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2013 West Virginia Annual Conference

June 6-9, 2013
West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, W. Va.
Theme: "New Beginnings"

The 45th session of the West Virginia Annual Conference was the first led by resident and presiding bishop, Sandra Steiner Ball.

The theme, "New Beginnings," was reinforced in every sermon and presentation at conference.

In her opening sermon, Steiner Ball urged members to embrace the new thing God is doing. Like the church at Ephesus, which John references in the book of Revelation, the bishop wondered if the conference had lost its first love. "There's good ministry happening, but in the midst of keeping the church going, perhaps we have lost our focus," she said.

She reminded the conference that Scripture is full of stories where God did the new, risky and unconventional. "These things didn't make sense to the people back then, but they were new beginnings that reached new people."

The bishop's cabinet report on June 7 cast a vision for the conference that Steiner Ball described as "a breath of fresh air, Christ led, working for a changed world." She referenced the work of the conference Ministry Action Team and outlined a plan that restructures the nominations process for conference teams and agencies. The bishop's plan also calls for the creation of district-led teams that will seek to align the work between local churches, districts and the annual conference.

In his memorial service sermon, the Rev. Bill Wilson reminded conference that Jesus shows up where least expected. He compared the road to Emmaus with the journey of life and challenged conference to recognize that often strangers bring us Christ. "If we don't welcome the stranger, we will miss the presence of Jesus in our churches, time and time again," said Wilson.

Erin Sears, president of the West Virginia Conference Council on Youth Ministries, also urged attendees to look for Jesus in the unexpected. "God speaks in ways that are unexpected," she said. A trip to the Central American nation of Nicaragua through the Northeastern Jurisdiction's Mission of Peace taught her a lot about people. "Through that visit, I began to see life in a different light and how precious every life is," Sears said. Project Chacocente, established by youth on a previous MOP trip, has raised more than $60,000 to help people in Nicaragua.

Erin M. Hawkins, head of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, led two teaching sessions that encouraged the conference to live missionally. "This is to see all life as a way of advancing the mission of God in the world." Hawkins said. She encouraged local churches to risk by reaching out to connect with their communities in new ways.

The Annual Conference passed a resolution encouraging the church to support the expansion of existing buffer zones to protect cemeteries from oil and gas and coal-mining operations. The resolution supports legislation requiring maintenance of cemetery access and encourages congregations to record their cemeteries with the state historic preservation office.

The conference was recognized for 100 percent payout of general church apportionments.

Conference adopted a $12,086,968 budget for 2014, a decrease of $26,301 or 0.22% percent less than the 2013 budget.

Statistics as of Dec. 31, 2012:

  • Membership, 98,691, down 894 from 2011
  • Worship attendance, 43,545, down 1,614
  • Church school attendance, 28,762, up 6,468

Seven elders were ordained, and one deacon and seven elders were commissioned as provisional members. The annual conference also recognized and received two elders as full members from other Methodist denominations. Thirty-five clergy were welcomed into retired relationship with the conference.

- Laura Harbert Allen, director of communications, West Virginia Annual Conference