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2012 Oklahoma Annual Conference

Oklahoma Annual Conference
May 27-30, Tulsa

Jesus set the example for servanthood. Under the theme "Celebrate the Plan," laity and clergy rejoiced in living for Christ by serving in several ways during the 2012 Oklahoma Annual Conference, held May 27-30 and hosted by Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa.

In the Service of Ordination, Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. mirrored Jesus' example by kneeling and washing the feet of three deacons and nine elders, and he preached on "The Knotted Towel." Marveling at God's ways, Hayes noted the total of 12 ordinands, recalling Jesus' 12 disciples. The service culminated in an Altar Call of Discernment about career ministry, and district superintendents prayed with those who responded.

At midday May 29 and 30, hundreds of delegates and guests volunteered for hands-on service at nine mission sites in Tulsa.

The Annual Conference Offering totaled $33,514 for three projects: Restore Hope Ministries and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, both based in Tulsa, and Lydia Patterson Institute of El Paso, Texas. The Volunteers In Mission kit campaign collected more than 1,000 kits, valued at about $15,000, for UMCOR. Delegates and guests even donated blood and signed up for the National Bone Marrow Registry.

A new, comprehensive Office of Mission was established and will be directed by the Rev. Jeremy Basset. This action "significantly expands our idea of what the conference can do in equipping and deploying a new generation of people into mission of all kinds, both near and far," said the Rev. Craig Stinson, director of connectional ministries/congregational development.

The crowd rose, cheering, when Hayes hoisted high an Advance award that recognized the Oklahoma Conference for the highest church participation in designated giving, among all annual conferences, in 2011.

Oklahoma also celebrated Hayes for his eight years of episcopal leadership, and delegates voted resounding approval of an official motion to request his return for another quadrennium of service.

The service of Boston Avenue United Methodist Church also was commemorated. For decades, the iconic downtown church in Tulsa has hosted the annual conference biennially. The Rev. Mouzon Biggs Jr., senior pastor, was the annual conference guest preacher, and he also narrated a historical video.

The year was 1968 when Oklahomans last hosted the South Central Jurisdictional Conference; that also was when Bishop Angie Smith retired after 24 service years as episcopal leader in Oklahoma. This year, on July 18-21, the Oklahoma Annual Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference will co-host the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Conference memorialized 27 clergy and clergy spouses and also honored 23 retiring clergy members. Five churches officially were closed, and their witness was celebrated in circle-of-life video stories. More history unfolded during the Teaching Time, presented by Bob L. Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

While looking back, the 2012 Annual Conference also moved forward. A new congregation in Tulsa was launched, with the Rev. Heather Nygard-Scherer appointed as church planter. The Rev. Carlos Ramirez will coordinate the new Hispanic/Latino Plan as an associate director in the new Office of Mission. Rejuvenation of a historically African-American congregation in Oklahoma City, Christ United Methodist Church, led by the Rev. Semaj Vanzant, was applauded.

Two district superintendents began terms of service: The Rev. Greg Tener in Ardmore District and the Rev. Chris Tiger in Lawton District.

The 2013 Apportionment was set at $16,965,800, a 1.71 percent increase from 2012.

AWARDS: The Harry Denman Evangelism Award was presented to laywoman Pat Chambers of Claremore and to Rev. Mark Foster of Acts 2 United Methodist Church, Edmond. Retired clergyman the Rev. William C. "Bill" Mason of Tulsa was named a Fellow in the Society of John Wesley, and that award was presented by Carl Young of Edmond, who is president of the denomination's United Methodist Men Foundation. The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation honored Paul and Ann Milburn of Shawnee with the Jim Egan Legacy Award. And to express appreciation for Judy Benson of Frederick, outgoing conference lay leader, the Board of Laity established The Judy Benson Scholarship for Leadership and Spiritual Formation. Benson also has been serving as jurisdictional lay leader and on the Connectional Table.

ORDAINED: As deacons, James Anthony Lambert, Wendelyn Willis Perceful, and Linda J. Truitt. As elders, Nelma Ruth Karns Atterberry, Jacqueline Banks, James Timothy Hunt, Keith Douglas King, John E. Marks, Marsha Nan Purtell, Marcia K. Simpson Shoemaker, Bryan Patrick Tener, and Susan S. Whitley.

COMMISSIONED: As provisional elders, Robert Samuel Duran, Rudolph Wesley Freese, Anna Elizabeth Marie George, Crystal Lea Hughes, Tyler Brandon Kirk, Devon Beau Krause, Christopher Lane Ruddell, and Heather Nygard-Scherer.

The statistical report was presented as a series of graphs. Totals reported for 2011:

Spiritual formation, measuring the number of small groups, Sunday school classes, and Bible study groups: 6,311 groups, up 54 from the previous year.
Worship attendance: 55,653 people, down 561 from the previous year.
Missions, measuring the number of people from congregations engaged in local, national, and international mission/outreach ministries: 14,976, compared to 12,732 in 2010.
Stewardship, measuring funds given by congregations to other organizations for benevolent and charitable ministries: $24,481,633, compared to $24,133,534 in 2010. (Total includes Apportionments paid and other funds supporting both United Methodist and non-United Methodist organizations)

- Holly McCray, editor of Contact, in the Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference department of communications.