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2016 North Carolina Annual Conference

The North Carolina Annual Conference gathered June 16-18 at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville. A total of 1,373 registrants represented 807 churches within eight districts. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward presided over the meeting celebrating the quadrennial theme from Psalm 84 — “From Strength to Strength” — and the 2016 theme “Give.” The worship services and presentations centered on God’s generosity to us and our responding generosity to the world.

Preachers and teachers for the conference included the Rev. Leonard Fairley, Bishop Gregory V. Palmer (West Ohio Annual Conference), Dr. John Edgar (Church for All People, Columbus, Ohio), and Bishop Hope Morgan Ward.

Attendees participated in workshops including:
Welcoming; Soul Care for Veterans and Their Families; Sabbath and Spiritual Practices; Anti-Racism Intervention; Courageous Conversations; Congregations for Children (C4C); Reaching Every Generation; Full Life Stewardship; Multiple Pockets of Generosity; Effective Ministry within God’s Economy of Abundance; AGAPE Generosity; and Raising Generous Children.

Offerings received included an offering for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, totaling $2,364; an offering for the Rotifunk Hospital in Sierra Leone totaling $5,887; and an offering for the Mission Endowment Fund totaling $9,189. The Mission Endowment, currently over $1 million, will assure in perpetuity funding for new mission endeavors within the North Carolina Conference.

The Conference celebrated the 111,287 lives saved as over $1.11 million was raised for Imagine No Malaria — exceeding the conference goal of $1 million.

The All Saints Celebration/Memorial/Communion Service focused on the generous witness of 47 clergy and spouses of clergy who died in the past year. Fairley reminded those gathered, “If there is anything that characterizes a saint, it is this: Saints are extravagant givers who have this habit of sharing from a place of God’s abundance. There can be no blessing with closed hands.”

On Thursday evening, Bishop Palmer grounded his message in the text, “What do you have that you have not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Palmer reminded worshippers that “there is no such thing as a ‘self-made person.’ Even the breath we breathe is God’s. … If we are going to be generous people, we must begin to see everything as a gift. We don’t have a money deficit. We’ve got a gratitude deficit. What do we have that we have not received?”

On Friday evening, Bishop Palmer, using text from Luke 24, proclaimed that everyone we meet is a beloved child of God. Therefore, as we encounter people for the first time, we let them know that they are loved and treasured.

In other actions, the conference:

  • Officially endorsed the Rev. Leonard Fairley as an episcopal nominee for the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference;
  • Re-elected James “Jerry” Bryan as Conference Secretary, Christine Dodson as Conference Treasurer, and George Speake as the Conference Statistician;
  • Approved a change in benefits to the active health insurance plan that will result in a 2.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for persons insured by the self-funded plan;
  • Increased the per-service-year pension rate for the pre-1982 pension plan by 2.43 percent and the retiree health benefits through health reimbursement accounts by 3 percent;
  • Amended a committee proposal and then approved an increase of minimum salary of 2.8 percent to $43,810 for full-time pastors and $28,477 for student pastors;
  • Celebrated the 91.4 percent of apportionments that were paid in 2015 and that the conference is one of 26 that fully paid apportionments to the General Church;
  • Approved $21,908,352 for the 2018 annual conference budget;
  • Celebrated six new faith communities to be started in the coming year;
  • Joined in a Bible study with John Edgar around the idea of Divine economy of abundance — “God provides abundantly, so we give abundantly!”
  • Passed resolutions offering support to public education and giving thanks for Dr. Dewey Clark and North Carolina Wesleyan College
  • Heard that 83 percent of conference churches are participating in the Congregations for Children (C4C) program by engaging with their local public schools/students;
  • Celebrated 530 persons participating in Lay Servant Ministries classes, 2,180 persons participating on Volunteers-in-Mission projects, and 1.3 million meals being prepared during packing events for Stop Hunger Now in 2015;
  • Welcomed missionary Priscilla Jaiah from the Ganta Mission Station in Liberia and Nara Melkonyan, missionary with Project AGAPE in Armenia;
  • Observed a time of remembrance on the anniversary of the violent attack at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as an act of hope and continued prayer for reconciliation;
  • Celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Ordination of the Deacons with them serving communion with the district superintendents during the Memorial/Communion Service and leading the conference in several joyful moments of witness of the ministry of Deacons;
  • Celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Ordination of Women Clergy and noting that the North Carolina Conference has almost 300 female clergy members;
  • Participated in a candle-lit prayer vigil outside the Convention Center on Friday evening to remember the victims of the mass killing in Orlando on June 12.

    Twenty-six retiring pastors were recognized. One home missioner was consecrated and commissioned and one deaconess was commissioned. Twenty lay missioners were certified. Two deacons were ordained. Seventeen provisional members were commissioned. Thirty-seven local pastors were licensed and 14 elders in full connection were ordained. The average age is 39.5 years.

Membership stands at 228,611, down 1,101.
The average worship attendance for 2015 was 74,450, down 2,446.

Church school attendance for 2015 was 23,658, down 2,009.
The number of professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 was 2,579, down 553.
The number of adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 was 33,214, down 1,303.
The number of worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 was 48,187, up 9,549 from 2014.

The 2017 North Carolina Annual Conference will be held June 16-18 at the Greenville Convention Center.