2015 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
May 14-16, 2015, Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, Pennsylvania
Editor's note: This report has been updated to reflect new elections and a special session held Saturday, Nov. 14, after issues with earlier electronic voting.
Officiating bishop: Peggy Johnson
Guest speakers: The Rev. Susan Henry Crowe, United Methodist Board of Church and Society; The Rev. J. Clif Christopher, Horizons Stewardship Co.; and Bishop James Swanson, Mississippi Conference
Bishop James Swanson during the ordination service: “Sometimes we don't seem to believe God is among us doing God's work in the midst of our troubles. But God is still healing people across the land and Christ is still a shepherd to his people....Yours is a heavenly call (to ministry). You can't explain it or understand it. It has to be God talking to you for you to go into debt and turn away from more lucrative careers. In the midst of pianos out of tune, choirs that can't sing, boilers and electrical systems that stop working, God called you to comfort and lead the people. It's a heavenly call.”
Resolutions adopted by the conference:
- “Affirming Our Covenant and Accountability” urges the conference to demand clergy accountability to the Discipline's “rules of our common covenant,” and to call upon clergy to challenge those rules only “through legitimate channels of holy conferencing, rather than breaking that covenant.”
- Substitute motion to resolution passed authorizing the conference trustees to “negotiate the best possible outcome” with fast-growing Wesley United Methodist Church in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, which recently decided to leave the denomination, but also demanded a more accountable process in the event another congregation decides to leave the denomination. That process would require dialogue between the bishop, district superintendent and church members to clarify the implications of their withdrawal, and it would require authorization of any negotiations be given by the annual conference and by a vote of the congregation at a church conference.
- Approved revised, conference-wide standards for ensuring “Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church” policies based on new Pennsylvania child safety laws,
- Called for churches to oppose solitary confinement in prisons and to support payment of equitable, living wages—including at least $15 per hour for church employees—and “a full, fair funding formula for Pennsylvania schools.”
- Calling for the conference's ministry networking group, the Connectional Table, to “develop and support small-group dialogues on racial justice throughout the annual conference”
- Calling for the bishop and Conference Sessions Commission to make racial justice and white privilege a key element of the 2016 Annual Conference.
- Calling for conference leaders to help congregations and communities advocate for fair, non-racial policing policies and practices, including establishment of independent citizen review boards to monitor and recommend improvements in police conduct.
At special session
On Nov. 14, at Bethany United Methodist Church in Macungie, Pa., members elected delegates and approved a proposed $3.198 million budget for Connectional Ministries in 2016 — a 4 percent increase from 2015. They also raised a surprising $40,000 for The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign, inspired by two special guests who were largely responsible for the genesis of that campaign — Lynda and Katherine Commales. With remarks and video clips, the Commales recalled how 10 years ago, then 5-year-old Katherine and her family, inspired by a television program, began promoting and raising money for specially treated bed nets to help protect African children from malaria.
Elected General Conference delegates
Lay: Judy Ehninger, Aaron J. Smith, Krystl Johnson and Clarita Krall
Clergy: The Revs. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Jeffrey A. Raffauf, Joseph F. DiPaolo and Lydia E. Munoz
Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference delegates
Lay: Jane Bonner, Lenora Thompson, Jordan Harris and David Koch
Clergy: The Revs. Robert J. Wilt, Tracy Bass, Christopher J. Kurien and Robin Hynicka
Elected as alternates
Clergy: The Revs. Irving Cotto, Lillian Smith and Melinda L. McKonly.
Lay: Ross Brightwell, Ann C. Jacob and Wilhelmina J. Young
Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership: Eight elders ordained; one deacon ordained; 10 deacons commissioned.
Membership: 107,849, down from 111,041 the previous year.
Worship: 39,905, down from 40,910 the previous year.
Church school: 12,145, down from 13,033 the previous year.
—John W. Coleman Jr., director of communications, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.