2014 New York Annual Conference
June 4-7, 2014 at Hofstra University
The New York Annual Conference explored the theme, “The Prophetic Church: Pray about it. Talk about it. Be about it!” during its 215th gathering held at Hofstra University.
Both the clergy and laity sessions on Wednesday began with the announcement that Bishop Martin D. McLee was unable to preside over the conference because he was receiving medical treatment under a doctor’s care. (McLee began a six-month leave of absence on July 1.)
Bishop McLee had invited Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar of the New England Annual Conference, and retired Bishops Alfred E. Johnson and Jane Allen Middleton to preside in his absence. Devadhar and Johnson facilitated the business of the conference; Middleton led the ordination service on Saturday.
In the opening worship service, guest preacher, the Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes, questioned the gathering about the size of their egos with Luke 23:14-30 as his Scripture. He suggested, that like the disciples, we have lost our way because we argue about who is best, and fail to give credit to God, or to those on whose shoulders we stand.
“What would happen in the church if we didn’t care who got the credit?” he asked. “If we gave God the glory and checked our egos at the door?”
During the ordination service, Johnson offered words of encouragement and challenge to those being recognized using a sermon that had been crafted by McLee.
“Your bishop loves you very much,” Johnson said with a smile, noting that McLee had sent not one or two other bishops, but three replacements, and a fully choreographed script for him to follow.
The sermon that McLee had titled, “Is There a Rhyme to Your Reason,” began with a Star Trek-themed video in which he can be heard proclaiming ordination as the “final frontier.” He went on to say that the ordinands have been on a journey to become the beloved community “living into the witness of the prophetic church.”
In other highlights, the gathering:
• Celebrated the retirement of 18 clergy members, who have devoted a total of 489 years to ministry.
• Remembered 29 clergy, clergy spouses, and widows, and five laypeople who had died in the past year.
• Approved the licensing of three local pastors, commissioned one deacon and eight elders, ordained 12 elders, and recognized the orders of one for full membership.
• Commissioned three new deaconesses and two missionaries related to the conference.
• Heard from the Rev. Pamela Lightsey of the Boston University School of Theology in the inaugural Dr. Bill Perkins Lecture Series.
• Named Barbara Edwards of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Jamaica, N.Y., as recipient of the Shirley Parris Award for exceptional volunteer service.
• Presented Harry Denman Evangelism Awards to Kevin Rushlo of the East Quogue United Methodist Church, and posthumously to William Listwan, who was a member of the Drew United Methodist Church.
In legislative action, all but one of the 62 submitted petitions/reports were included in the consent calendar, and the last was quickly approved in plenary. The petitions approved included one affirming the ministry of all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender clergy in the conference and the entire United Methodist Church, and a second declaring the New York Annual Conference a safe space where GLBTQ persons can participate openly and equally in the full life of the church.
In other action, the conference:
• Approved a 2015 budget of $8,527,715, a 3.1 percent decrease over 2014.
• Learned of the merger of four churches into two new congregations; the sale of 12 properties (former churches, and abandoned or discontinued properties), and the pending sale of Camp Epworth.
• Elected delegates to the 2016 General Conference: clergy the Rev. Tim Riss, William Shillady, Noel Chin and Denise Smartt Sears; laypeople Fred Brewington, Dorothee Benz, Dorlimar Lebròn Malavé and Carolyn Hardin Engelhardt
• Elected delegates to the 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference: clergy the Revs. Vicki Flippin, Kun Sam Cho, Sara Thompson Tweedy, and Milca Plaud; laypeople Roena Littlejohn, Ximena Varas, Rashid Warner and Ross Williams
• Collected 4,554 health kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
• Received $30,848 in four offerings.
The 2013 church membership in the New York Conference was 107, 571, down 2,658 from 2012; weekly church attendance was 32,296, a decrease of 1,501 from 2012; and church school was down by 535 to 7,986.
— The Rev. Joanne S. Utley, New York Annual Conference communications coordinator