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2013 North Carolina Annual Conference

North Carolina Annual Conference
June 12-15, 2013
Greenville Convention Center
Theme: "Strength to Strength"

Between times of worship and learning opportunities, members of the North Carolina Annual Conference:

  • moved toward more joint ministries with the Western North Carolina Conference
  • approved the first increase in eight years for the local church portion of clergy health insurance
  • moved health insurance for retired pastors to the open market
  • took the North Carolina General Assembly and governor to task for taking action that violated the Social Principles.

Using a quadrennial theme of "Strength to Strength" and an emphasis on growing for the 2013 conference, Raleigh Episcopal Area Bishop Hope Morgan Ward invited Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Conference to join her in a discussion of ministries both conferences share and ways of expanding joint ministries of the two conferences. Both conferences recently reduced the number of districts to eight.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, a United Methodist, talked about Give 5, Read 5, giving at least five books for children to take home and read during the summer. She asked for volunteers from local churches to assist elementary students with reading, pointing out that the North Carolina public schools face a loss of up to 4,200 teacher assistants in the coming year and 40 percent less money for supplies.

L3 for North Carolina was introduced to build new relationships between churches and schools. L1 is learning about the needs of schools; L2 is linking churches, schools and community partners; and L3 is leading to transform both schools and churches.

ZOE, a ministry for orphans in Africa, began in the North Carolina Conference. Goodpaster announced a Western North Carolina Conference initiative to support ZOE.

Dr. Lovett Weems and the Rev. Tom Berlin, co-authors of "Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results," provided a series of plenary presentations on "Fruitful Ministry in Changing Times, God-Sized Visions and the Power of Visions." The Rev. Candice Lewis, Path 1 executive director, shared a message called "We Can Indeed Grow" during an evening celebration of church growth and presented a morning Bible study.

During the conference, members packaged 100,252 meals for Stop Hunger Now and brought more than 6,000 birthing kits for shipment as needed. More than $17,000 was donated to cover shipping.

Several hours of discussion was devoted to retired clergy health insurance. The adopted proposal moves retiree health insurance from a conference self-funded plan to one selected by each retiree with guidance from Extend Health, a large private Medicare exchange. The proposal was for each retiree to have a Health Reimbursement Account of up to $2,000 for premiums and other medical expenses. The plan was presented as a way to reduce the conference unfunded liability for retiree health insurance of approximately $67 million while providing the same level of insurance for retirees.

An approved amendment called for spending all of the $2.7 million in the conference budget designated for Conference Claimants - Retiree Insurance for retiree health insurance. The implication is that this would increase the HRA for each retiree. At this time, we do not know what the HRA figures would be because of the motion until we can study all factors that go into it, said Christine Dodson, conference treasurer.

The adopted health insurance program for active members increased the base premiums by 9 percent and removed dental insurance from the plan. A buy-up option was approved to allow members to increase benefits over the base coverage for an additional fee. Dental insurance would be available for an additional amount.

The proposed 2015 budget of $20,703,100 to be raised in 2014 was approved with little debate or question. It represents a .93 percent increase over the budget adopted last year.

Members approved a resolution calling upon the governor and state legislature to reconsider their action regarding Medicaid expansion and to work for the common good for all North Carolinians, particularly the poor. A second resolution criticizes lawmakers for recent actions about voter registration; public education; various changes in sales, income and estate taxes; unemployment benefits; and environmental regulations.

In other resolutions, members approved calling on the General Conference to change language in the Social Principles and affirm the place for LGBT people within the life of the church and supported global maternal health. A final resolution expressed gratitude to the General Board of Church and Society for speaking out on the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor.

Conference members participated in one of eight morning breakout or learning sessions. The topics were strengthening the Black church, habits that transform stewardship, challenges facing The United Methodist Church, your gift$ bear fruit, connecting through social media, spiritual practices for growing disciples, a new resource for staff/pastor-parish committee, and listening to our Timothys (youth).

"Run the Race" was the theme of an evening celebration for the 60-year-old Ten Dollar Club that assisted in the birth of 153 churches in 60 years. Initially, under the Ten Dollar Club, members were asked for $10 donations three times a year. Later, it became five times a year. During the evening, a new funding approach for church growth was announced. Called "Impact 10," it continues the Ten Dollar Club with five requests and added additional levels of giving, including gifts of stocks, mutual funds and real estate.

In addition to Goodpaster as a conference guest, other bishops present were Bishop William H. Willimon, retired; Bishop John R. Schol, resident bishop of the Greater New Jersey Area; and Bishop W. Darin Moore, presiding prelate of the Western Episcopal District and the North Carolina Conference African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The results of voting on the Constitutional Amendments were Amendment I: 807 yes, four no; Amendment II: 787 yes, 27 no; Amendment III: 781 yes, 25 no; and Amendment IV: 790 yes, 23 no.

During the conference, 23 clergy retired, 39 people were presented as licensed local pastors, 17 were commissioned as provisional members, one was ordained a deacon, seven were ordained as elder and one missionary was commissioned.

Statistics:

  • Membership, 229,064, down 2,205 from the previous year
  • Average worship attendance, 79,743, down 1,514
  • Church school attendance, 33,644, down 1854.

--Bill Norton, director of communications, North Carolina Annual Conference