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2012 Susquehanna Annual Conference

Susquehanna Annual Conference
June 7-9, 2012, Grantham, Pa.

"Something very exciting is happening in our churches as we are understanding that the church is what happens when we take the good news of Jesus Christ into our communities and into the lives of people," proclaimed Bishop Jane Allen Middleton in her keynote address that opened the third session of the newly formed Susquehanna Conference held at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., on June 7-9, 2012. Under the theme "The River Flows," the annual gathering drew 1,500 persons to celebration, holy conferencing, and worship.

After Bishop Middleton related some decline in the traditional measurements of membership and attendance, she added, "The good news is that there are signs, which I believe are pointing to a foundation for the future of the churches of the Susquehanna Conference: increases in the number of small groups, the numbers of persons in covenant discipleship groups, and the number of persons enrolled in short-term classes for learning ofall ages.

"A 39 percent increase in constituents indicates we are making disciples.

"We had an increase in mission team participants and a 28 percent increase in the number of mission teams. A 39 percent increase in the number of persons served in our communities indicates we are partnering with God in transforming the world."

Guest speaker, Bishop J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference, presented two topics to the conference, "Revitalizing Congregations" and "New Places for New People." "The reality of living in a pagan society on steroids has brought our denomination to the point where we cannot just rely upon an 'either/or' strategy in order for renewal of The United Methodist Church to occur," Bishop Lowry said. "We have to start thinking in terms of 'both/and.' It's time to breathe deep and focus."

Bishop John Yambasu of the Sierra Leone Conference in Africa was the special guest of the conference. "You gave us hope," he said in his address to the conference, recalling the 10 years before 2002 in which one-half million people died, and one-half million were maimed. "Since 2009 alone, $280,000 has been sent [to us] for pastoral support. Over $47,000 in program support was given, and the total of all support funds has grown to almost $608,000. The number of full-time clergy has risen from 43 in 2008 to 65 in 2012."

Bishop Yambasu continued, "One of the most modern high schools in the country has been constructed in great part due to contributions from the Susquehanna Conference, and has been named 'Bishop Middleton High School.'"

The 2012 Susquehanna Conference marked the final year in the eight-year term of Bishop Middleton. A celebration of her ministry was held on the evening of June 8. Testimonies to her ministry came in many forms: video montages captured the bishop's prophetic leadership, fun times during her years of leadership, and even outtakes from media productions.

Bishop Middleton described her time in the conference as, "one unfolding after another of God's miracles."

The conference celebrated the ministries of 34 retiring clergy and the lives of 33 clergy or spouses that passed to their eternal reward during the year. The sermon for the Service of Remembrance and Celebration of Life was delivered by Rev. Roger Mentzer, chair of the board of ordained ministry. "Those generations who have preceded us have dug wells in times of spiritual drought and in times of springtime when the water flows freely. Our brothers and sisters of Christ have taken the water and offered it to us in every season of their lives," Mentzer proclaimed.

Mission Central celebrated 10 years in mission. What began as a vision of Bishop Neil L. Irons has grown far and wide since its beginning. Since January to May of 2012 Mission Central has reached more than 12,000 individuals and in that same period more than $2.6 million worth of resources were distributed by all the organizations located in the warehouse.

Legislative action included:

  1. A proposal to modify the structure of the conference so as to align with the focus and goals of the Susquehanna Conference was overwhelmingly approved.

  2. The Board of Pension recommended and received approval for the continuing support to the Central Conference Pension Initiative in the amount of $75,000.

  3. A resolution to oppose payday loan legislation in Pennsylvania was supported.

  4. A new policy was approved for handling the proceeds of abandoned and discontinued churches in order to provide more funding for new church starts.

  5. The conference approved a Plan for Funding Ministry for 2013 that reflects a decrease of 1.9 percent.

  6. The Rev. Mark Webb, district superintendent of the York District was nominated to represent the Susquehanna Conference as an episcopal candidate for the Northeastern Jurisdiction.

Ten people were commissioned as provisional elders, two were recognized as associate members, and 10 people were ordained.

Special offering totals to date were: Cup of Water Fund, $21,004.36; Mission Central General Fund, $19,017.26; Encounter With Christ, $17,098.01; Youth Service Fund, $6,000, and donation by the Susquehanna Conference to Mission Central in honor of Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, $20,000.

Membership is down 2 percent; worship attendance is down 2 percent, and professions of faith is down 3 percent.

  • Gerald F. Wolgemuth, director of communications