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2012 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
May 31-June 2, Valley Forge, Pa.

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference met May 31June 2 at the Valley Forge Convention Center in Valley Forge, Pa. The theme was "Making Disciples for the Transformation of the World: Building the Church through Our Service and Witness - Developing Leaders."

During his episcopal address to the conference, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, resident bishop, discussed the state of the church today and the challenges its people face. "The challenge for us, as individuals and together as an expression of the Body of Christ, is to embrace humility. Humility is a far better trait to aspire to as we seek to give witness to our faith in these days. Humility teaches us to rely on God."

Several featured guests joined the GNJAC for this year's annual conference. The Rev. Joy J. Moore, associate dean for Black Church Studies and Church Relations at Duke Divinity School, led early morning Bible studies with crowds filling the capacity of the room.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, resident bishop of the Fort Worth (Texas) Area, served as the main preacher and teacher each day, challenging attendees to do great things for Christ. On the first day, referencing the movie "Lawrence of Arabia," Bishop Lowry said, "We've taken Aqaba, but the struggle continues&ellipsis; . It's time for us to brave the storm." Over the course of the following two days, Bishop Lowry continued to ask those in attendance and watching online to engage in hands-on ministry with the poor and to care enough about people to share the love of Jesus with them. He said, "Great living happens in serving," and "We must be vibrant in our witness."

Bishop Jong Hoon Kim, of the Seoul Annual Conference of the Korean Methodist Church, gave a message of encouragement during a celebration of ministry service, honoring those who were retiring and those being commissioned into ministry. He spoke to those being commissioned when saying, "I hope you believe you are chosen for special ministry for this time and place." Twenty-five people retired during this service, two people were commissioned as provisional deacons, and six people were commissioned as provisional elders.

The GNJAC also welcomed two Episcopal bishops to participate in the service of ordination: the Right Rev. George Edward Councell, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, and the Right Rev. Prince Singh, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.

During his address to the ordinands, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar encouraged the ordinands by saying, "Friends, the one who called us into this ministry as Christians, lay and clergy, is a faithful God who wants us to bear fruit. Ministry is not easy. No one said it is easy. The important thing for us is to sing with the hymnist, 'All to Jesus I surrender.'" The GNJAC welcomed nine people into ordained ministry during this service.

Additional guest participants included: Bishop Felton Edwin May, retired bishop and senior pastor of Turning Point United Methodist Church in Trenton, N.J.; the Rev. Robert Williams, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History; the Rev. Glenn Conaway of Trinity United Methodist Church in Mullica Hill, N.J.; Wil Wilson, US-2 missionary; and Mutwale Ntambo Wa Mushidi and Kabaka Ndala Alphonsine from the Tanzanian Annual (regional) Conference.

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference celebrated its progress including: overall giving has improved, general church shared ministries have been paid in full for the fifth straight year, the worship attendance is at almost 52 percent, and the conference had a net gain in membership for the first time in 45 years.

Actions taken by the conference include:

  • Approval of a resolution to send a letter to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee requesting that Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar be reappointed to the New Jersey Area (Greater New Jersey Annual Conference) for a third term.

  • Approval of a resolution calling for September 30, 2012, to be a conference-wide "Day of Prayer & Healing" for those who have been hurt through divisive conversations around human sexuality, particularly the issue over the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our denomination.

  • Unanimous approval of minimum salary base for clergy, which has increased at record levels from a few years ago

  • The 2013 shared ministries budget was passed with no discussion, totaling $12,501,344. This is a 1.2 percent increase from last year.

  • Approval of a joint resolution by the conference's Council on Finance and Administration and the Cabinet to designate 10 strategic transformational churches. These churches are in economically challenging situations but present unique opportunities for making disciples. They will be exempt from conference shared ministries and billings.

  • The endorsement of two candidates for episcopacy: The Rev. Sung H. Ahn and the Rev. Vicki Miller Brendler.

The GNJAC also celebrated the New Church Charter for Cornerstone United Methodist Church of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

Several special offerings were collected including: $6,298.25 for the District Superintendent Sustentation Fund, $4,962.46 for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministry/Mission of Peace, $5,553.29 for UMCOR (Orphaned Children), and $4,441.00 for the Central Conference Pension Initiative.

The conference also received $52,057 for the "Wings of the Morning" to help with the purchase of a new airplane in North Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo, so the group can continue its mission work. An additional $52,441 was pledged to be given for 2012. This brings the total committed between 2011 and 2012 to $322,537.

Membership in the GNJAC stands at 93,655, up by 240 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 47, 930, down by 766 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 14,929, down by 28 from the previous year.