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2013 Oklahoma Annual Conference

Oklahoma Annual Conference
May 27-30, Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY - Delegates prepared to give themselves in mission during the 2013 Oklahoma Annual Conference. Amid seeking to bless others, they received an extravagance of blessings.

The May 27-30 meeting in Oklahoma City opened one week after deadly tornadoes strafed the state's center. Already the church was deeply engaged in the disaster response, and more than $250,000 in aid donations had arrived in the Oklahoma Conference Treasurer's Office.

But news images of devastation dared heartsick United Methodists to proclaim "Mission Possible," theme of the conference.

So God sent global witnesses to help the Oklahomans assert this truth.

During the meeting, Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Area accepted money gifts for the tornado victims from Manos Juntas Mexico, a mission with the poor at Rio Bravo, Mexico; from Lydia Patterson Institute, a border high school at El Paso, Texas; and, from a 15-student touring choir from Africa University. Oklahomans give ongoing support to these United Methodist-related entities.

The bishop announced several U.S. annual (regional) conferences pledged funds for the relief effort, too.

As part of the meeting, more than 600 delegates volunteered at 14 mission sites during the afternoon of May 29. At three of the locations, groups helped remove tornado debris.

"We will always remember this annual conference as the one that took place in the aftermath" of the tragedy, said Bishop Hayes.

Worship and business sessions took place at St. Luke's United Methodist Church and United Methodist-affiliated Oklahoma City University, respectively.

Guest preacher was Bishop Peter Weaver, retired, known for his engagement in global missions. Guest teacher was Jeremy Basset, director of the Oklahoma Conference's Office of Mission. From the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Kathy Kraiza led delegates as they assembled more than 1,000 UMCOR kits for global distribution.

"See all these entities?" asked Barry Bennett, who chairs the Conference's Mission & Service Ministry Team. "Isn't it remarkable what is possible when we work together?"

He continued, "I am young, but I am convinced that I am not going to spend the rest of my life doing anything but endeavoring to change the world. Mission begins here, but it goes to the ends of the earth. I dare you to follow Jesus into the world. You'll be changed, I can promise you, and the world."

Bishop Hayes grew emotional when accepting an offering of coins, wrapped in a shawl, from Methodists in Bolivia to start a new church in Oklahoma. He remarked that wages average $2 per day in the South American nation.

"So much can be learned from those who have little or nothing in material things but who are rich in the Spirit," he declared in his episcopal address.

Financial proposals had drawn high interest at pre-conference meetings. Action by the 2012 General Conference and federal laws are driving changes in pension and healthcare systems for Oklahoma's clergy. Delegates approved the new plans and a wellness incentives program, which can reduce a clergyperson's health insurance premium by up to $60 monthly. Another vote mandated participation by all churches in a workers' compensation program.

The 2014 apportionment was set at $16,663,047, a drop of about $300,000 from this year's total.

Church leaders believe the smaller budget will accommodate a big mission: Oklahoma is realigning existing funding in order to emphasize planting more churches and growing more pastors.

"We've identified 13 ways to start new places for new people," reported Brad Humphrey, who chairs the Department of Congregational Development.

Four churches officially closed, but two immediately were re-established as campuses of St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

The Pastor Education Fund, a $1 million challenge grant, was announced by Bill Junk, president of the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Milburn of Shawnee will give $1 million to an endowment for clergy scholarships if other donors collectively match that amount.

Bishop Hayes appointed Chuck Nordean as director of Congregational/Clergy Development, a new post.

New superintendents are: Patricia "Tish" Malloy, Stillwater District; Charlie Graves, Clinton District; and Rockford Johnson, North Oklahoma City District.

The annual conference memorialized 33 clergy and spouses who have entered the Church Triumphant and recognized 21 retiring clergy.

Delegates approved all four constitutional amendments.

AWARDS: The Denman Evangelism Award was presented to laywoman Irene Potts of Lawton and to clergy Trevor Smith of Sallisaw and Amy Venable of Norman. The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation honored Mouzon and Gayle Biggs with the Jim Egan Legacy Award. Twila Gibbens of Tulsa received the Frances Willard Award from Oklahoma's Committee on the Status & Role of Women.

ORDAINED: As deacons, Yvonne Marie Buchanan, Josephine E. Kee-Rees, and Peter J. White. As elders, Josue Araujo, Daniel Dennison, Matthew D. Franks, Barbara A. Fyffe, Linda Lusnia, James Bruce Perkin II, Sandra Reeves Shepherd, Tiffany Ann Smith, and Aaron Christopher Tiger. The average age is 39.5 years.

Rev. Smith was ordained May 29 and commissioned the next day as a U.S. Navy chaplain.

COMMISSIONED: As a provisional deacon, Cali Depue Eck. As provisional elders, Gary Haynes, Kip Heatley, Philip T. Hodson, Jana Dawn Hogg, Rusty L. Husted, Nathan Mills, Patience K. Mutiso, Cheryl Newton, Kristiane Smith, and Chris Symes. The average age is 40.6 years.

RECOGNITION OF ORDERS: D. Garrett Drake and Semaj Y. Vanzant.

STATISTICS: Membership stands at 234,588, down 446 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 54,362, down 1,320.

Church school attendance stands at 26,988, down 1,221.

  • Holly McCray, editor of the Oklahoma United Methodist Contact.