conference report

By: Holly McCray, editor, Dept. of Communications, the Oklahoma Conference

The 2011 Oklahoma annual conference made history with its election of delegates to the 2012 general/jurisdictional conferences.

For the first time, two women will lead that delegation: Linda Harker, new pastor at McFarlin UMC in Norman, and Judy Benson of Frederick UMC, the Oklahoma conference lay leader. Each was the first delegate elected by her peers.

The delegation totals 44 people (22 clergy and 22 laity). In the group are a father-daughter pair, mother-son duo and two brothers. Eighteen people are general conference delegates. (Full list at end of story.)

The elections were completed within one day, May 30, using digital voting equipment and dedicating an evening session to that purpose.

The annual conference was held May 29-June 1 in Oklahoma City, at St. Luke's UMC and Oklahoma City University. The theme was "The Plan-A Bridge to the Future," and Eugene Lowry was guest preacher.

The annual conference delegates approved an apportionment increase of less than 1 percent, compared to this year, for a 2012 total of $16,674,647. This represents excellent stewardship of the monies given by the local churches for the broader work of United Methodism. However, financial leaders cautioned laity and clergy. from both podium and video presentations.

The Council on Finance and Administration aired a denominational video that silenced the audience. On the screen, statistics plotted a deepening decline for United Methodism in the United States.

"The general conference, the Council on Bishops, the jurisdictional conferences are going to be making changes," reported Chairman Tom Harrison, also pastor of Asbury UMC in Tulsa.

"I want you delegates to know this is on our table, and we are working on it," he said. "We are resurrection people."

He echoed Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. in the Episcopal address and Judy Benson in her speech as conference lay leader. Benson also serves on The Connectional Table. Both pointed to the denomination's Call to Action plan issued late last year.

Bishop Hayes said bridge-builders in the Oklahoma conference began implementing a comparable strategic plan three years earlier.

"We know what we need to do!" Hayes declared. "This is our time to commit ourselves to ministry that is relevant and vital. I pray you understand the urgency for each church. Glean ideas from the exemplary work of other congregations, employ best practices, call upon the ministry teams and staff of our conference to assist."

Almost a decade ago, the Oklahoma conference planted four new churches, investing about $600,000. Since then, the four have had 442 professions of faith and have contributed almost $1 million in apportionments.

Three newer churches also reported inspiring numbers. Connect UMC and Summit UMC, just launched in Edmond, are each averaging more than 100 worshippers in preview services. In Moore, Cross Timbers UMC, only 2 years old, has reported 73 professions of faith.

All of the annual conference was available on the Internet via live streaming. The Department of Communications also utilized Facebook and Twitter. For the live audience, screens featured 45 multimedia presentations (39 DVDs and seven PowerPoints).

Nine elders and three deacons were ordained. The service of commissioning recognized 15 provisional elders, three provisional deacons and three new associate members.

Among resolutions approved were (1) a call to civility, stating in part: "We call upon all United Methodists to act as agents of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect of all persons," presented by the Board of Church and Society; (2) a new policy for short-term mission service, developed by Volunteers In Mission (VIM); and (3) an agreement that every annual conference will be held in the center of the state, in Oklahoma City, beginning in 2013. Traditionally, the meeting has rotated between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The annual conference's VIM supply drive collected about 300 cleaning buckets and thousands of emergency supply kits for UMCOR. The gifts filled a 16-foot delivery truck plus another half-load.

The annual conference offering totaled $48,763.99 for three mission projects: partnership work with The Methodist Church of Bolivia, an elementary school in Liberia and the Cookson Hills Center near Tahlequah. As the meeting concluded, an additional $6,661 was collected for tornado relief in Oklahoma.

Beginning next year, Mother's Day is designated as a special Sunday on the Oklahoma conference calendar. The "Senior Living Ministries Sunday" offering will support United Methodist-affiliated retirement communities and nursing homes in the state.

More than 50 churches received All-Star mission awards, a new honor from the Mission and Service Ministry Team.

Membership stands at 236,689, down 1,009 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 56,611, down 960. Church school attendance stands at 29,224, down 1,260.

General/Jurisdictional Delegates

Clergy delegates elected to General Conference: Linda Harker of Norman; Bob Long, OKC; Jessica Seay, Ardmore; Frankye Johnson, OKC; Joseph Harris, OKC; Brian Bakeman, OKC; Tom Harrison, Tulsa; Guy Ames, Ardmore; Margaret Ball, OKC

Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Judy Benson of Frederick; Frank Denney, Cushing; Don Kim, OKC; Briana Tobey, OKC; Bill Junk, Edmond; Herschel Beard, Madill; Aly Shahan, Lexington; Bob Anthony, OKC; John Hiller, Ringling

Clergy delegates elected to South Central Jurisdictional Conference: In addition to those named in the general conference group: Sam Powers of Piedmont; Tish Malloy, Moore; Wade Paschal, Tulsa; D.A. Bennett, OKC; Mouzon Biggs, Tulsa; Robert Gorrell, OKC; Darrell Cates, McAlester; Amy Venable, Norman; Twila Gibbens, Tulsa. Alternates are Carlos Ramirez of Elk City; Mike Chaffin, Stillwater; James Kim, OKC; Jennifer J. Long, OKC

Lay delegates elected to South Central Jurisdictional Conference: In addition to those named in the General Conference group: Barbara Perry of OKC; Chuck Stewart, Stilwell; Tom Junk, Tulsa; Debra Davis, Ardmore; Cara Nicklas, OKC; Nikola Paschal, Tulsa; Ahnawake Dawson, Claremore; Sam Aguirre, OKC; Donna Roberts, Tulsa. Alternates are Trey Witzel of OKC; Sharri Hiller, Ringling; Kathy Caldron, Ponca City; Mark Springer, Tulsa.