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2014 Upper New York Annual Conference

May 29-31, 2014 at the OnCenter in Syracuse, N.Y.

United Methodists from across Upper New York gathered at the OnCenter in Syracuse, N.Y. May 29-31 for the fifth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference. This year’s theme was “Called to Cultivate” and was woven throughout both the business and the worship of the Conference.

"If we are going to be effective and fruitful in living the mission, we need to cultivate the truth that we are claimed by God for relationship,” said Bishop Mark J. Webb during opening worship.

It was indeed a time of cultivating the ideas that had been planted in the tilled soil of past annual conferences. There was continued preparation for the Act of Repentance that will take place at the 2015 session of annual conference with two times of learning from the Committee on Native American Ministry.

The leadership also built on work that had begun long ago introducing a new Mission Map with five key roles that the conference plays in ministry. These areas summed up with the acronym CAUSE:

  • Communicate our common mission
  • Align resources for mission and ministry
  • Unleash a planting culture
  • Support churches with tools for vitality
  • Equip and deploy transformational leaders

The work for this Mission Map began more than a year and a half ago with the first in a series conversation at district gatherings with the Bishop and continued with countless other conversations and a small group video study.

Resolutions approved included a pair of resolutions offered by the Rev. Steven Clunn. The first seeks a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the constitutionality and validity of ¶101 of the 2012 Book of Discipline, and the second seeks clarification from the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society on “the ambiguity of ¶806.9 and whether United Methodists working with LGBT asylum seekers would be considered a violation of this paragraph.” The entire responses will be posted on the conference website.

There were also two resolutions submitted by young adult lay member Stephanie Henry. Both were passed. The first asked that hydraulic fracking be studied before ever being allowed on conference land. The second asked that there be an individual responsible for looking at environmental sustainability at annual conference on the Sessions committee.

Other important business included reaffirming a commitment to raise $1,000,000 for scholarships for Africa University and committing to raise an additional $1,000,000 for Imagine No Malaria. A decision was also made to explore a comprehensive financial campaign.

The Board of Pensions and Health Benefits brought four recommendations that were all approved, including a substantial change to how Medicare‐eligible retirees receive their care. The Conference budget was also approved at $10,340,438.

Overall, membership stands at 164,000 down 2.6 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 45,678 down 3 percent. Church school attendance stands at 11,079 down 5 percent. Professions of faith stand at 1,885, up 10 percent. Baptisms stand at 15,457, down 2 percent.

Of course, all the business was firmly rooted in worship and Bible study. The Annual Conference Bible study leader was Bishop Michael Lowery, of Central Texas Conference.

Bishop Lowery reminded the conference: “Wesley had it right in his essential yoking of evangelism and social action, personal holiness and social holiness, vibrant outreach and deep maturing spiritual formation,” Bishop Lowry said. “Intellectually, we know this, but all too often we betray our better impulses to the squalling crisis of the moment. It is not that the clamoring issues of our day don’t merit our attention; they do. It is that we are off balance; we gradually drift into a Church that bears the name of Christ without the spiritual force, holy power and ultimately love.”

There was also plenty of time for celebration. The lives of 47 clergy and clergy spouses were celebrated at the memorial service and the Celebration of Ministry service celebrated the ministry of 38 retirees and many others. However, the greatest celebration of all came with the ordination of 7 elders and 1 deacon during the Ordination service. In addition 4 provisional elders were commissioned 13 individuals were celebrated for becoming licensed local pastors.

The Upper New York Annual Conference was a snapshot of the cultivation that has begun and will continue in the ministries of the Upper New York Conference. Next year the conference will celebrate as some of the hard work brings about fruit for the harvest.

Stephen J. Hustedt, Upper New York Conference director of communications